Rewind Wednesday – Video Game Addiction: Level 1

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Video game addiction is a topic that flares up just about as often as the devastating Southern California wild fires. Which is to say that every year the words “video games” and “addiction” get tossed into the media blender. Unquestioningly accepted as truth, the case for video game addiction is built upon statements such as,  ”My son plays My Little Pony’s Adventures in 128 Bit Land x-amount of hours, he must be an addict!” Is it fair though to compare video games to something as addictive as sex, drugs or alcohol? Take a look at the following DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 4th edition) Diagnostic Criteria for Alcohol Dependence entry below:

A maladaptive pattern of alcohol use, leading to clinically significant impairment or distress, as manifested by three or more of the following seven criteria, occurring at any time in the same 12-month period:

1. Tolerance, as defined by either of the following:

  • a) A need for markedly increased amounts of alcohol to achieve intoxication or desired effect.
  • b) Markedly diminished effect with continued use of the same amount of alcohol.

2. Withdrawal, as defined by either of the following:

  • a) The characteristic withdrawal syndrome for alcohol (refer to DSM-IV for further details).
  • b) Alcohol is taken to relieve or avoid withdrawal symptoms.

3. Alcohol is often taken in larger amounts or over a longer period than was intended.

4. There is a persistent desire or there are unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control alcohol use.

5. A great deal of time is spent in activities necessary to obtain alcohol, use alcohol or recover from its effects.

6. Important social, occupational, or recreational activities are given up or reduced because of alcohol use.

7. Alcohol use is continued despite knowledge of having a persistent or recurrent physical or psychological problem that is likely to have been caused or exacerbated by the alcohol (e.g., continued drinking despite recognition that an ulcer was made worse by alcohol consumption).

Now, I can see how video game “addiction” can be compared to alcohol dependence. There are many similarities:

  • The Time Escalation Component: Where the gamer increases his gaming time as he becomes more engrossed in the game.
  • Withdrawal Symptoms: Especially from games that employ the “carrot on a stick” philosophy (“just have to get to the next level…”).
  • Gaming Culture: Checking out video game web sites through out the day. Reading the latest walkthrough and immersing oneself into the particular game’s community.
  • The Social Sacrifice: Family, friends and loved ones fall to the wayside as the gamer becomes more immersed in the game. This, in my opinion, is when things become a problem. The gamer has lost any sort of balance between the digital and the real. Welcome to the world of escapism.

What do you think?

  • Are video games and alcohol on the same level?
  • Do we overuse the word addiction?
  • Is this a matter of what society deems acceptable?
  • Could you apply what was written above to your favorite hobby?

Leave a comment below and let me know.

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The Podcast Trinity

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*Photo by flattop341, Creative Commons

Trying to shave off time on my morning commute, I decided to take another route today. Riding shotgun was a podcast that I will not name. As the tires spun and the traffic lights frequently slowed me down, I began to notice some things:

1. The route I was taking was actually slower. I was going to be late.

2. The podcast I was listening to kept violating the podcast trinity.

 

 

– The Podcast Trinity –

Format – Find a format that works and stick with it. Like a bowl of tasty oatmeal, listeners find comfort in a solid format. Also remember that having no format is a format.

Identity – Pretending you are a radio show host will get you no where. You aren’t. While ranting and raving can be an identity, for me, it leads to you being turned off. Unless you are part of that 1% of ranters/ravers that appeals to me. So act professional. Develop your voice.

Quality – Darth-breathing, eating, sounding like you’ve been auto-tuned due to Skype, these are turn offs. Invest in a good microphone. Learn to edit. Create amazing content. My ears and brain thank you in advance.
Thanks to @jacobingalls for helping me out with this list. 

Guest Post: Why Should Christians Play Video Games?

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A deep question, for sure, but one which I’m happy to discuss!

Shadow of the Colossus

1. Video games give us a sense of wonder and engagement. Video games became our new cultural medium for the exchange of unwritten, yet still felt, ideas of our time. People still long for the epics of old from Homer’s Odyssey to the Lord of the Rings; video games give us an opportunity to engage and enter those realms in a way that hasn’t been possible with any previous generation.
callofduty

2. Video games give us an insight into popular culture. Capitalism, at the very least, provides a quantifiable measure of “what people like”. Call of Duty is what people like. Why do they like it? That is a question that a Christian can find out themselves by playing it. If not playing it, than at least understanding the dominant narratives, themes, and leisure activities of our fellow citizens.

