by Carter Brinkley, Student Minister
Video games can be great fun. I remember getting my first Nintendo as a young kid; the excitement was unreal. I soon became the greatest Mario Kart player who ever lived (and you can’t prove me wrong without a challenge). As I grew older, video games became a much more advanced—and immersive—experience.
Today, it seems that video games are created primarily to provide an alternate reality for the gamer. There is something about this experience that captivates the human mind. The virtual reality experience can become so gripping for some that it resembles more of a lifestyle than a hobby or pastime. When the appeal of a virtual reality becomes a foremost desire and focus, actual reality can suffer.
About 60% of Americans play video games, so I think it’s important to understand the draw they have on our minds and hearts whether you play them yourself, know someone who does, or have no real connection to them.
When it comes down to it, video games reveal that each of us has a desire for two things: a kingdom to build and an identity to take on. And each of us has a choice to receive those things from God or from somewhere else.
A Kingdom to Build
Nearly every video game you could pick up offers some kind of victory to attain--beat every bad guy, build a “dynasty” sports team, or conquer territories and overcome great obstacles to accomplish a goal. Video games have a draw on us through our desire to feel victorious and superior. We want to build a legacy of success that is bigger than ourselves. We all want a kingdom to build.
Jesus spoke of a kingdom more than any other topic. He wanted to build the kingdom of God, and those who follow him should be doing the same. The kingdom of God is not just an end-of-times idea, it is happening here and now!
“The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe the gospel.”
– Mark 1:15
“Being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, he answered them, ‘The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed, nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.’”
– Luke 17:20-21
Our first priority as followers of Jesus is to build the kingdom he proclaimed. There is a war against sin and death. Our sword is God’s Word and our power is a Gospel that saves. In Christ, our desire for adventure and victory is satisfied!
An Identity to Take On
The University of Essex found in a study that the greatest mental appeal of video games is the ability to take on an identity that feels more exciting or ideal than our real one. We humans often have a desire for a more thrilling and powerful identity. This makes sense when you hear reports of characters from games like World of Warcraft selling for nearly $10,000! We will pay a high price of time, effort, and resources to feel like we have an identity that matters.
Jesus also offers us an identity. This one is more satisfying and exciting than anything found on a screen or elsewhere, and it comes at a much higher price. Christ paid for our new identity with his own blood, and it is the greatest identity we can possibly receive!
“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”
- 1 Peter 2:9-10
A Call of Duty
The desires for kingdom and identity are not accidental. In fact, we are each created to long for those things. Unfortunately, we often try to receive a kingdom and identity from created things, rather than using created things for the building of God's kingdom and our identity in Christ. Video games are just one telling example of a good thing that cannot be mistaken for the greatest thing.
Followers of Jesus have one identity and one kingdom mission:
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
– Matthew 28:19-20
So go out and be a disciple who makes disciples! Teach your kids and help your friends do this. Join the adventure that has no off button or "game over." There is no greater kingdom and no greater identity than what is found in Christ!