Can video games hurt relationships?

As someone who has spent a lot of time both playing video games and interacting with gamers, I feel pretty qualified to say “Yes, of course they can.” Not all video gaming behavior is bad, but I’ve seen people and families get anywhere from a little to way messed up by too much screen time.

My sense is that as a society we’re still not entirely sure what to think about people who play too much. If it’ll help someone out there who is wondering about this, I’d like to share my story:

My story:
As a teenager, my video game behavior could definitely have been classified as an “addiction,” although I definitely didn’t see it that way at the time. I played the occasional Nintendo game as a kid, then progressed to computer-based strategy games during junior high. In High School however, I started playing a new kind of game called an RPG (“role playing game”) where you control a character who lives in a world of his/her own. In a short period of time, the game completely consumed me. I would play from the minute I got home to the minute I went to bed, and I would often get up later in the night to play again after my parents went to bed. When my parents cracked down, I’d get up really early to play for a few hours before school.

There was no meaningful purpose behind the gaming, but I felt compelled to get to the next level, find the next item or score the next kill. It didn’t help that this was the kind of game that allowed you to interact with other gamers, so I soon felt like all of my friends were in the virtual world too. My parents (bless their hearts) probably didn’t know what to do. Knowing how I was as a teenager, they probably didn’t have a lot of power to stop me anyway. But I do remember them explaining to themselves and to others “Well, there’s worse things he could be doing,” and I think I kinda used that story as a way to justify my behavior to myself as well.

I pretty much continued to play day-in and day-out for 3 or 4 years. The game kept a log of how long you had played for, and I remember it saying near the end that I had logged the equivalent of over 180 continuous days played during that short time period. At the height of my addiction, I actually turned to caffeine pills to keep myself awake during class. That’s crazy to think about now, but that’s where I was at at the time.

How did I finally quit? It’s pretty simple — I got a job. With the new job came a desire to make money and do different things, and I just didn’t have time to play anymore. Also randomly (or perhaps by divine providence), the first person games started making me dizzy/sick after 10-15 minutes of play, so I couldn’t really do those anymore either. But it’s not like I came to some realization — like I said, it wasn’t until much later that I realized I had been addicted, so really it’s just lucky that life got me out or I’d probably still be playing :).

The cost of playing
I try not to think about it, but sometimes I wonder what this addiction ultimately cost me? For sure, I can’t say I had a very good high school experience. I didn’t have a lot of friends. I didn’t do ANYTHING extracurricular. I got good grades, but I suspect that was more about knowing how to beat the system than it was about actually learning anything. I didn’t think about college or scholarships until it was way too late to apply to anywhere prestigious. I didn’t have much social skill (in fact, I think I was in my mid 20s before I really started to care what others were feeling). I wrecked a few high school friendships, but I think I regret even more than that the close relationships that I never developed. I could’ve been much closer to my siblings, my parents, my teachers and my friends. It hasn’t been a total tragedy, but I’d say I probably only reached 50-60% of my total potential coming out of high school and it has taken me years to recover. That’s an incredible price to pay for an experience that gave me so little in return.

I hear people say they are just playing video games to “blow off stress” or “relax” and I get that. I think the shorter, offline games are better. At work, we play a quick game of soccer on the xbox at lunch time to bond as a team and to get our minds off work for a bit. I still enjoy playing the occasional strategy game with my brother too, but I’ve noticed something different about my gamer behavior now — I play to spend time with people I care about, not to avoid them. I also feel like I’ve developed enough self control to say confidently “It’s just a game” and turn it off whenever I need to. Perhaps most importantly though, I’ve got enough other stuff going on for me in my life (my wife, my kids, my business, my ministry) — stuff that honestly just blows any video game out of the water — that I don’t feel nearly the desire to play that I once did.

I can’t tell you whether or not you (or someone you love) is addicted or simply playing too many video games. But it’s scary stuff and unfortunately it seems like the kind of problem they just have to realize and get out of on their own. For me, having to face the realities of life did the trick. It wasn’t painful at the time, but I can tell you that it’s painful now. Be careful out there!!

Why is it important to tell the truth?

Telling the truth, being honest and living with integrity is an important social concept in almost every culture, but why? Sometimes it certainly seems easier to just tell a lie. There are some obvious reasons to tell the truth which I’ll explore first, but stay tuned through the end of this article because there’s one really BIG one I’ve discovered as well.

Telling the truth has social consequences
One problem you’ll quickly discover with any form of lying (including the “gray area”) is that it never lasts. Think about it — YOU know when you’re being lied to, even if you can’t put your finger on it. It may just be in the form of a “bad feeling” you get about someone.  The same thing happens when you lie to others, and it causes them to trust you less and respect you less, which is bad for you in the long run. It may get you some of what you want in the short run, but eventually you’ll be isolated and alone, which is a painful way to live your life.

This problem is further compounded when “everyone does it.” If everyone were a liar, modern progress would essentially come to a halt as nobody could do business with each other. Relationships would fall apart. Trade would cease, or at least slow to a crawl. Things like credit cards, mortgages, even eating food at a restaurant is based on trust to some degree. Without honesty, we’d all be living in the stone age.

Telling the truth has personal consequences
You should tell the truth because it’s good for your own health, too. Nobody’s memory is good enough to keep up with a web of lies, but you’ll sure spend a lot of mental energy and physical effort trying.

Man was created by God, and God also gave us all a conscience. You may be able to dim your conscience, but it’ll never fully go away. Lying goes against your conscience, and doing it will just cause your conscience to eat at you over time. It’s harder to sleep at night when you have guilt on your conscience.

People who routinely tell the truth are happier because the Light of Christ can come into their hearts to comfort and guide them. Add that to the social benefits, and it’s clear that the long-term losses are not worth the short-term gains.

Telling the truth will help you avoid the trap of self deception
Ok, here’s the big one — I have found that the biggest reason to be honest is that it helps you avoid the trap of self deception.

What is self deception? It’s subtle, but I have found it to be one of the most destructive forces in your life. Everyone is subject to it in some way, but most aren’t even aware that it’s happening. Self deception happens when we succeed in convincing ourselves that something that true is in fact untrue OR that something untrue is in fact true. For example, an alcoholic may say “I don’t have a drinking problem” when in fact they do, or a womanizer may say “I was justified in chasing other women because of how my wife treated me.” It happens on a smaller scale too when we say “I was only speeding because the speed limit is ridiculously low here” or “I only cheated a little bit on my taxes because the government already takes too much money from us.”

Once we have rationalized, we can effectively stop worrying about the lie, but at much too high of a cost. In the case of the alcoholic, he/she will continue to be a slave to the addiction, and help isn’t even on the way because he/she doesn’t even realize there’s a problem. The womanizer will continue to injure the relationship with his wife, which will only lead to more “bad treatment” and more justification. Next year, you’ll cheat a little MORE on your taxes because you got away with it last year, and your lie is only further cemented in your mind, and you’ll be hurtling towards some serious life problems. Self deception is a virus — a disease. And it doesn’t stop there, either. I’ve seen that in time, these lies start to pull others in as well, and soon entire groups and communities become self-deceived.

I don’t like to speak often of Satan, but in scripture he’s referred to as “The Father of Lies.” I think that sounds right. I realize that when I tell a lie, even a small one, it’s Satan’s behavior I’m emulating and not God’s. That may not bring immediate consequences, but I realize that when I’m willing to lie to others, I’m willing to lie to myself, and THAT’S a big problem. It’s a problem because the behavior may very well get me into a very messy trap of self deception that I may not be able to escape — at least not without years of pain and suffering.

Why do you think it’s important to tell the truth?

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