We have come a long way from my childhood gaming experiences like Pong, Super Mario Brothers, and Mario Kart. And of course some of the video game legends like Galaga, Pac-Man, Zelda, and many others are a ton of fun and have provided many hours of entertainment (and babysitting) for an entire generation (and counting), but in my efforts to make disciples of Jesus in 21st century America over the past couple of decades, I have noticed a phenomenon, Internet Gaming Addiction.
Recognized as a DSM-V disorder, the internet and modern gaming have created an environment and opportunity for Satan to thrive in the lives of a younger generation (and not so young generation as well). From immersive gaming experiences such as Halo, World of Warcraft, Call of Duty (and countless others) to simple games that pass the time like Mindsweeper, Candy Crush, and countless games on things like facebook that older generations seem to be really drawn to. There is an internet gaming addiction for everyone it seems. It might be hard to believe, but there are actually people that die every year from multi-day internet gaming binges.
So why would someone play video games for days on end to the point of exhaustion, cardiac arrest, and ultimately death? (apparently this isn't that new as the first video game deaths were in 1981!)
The answer of course is sin.
I have spoken elsewhere about how porn is the new tobacco, but I think gaming perhaps fits the bill just as well. And this is the phenomenon that I have come across so often. For many younger people, if not most, it can feel difficult to call gaming sin. It's just having some fun, right? It's not actually hurting anyone, right? But so often it is actually sin, and it is actually hurting someone, just goes unrecognized and unlabeled as such. Debauchery, idolatry, selfish ambition, escape from reality and withdrawal to a fantasy world ... all of these acts of the sinful nature that are “obvious” (Gal 5:19-20) can be easily applicable to internet gaming for so many.
Of course playing a video game in and of itself is not a sin, just like so many other things in our lives, but we can easily manage to find a way to make it sinful. Satan loves to take something that is not inherently evil, or perhaps even something that God created as good (such as sex) and turn in on it's head and offer it to us as a cheap imitation that leaves us unsatisfied and longing.
Jesus is clear about the attitude that we should take toward sin (even gaming): that if it is causing us to stumble (to lose sleep, to fail at important things in life like school, bills, and relationships) than we should cut it off, gouge it out, and throw it away! He says that our attitude should be that we would rather lose and eye or an arm and go to heaven, than have our entire bodies sent to hell!
And this is coming from someone who knows about hell better than anyone.