3. Video games provide a tiny microcosm of the real world and our own personalities. Structured play provides challenges; every person desires to work and contribute something in the world. Video games also show us the way we think about reality and what rewards we wish to gain from life (tangible and intangible). Sometimes, they show us more of ourselves then we’d care to admit! Yet this self-examination lets us appreciate the diversity of taste and personality.

pokemon

4. Video games present an opportunity for human interaction and shared experiences. Contrary to the standard stereotype of “reclusive gamer” so often foisted upon us, gamers socialize just as often as everyone else – only they find a shared vernacular on the subject of video games. I will admit, in my Christian school upbringing, that I made many friends from our shared love of these video games, even when no one else understood our childhood obsessions. I can remember vividly converting our playground to the wild avarice of Pokemon collecting, or the utter brilliance of Star Fox 64. We were no longer strangers but compatriots in a shared hobby that, more than any other entertainment I’ve seen, engender fierce love and devotion. Many of those Christians remain my friends to this day, all because of video games.

5. That was only the past – now, the Internet has given all the opportunity to create connections with people around the world. Online gaming made social interaction, both for good and ill, a genuine part of the video game community. It is through the Internet that I have made new friends, Christians and gamers alike, who share that common experience – the video game theology community. We come from all different denominations and different background, yet still find gaming as a grounding point for discussion of everything.

And isn’t that what Christianity wishes to do? Christ gives us new life and salvation from sin. He allows us to reveal our personalities to each other without barriers and without borders, to speak openly of everything. What a vehicle it is that our human creations ultimately lead back to the Creator!

Written by Zachery Oliver

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Zachery Oliver

Zachery Oliver, MTS, is the lead writer for Theology Gaming, a blog focused on the integration of games and theological issues. He can be reached at viewtifulzfo at gmail dot com or on Theology Gaming’s Facebook Page.

Author’s Website | Follow this author on Twitter

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Wednesday Night Bible Study Recap: Conduct

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Wednesday nights, I host a Bible study at my church. The study follows an open discussion format in which we read a chapter of the Bible every week. The insight, conversation, and fellowship with other Christians is what keeps me coming back week after week. I love how God uses something so simple to minister to both myself and others.

This week we were studying 1 Timothy 3 & 4. In 1 Timothy 3, Paul is giving Timothy instructions for how church leadership (overseers/pastors) and believers (deacons/servants) are to conduct themselves.

Here is a trustworthy saying: Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task. Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife,temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full[a] respect. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?) He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap.

In the same way, deacons[b] are to be worthy of respect, sincere, not indulging in much wine, and not pursuing dishonest gain. They must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience. 10 They must first be tested; and then if there is nothing against them, let them serve as deacons.

11 In the same way, the women[c] are to be worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything.

12 A deacon must be faithful to his wife and must manage his children and his household well. 13 Those who have served well gain an excellent standing and great assurance in their faith in Christ Jesus.

Reasons for Paul’s Instructions

14 Although I hope to come to you soon, I am writing you these instructions so that, 15 if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.

1 Timothy 3:1-15 (NIV)

Reading this made me ask myself some questions:

  • How am I conducting myself on a daily basis?
  • Am I causing someone else to stumble due to my actions?

Conduct

I am sure that like me, you have encountered pastors/deacons/Christians who act one way in church and in a completely different manner outside of church. Sunday they are smiling away, gracious and kind; Monday they are screaming at their fellow man without any sort of control. Have you ever found yourself acting this way? I have. I am quite guilty of wearing the Christian mask at times. I hate it. I want to be open, honest, and real.

Moving Towards Christ

Paul concludes 1 Timothy 3 with verse 16:

16 Beyond all question, the mystery from which true godliness springs is great:

He appeared in the flesh,
was vindicated by the Spirit,[d]
was seen by angels,
was preached among the nations,
was believed on in the world,
was taken up in glory.

