HARMLESS OR HARMFUL ?
Those in the Baby Boomer generation remember the popular board games such as Battleship, Monopoly and even the Ouiji Board. And there were fantasy role-playing games -- cowboys and Indians, war games, house, school and even seances. People have played elaborate make-believe games with dolls, toy soldiers, forts, tanks and planes, all without causing harm.
But times have changed, and morality continues to decline into more and more depravity. The social indicators reflect a continual rise in violent crime among youth; physical, sexual and drug abuse; divorce; teenage pregnancy; abortion; suicide; and lately a significant rise in using occultism as a way of acting out rebellion.
Much of this centers on the role of the media and entertainment in our culture. But factors other than just the violence and horror themes which are prevalent in television and movies (including videos) are gaining in popularity, as are fantasy role playing games like Dungeons & Dragons, Vampire, Werewolf and GURPS. Occult and violence oriented card games like Magic the Gathering, Battle Tek and Star Wars; violent and occult simulation games on computer and virgual reality games.
The top ten games are Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, Vampire, Rifts, Alternity, Star Trek, Star Ward, Deadlands, Werewolf, Legend of the Five Rings and Shadowrun. Many of the companies also have card playing games. At the top of the card game list is Magic the Gathering.
The magical occult practices of the ancients aren't just for the ancients. The spirits involved are eternal beings, and they are just as active today as they were a thousand years ago, as is their worship.... The toys children play with depict powerful creatures of the darkness. Now, games give explicit instruction in the rituals and methods of the occult. Indeed, gaming tournaments are prime times for occultists to find 'recruits' with exceptional ability.
Occult and violence-laden games are dominating the market. The largest provider is Wizards of the Coast, producers of Magic the Gathering, the publishler of Dungeons and Dragons. Wizards, headquartereed in Seattle, employs more than 500 people and has international offices in Antwerp, Paris, Milan and London.
The popularity and growth of these games are evident to anyone who visits bookstores and game arcades. Magic the Gathering, an ocult card trading game, is advertised as the "intelligent sport of the '90s", which "promotes strategy anc critical thinking".
Magic was released in late 1993 and sold out its first 10 million cards in six weeks instead of the projected six months. Today more than 500 million cards have been sold and there are more than five million game enthusiasts in 52 countries, surpassing Monopoly and Trivial Pursuit.
The number two ranked game, Vampire, has more than 100 websites linking occult enthusiasts worldwide.
The majority of game participants are between 18 and 30 yers old. Most are men, but women are closing in with 25% of the game's population. The profile of the typical gamer is "a intelligent, inquisitive person who prefers spending income and a few evenings a week playing mind games instead of basketball". Participants are mainly students, but the game has cast its spell on lawyers, bank executives and other professionals, as well.
Game producers and devotees understandly react to any criticism. They tke exception to what they call distortions and misconceptions made by Evangelical or Fundamentalist Christians. Rather than dwelling on evil, they argue most games are high in moral fiber -- at least at the end. "The basic premise is good has to win over evil" ... or so they say.
Defenders of the games, which utilizes witches, wizards, sorcerers, magic, ghouls and monsters point to the Wizard of Oz, Grimms Fairy Tales and the works of J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis.
The Game Manufacturers Association has created the Industry Watch Committee to "examine and respond" to charges of actual murder and violence linked to certain games.
A study published in the American Family Foundation's Cultic Studies Journal compared three groups -- people who are Satanic dabblers, people who were regular gamers, and people not involved with either Satanism or games. While the study found no significant link between the involvement with games and formal Satanism, it did show a significant connection between regular involvement with games and interest/participation in the occult.
Quote from a gamer:
"Reality gets to where it sucks now and then, and playing keeps me sane. It also lets you be a complete and total bastard, with no real consequences to your actions. I can kill an entire roomful of people, feed upon them in the process, and not have to worry about being arrested for it. You work out a lot of frustrations that way."
For a Christian, the Old Testament directly forbids any involvement with the pratices in many of these games. "There shall not be found among you any one ... that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch, or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer (consulting wtih the dead). For all that do these things are an abomination unto the Lord ... "
Many of the games, occult card games and action video games are occultic, filled with human sacrifice, spells, demons, monsters, psychic powers, and all the things explicitly condemned in Deuteronomy 18.
Other elements which seems to donimate these morbid pastimes are mortal violence, sex, themes which either mock or misinterpret Biblical truths, or themes of darkness and death. After all, the object of most of these games is to survive by killing your opponent.
For example, in the introduction to the players book for the popular game Vampire, the Masquerade, the author leads the player into the world of the game:
"Now we have admitted the magnitude of the problems we face and our seeming inability to affect change on the scale necessary to save us. Today we have caught a glimpse of reality, and have seen the truth behind the veil. We have come full circle and rediscovered the Fiend. We have regained our ancient heritage ... We are searchers, forever looking for the uncomfortable truth of our human condition, searching within ourselves for that which is unclean, uncertain or unpure ... By looking at the monsters we create, we gain new insights into our darker half. You, along with some of your friends, are going to tell stories of madness and lust. Tales from the darkest recesses of our unconscious minds ... you are inside the story and not just watching it. The horror of Vampire is the legacy of being half a beast, trapped in a world of no absolutes, where morality is chosen, not ordained".
So the "answer" that these types of of games supply is to explore that "dark side" and sin nature and to use that power, violence and occult help to overcome obstacles and survive.
Yet the Bible admonishes Christians to resolve conflicts without violence. Christians are to be "not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing. Christians are to love their enemies.
But what about the argument that "players aren't actually casting spells or killing people -- it's just pretend"? The Christian's mind must be guided by the Bible, which says, "Whatsoever things are true ... honest ... just ... pure ... lovely ... of good report; if there be any virtue ... any praise, think on these things". And, "For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not carnal ... casting down imaginations and every high things that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ".
