Over the last couple of weeks, there have been two separate violent incidents that have deeply impacted people in Canada and the United States. These two incidents have two elements in common: men and video games.
On August 10th, four people (including two police officers) were shot and killed in Fredericton, New Brunswick. The 48 year old man accused of killing these people has been called a “lonely person who spent much of his time biking and playing first person shooter video games.”
On August 26th, a 24 year old man was in Jacksonville, Florida for a Madden NFL video game tournament. The shooter seemed to have targeted other gamers who were at the tournament. Two people were killed and ten were injured. One of the witnesses said the shooter “lost a game in the Madden tournament earlier in the day and was angry.”
If you were to do a Google search on the link between video games and violence, you would get a wide variety of opinions. Some researchers suggest there is a link, while others focus more on the positive outcomes among people who play games. Something is going on deep inside the hearts of men when it comes to gaming, and we need to understand it. There is too much at stake if we do not.
I am not here to criticize video games. As I have said before, I enjoy playing games as well. However, I do believe we need to look at our own lives and families and ask some important questions.
1. What is the void video games are filling for men?
According to the Entertainment Software Association’s Survey, 59% of the people who play video games are men and 41% are women. That is quite the difference.
What is the attraction of a video game for a man? Jesus teaches us that our lives are a reflection of what is in our hearts.
My best guess is that video games help men:
- Escape from reality / have some fun
- Experience competition and achieve rewards in an environment they may not otherwise be able to compete in (ie: I will never play in the NFL, but I can play in the NFL every day on my PS4).
- Pursue an adventure they aren’t finding anywhere else in life
2. What should a parent do?
If you are a parent who wishes your child would play less video games and spend more time exploring the world with their friends … there are some important lessons for us.
- Quite often, video games are where they are exploring the world with their friends. You may not want to hear that, but it is the truth. There is far more interaction happening with video games than ever before. Don’t squash the social aspect of their gaming life.
- Create limits and boundaries. If you see your child’s emotions getting out of control – cut him/her off … immediately. I’ve had sons who would throw remote controls around when they lost – or even become very emotional in other ways. I had to enter in to that space, turn off the game, and remind them of what is real and worth becoming emotional over. Set time limits for playing games or being online.
- Get your children involved in real adventures that see them make a real difference. Take them on a missions trip, get them involved in serving the needs of others in your church or community. There is a better adventure and community that exists for them than the video game can offer.
3. What should a man do?
You need to consider if video games are becoming a problem for you. I wrote recently on the connection between video games and mental health.
What should the church do?
Pay attention! Video games are capturing the attention of men, and the church isn’t. While the ratio of men to women playing video games is quite high, the story of faith is the opposite. There are far fewer men than women attending local churches and practicing faith in Jesus.
Ask yourself why video games are so attractive to men. When you understand the heart, you can consider how these men are searching for answers only found in the Good News of Jesus. Shape your teaching and ministry work with the heart in mind.
My heart is broken over the stories of those who lost their lives recently. I don’t know I fully understand the connection between men, violent acts, and video games. However, I really believe we need to do something to understand this better – both at a national level and within our own homes.