1 Timothy 3:16 (NIV)

As we move towards Christ, we become more like him. Not to somehow exalt ourselves but to exalt Christ. People are watching us as Christians. I want to encourage you to be an example as you go.

Ni No Kuni: Impressions

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Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch, is an RPG on the PS3. Co-developed by Level-5 and Studio Ghibli, the game features stunning animation and a child-like story.

Ni No Kuni

Ni No Kuni starts out on an UP note. This trauma inducing event propels the protagonist, Oliver, on an epic journey to a parallel world. It is there that an evil being, Shadar, is wrecking havoc on the lands denizens. Shadar is a dark menace who enjoys stealing parts of the soul. With every yin comes a yang–this is a Japanese RPG after all–, the showdown between Shadar and Oliver “the pure-hearted one” is only a matter of hours of leveling.

The Soul Connection

One of the core components of Ni No Kuni is soul restoration. Example: Say Shadar took a person’s enthusiasm, Oliver must now find someone else with excess enthusiasm, ask for it, and give it to the person who is lacking.

As a Christian, I cannot help but notice a similarity of sorts between Christ and Oliver. They both work on souls!

Christ Vs. Oliver

  Christ

  • Son of God, restores/completes the soul when a person simply believes in him.

  Oliver

  • Mere boy, completes souls upon request for quest rewards.

I have enjoyed Ni No Kuni so far but have to admit that the pacing is slow. The game reminds me of being at an idyllic summer camp by the lake. Not such a bad thing unless you hated summer camp as a kid.

Neighbors and Wise Men – Sacred Encounters in a Portland Pub and Other Unexpected Places by Tony Kriz

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The Book of Matthew opens with the genealogy of Jesus. Jesus’ lineage included a prostitute, Rahab, and even an adulterer/murderer, David. The lineage of Christ was in no way full of perfect human beings and yet God was able to use each and every person to fulfill His purpose.

The core thought found throughout Tony Kritz’s Neighbors and Wise Men is that God often uses people of other faiths, cultures, and locations to speak to us; That God can use an old Albanian Muslim woman or even patrons of a pub to help heal and restore the soul. Tony constantly contrasts the church teachings he grew up with (sinners were only to be evangelized not socialized with) versus the truths God revealed to him.

Tony Kritz writes in the same appealing style that Donald Miller uses. Throughout Neighbors and Wise Men, I felt like I was on a personal journey with Tony. From the truth of Reed College not being anti-Christian all the way to the thoughts of how ingrained nationalism is in the American church, I was there with him. From Chapter 19 on, I felt like the tone of the book shifted. What had been a literary road trip with Tony suddenly became a series of random personal and political thoughts. In short, I felt like I was now being preached to. I did not like this change of tone.

The overarching truth that God uses people of different faiths, cultures, and in different locations resonated with me. I love that God is not confined to the walls of a church and that He can exist even in a pub.

I was given a copy of this book by BookSneeze. All opinions are my own. I was not required to write a positive review.

Thinking Aloud: Growing Closer to Christ

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Note: I could write an entire series on what it means to grow closer to Christ. I realize that I barely scratch the surface of this subject and wanted to recognize that. You are now free to read.

Last year, I read an article on a Christian video game site that extolled the virtues of Telltale’s The Walking Dead series. The article talked about how the game’s protagonist, Lee, was a Christ-like figure due to his sacrificial death at the end of the game. Spoiler. All I could think was that Lee was a murderer, Christ wasn’t.

As a Christian, I should be constantly growing closer to Christ. What does growing closer to Christ look like? Is it a combo of:

  • Giving up/walking away from things that are shrouded in helpless darkness? Perhaps coming to the realization that The Walking Dead, with its unimaginative curse-filled vocabulary, just isn’t for me?

OR

  • Embracing the darkness and trying to find Christ’s redemptive story/ God’s redemptive plan in everything? An effort of trying to find the good, the light, that exists within the darkness we often consume?

Phillippians 4:8 comes to mind:

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

I want to be willing to give anything up for Christ. Even if this means walking away from a gaming series that I really enjoyed, like The Walking Dead or even God of War. I want to be careful with the games that I endorse because my endorsement, as a Christian, is like saying Jesus approves of this. I do not want to lead anyone away from Christ. A difficult road to trot down.