In fact, when game defenders claim that the occult and violence-oriented games do not include actual incantations, spells, etc., it just is not true. A trip to the local game store will reveal examples like four volumes of specific Wizards Spells and three volumes of Encyclopedia of Magica.
The Scripture clealy warns Christians to steer clear of such involvement. Paul instructs the Christian to stay away from being unequally yoked to pagans. "What fellowship does righteousness have with unrighteousness? What communion hath light with darkness? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? ... wherefore come out from among them and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not any unclean things".
In fact, there is a specific incident when Paul confronted an occult-ridden culture in Ephesus with the gospel. Many believed on Christ and as a result brought their expensive magical arts and books and burned them.
Games present a view that is hostile to a Christian worldview. Whether the games treat fantasy and the occult as unreal, or as a desireable way of life, either way is in conflict with the Christian message of truth.
Most games take place in a setting where the distinctions between good and evil are blurred. It promotes the lie that there is "White" magic, which can be good, and "Black" magic, which is bad. Playing those games you incorporate your personality into how you play the game. One doesn't merely observe the occult aspects of the game. One is immersed in that environment, and must participate in the occult to survive there.
For Christians and non-Christians, many of these games also have the negative aspects of being addictive and expensive. Various reports show that games like Magic are "high addictive". Even the gamers themselves admit that they spend hundreds of dollars buying new packs.
The Christian response to the pont that "C.S. Lewis and Tolkien use the same fantasy images" is that the lines between good and evil are not blurred, and the hero is usually a normal person in an abnormal world, who respond to the occult as something to avoid.
Magic the Gathering is the most popular fantasy card game on the market. Objections to the game include 1) The primary focus on the occult, 2) The violent nature of the game, 3) The addictive nature of the game, and 4) The identification of the players with evil characters.
The concern for children playing Magic the Gathering is that it nudges them closer to two beliefs: 1) That Magic is a way to effect and influence things and events. 2) That learning about, practicing and playing games about conjuring demons, sacrificing creatures in hideous, cruel rituals, casting spells to disable and kill your enemies and generally spending time thinking deeply about dark, sinister forces and how to control and direct could possibly be healthy.
Writing about Dungeons & Dragons, one noted psychologist, who actually likes the game himself, wrote: "There is hardly a game in which the players do not indulge in murder, arson, torture, rape or robbery".
Media Week is a trade publication for radio and television broadcasters. It ran a story which raised concern over the lack of educational value and violence on Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. It reports a study from Cal State at Fullerton which concluded that "children who watch 'Power Rangers' are prone to more violents acts (seven times as many acts of aggressions) than children who do not".
The recent incidents of schoolyard shooting deaths have focused attention on trying to understand the causes. Christianity Today ran a story titled "Train to Kill", written by a military expert on the psychology of killing. The article noted that per capita, murder doubles in the U.S. between 1957 and 1992. The aggravated assault rate increased more than seven times in the same period. And prison retention rates hve quadrupled in that same period.
The story notes that killing of one's own kind is not natural. It must be a learned skill. The military discovered that special training significantly enhanced the firing and killing rate of soldiers. "The training methods militaries use are brutalization, classical conditioning, operant conditions and role modeling".
A good case is made that the amount of television violence and direct participation in violent arcade games, over a period of time, does much of the same thing they do in the military. Ages one to six do not separate fantasy from reality well and are desensitized to brutality and violence hundreds of times by watching or participating in these forms of "entertainment".
Today the data linking violence in the media to violence in society are superior to those linking cancer to tobacco. Hundreds of studies demonstrate the social impact of brutalization by the media.
Our children watch vivid picture of human suffering and death, and they learn to associate it with their favorite candy bar.
Another method in conditioning is a very powerful procedure of stimulus-response. This is particularly evident in the interactive computer video and arcade games. When an enemy pops up to confront, the conditioned reflex is to deliver a lethal attack -- to kill and enjoy it.
And yet another method is role models. This is reinforced through identification with vampires, werewolves, wizards and monsters.
This desensitization and seduction into postmodern pagan spirituality in our culture can be further illustrated by the popularity of occult themes in entertainment.
Society has a desire to look beyond the natural into the supernatural. A lot of society is pulling away from traditional religions and looking to ancient wisdom. There's a growing interest in astrology, tarot, cabala and paganism, and it's all about a search for inspiration.
Computer games are still another source for the bombardment of occult violence. Games of "virtual reality", where participants perceive that they are actually involved in the action, pose a particularly dangerous threat. An example of a recent computer game which bridges the gap toward "virtual reality" games is Heretic II, produced by Activision.
Activision's press release is titled "Gamers Prepare for a New Religion". They claim that their software "will convert gamers to a new religion", set in a "richly animated medieval land" where players "embark on an epic journey across an enemy infested continent, empowered with an arsenal of spectacular weapons and magical spells".
These kinds of games described here reflect no just self-indulgent escapism, but a dangerous and destructive rebellion against all that is pure, holy and good.
Are Violent Video Games Good For You?
Some people claim that violent video games are good for you. Some players believe that violent video games are cathartic (i.e., they allow players to release pent up anger into harmless channels). The scientific evidence directly contradicts this idea. Over 130 studies have been conducted on over 130,000 participants around the world (Anderson et al., 2010). These studies show that violent video games increase aggressive thoughts, angry feelings, physiological arousal (e.g., heart rate, blood pressure), and aggressive behavior. Violent games also decrease helping behavior and feelings of empathy for others.
In view of onslaught of deception and depravity, Christians need to heed God's word and "not be conformed to this world: but be ... transformed by the renewing their minds". Christians need not only to shun participation, but also need to share their concerns and especially their faith with others.