I have a 12 year old son and he LOVES video games. We have always tried to limit how much time he gets to play them, and what games he actually gets to play. We have some basic rules and he knows them. Nevertheless, it is often a battle, and as his reason grows, so his arguments get more sophisticated. Now, it has jumped up a level as he has discovered the “first person shooter”.
What is the go with First Person Shooters (FPSs) anyway? Just the title should raise some eyebrows shouldn’t it? I mean, let’s look at the last two words: “Person” and “Shooter”. Does it raise eyebrows like the word: “pornography”? For a fairly ordinary Catholic, when we speak of pornography, we speak of something that instinctively requires a visit to the confessional (you would hope at least). However, when we speak of FPSs, I think there are probably few folks who ask the question, “do I need to go to confession for this?”. In fact, I would daresay there are even good faithful Catholic folks out there who let their kids play them, or even play them themselves. I know, I did.
Pornography is an offence against “You shall not commit Adultery.”
Is “Virtual killing” an offence against “You shall not kill”??
So lets get into this a bit more deeply.
What is an “FPS” anyway?
It is a genre of computer games, where it appears as if you yourself are operating as the main character (called “first person view”), and you have weapons and you shoot, well… persons. They can be as innocuous and as seemingly tame as Minecraft, or they can be blood splatteringly real like the : “Call of Duty 4 : Black Ops”. And they are VERY enticing, particularly to boys between the ages of 4 and 40.
So, what’s the problem?
Boys forever have been “warriors in training.” They’ve played soldiers, or cowboys and Indians, or cops and robbers.. forever. Even if their parents have banned toy guns in the house, they fabricate weapons our of sticks, chewing gum and string. Well, isn’t it good to give boys game combat training, so they can defend their loved ones from any invaders? What’s going to happen if the aliens actually do invade, and we’re not ready?
And isn’t it good, clean fun?
Let’s take this scenario: It’s Saturday afternoon. Johnny is over at his mate Pete’s place. Pete and his brother Jack have an Xbox and they are allowed to play Halo, on Saturdays only mind you! So, all afternoon, Johnny, Jack and Pete shoot aliens and have a roaring good time and save the world to boot.. at least until someone hits the reset button. The next morning the three boys all see each other at Mass, and afterwards, reflect on the antics of the previous day. Can’t be bad can it? These are good Catholic boys, mates, building good friendships. Learning how to back each other up in a crisis. Maybe even sacrificing themselves for some great good (like getting the red flag)..
The mothers say to the fathers, “Honey do they really have to play those games??” She feels uneasy, and expresses that to her husband. Her husband says, “Oh you don’t understand. You’re a mother. This is a boy thing and they really need to learn to be men.” (Whilst he is secretly thinking, “I wonder if I will be able to play too?”). Yet in truth, the Dad feels wary also. He asks himself, “What is this really teaching my boys?” And, “I wish they didn’t have to play these games. It makes their mother feel uneasy, and that is always trouble for me, but I can’t stop them. They are with their buddies, and it would be World War III if I did. And I don’t want to be seen as the old party-pooper dad.” Yet there is some part of him, maybe deeply buried, that he is just not sure about.
It’s the “just not sure about it” part that I want to crack open.
Let’s step through this logically:
Firstly, war ain’t good. It never was and it never will be. Yet, there are some times when it is necessary, and some aspects which are actually virtuous: like courage, valour, self-sacrifice, etc. I think it is these aspects which deeply appeal to our boys. Look at them play: no one wants to lose, no one wants to run away and look like a coward. They want to be honourably victorious. It is even better if they are victorious against seemingly insurmountable odds.
This is the “Natural Law” part of it. Our boys are naturally warriors. They are built for it.
Yet, it was something that I heard Fr Barron say in one of his homilies that really resonated with me on this subject. The first reading for that Sunday was from Zechariah which talked about the King (Christ) riding into Jerusalem on the back of a colt….and that “He shall banish the chariot from Ephraim” and “the warrior’s bow shall be banished” and “he shall proclaim peace to the nations.” Centuries later, Christ did in fact ride into Jerusalem on the back of a colt (incidentally, this is how kings entered a city when they were coming in peace). Yet, He was cruelly tortured and set upon a cross as a common criminal. It seemed that the first part of Zechariah’s prophecy came to pass, but he got the second part horribly wrong. Then this is the point Fr Barron raised (my paraphrasing): “All our evil cruelty was thrown at Jesus on the Cross, but He didn’t respond with like violence. He absorbed it. He sucked it up like a vacuum cleaner and put it in the trash. Never to cause a problem to anyone ever again”.
I wonder what Jesus thinks about “First Person Shooters”?
The com box is open.