A nine-year-old girl has been sent to rehab after she wet herself while refusing to stop playing the video game Fortnite.
“She was so hooked to the game she wouldn’t even go to the toilet,” her mother told a reporter. “My husband saw her light on in the night and found her sitting on a urine-soaked cushion playing the game.”
Fortnite has been played by 150 million people around the world this year.
The popularity of video games is so acute and addictive that the World Health Organization has now included “gaming disorder” in its classification of diseases. This disorder results in “significant impairment in personal, family, social, educational, occupational or other important areas of functioning.”
Three reasons video games are so popular
In a recent study, 86 percent of video game players at least attended college. More than 8 percent completed graduate school. Video games are popular with every age demographic and with both men and women. They represent an $18 billion industry in the United States.
What does their popularity say about our culture? Why are they so alluring?
Obvious answers include the appeal of escaping real-life problems and the mental and emotional stimulation many gamers experience. But there’s more to the story.
Dr. Scott Rigby (PhD in clinical and social psychology) has been researching the appeal of video games. After several years spent investigating behavioral data and in-house studies from video game companies, he has identified three key components.
The first is our need for competence, a desire to master a situation. A second is autonomy, a desire to control our actions. A third is relatedness, a desire to matter to other people.
According to Dr. Rigby, video games offer powerful opportunities to meet all three needs.
Focusing on the third, anthropologist Alex Golub points to the collaborative appeal many video games offer. He joined a World of Warcraft group, participating four hours a night, four nights a week, for more than four months. He identified the “group-based, goal-oriented work on culturally defined projects” as the game’s most powerful allure.
A “rich and satisfying life”
Popular culture can be a window into the soul of society. In the case of video games, people long for competence, autonomy, and community because they live in a fallen world where all three are in short supply.
But the emptiness of our culture is an opportunity for the gospel.
Jesus offers a “rich and satisfying life” no video game can match (John 10:10 NLT). How do we know? How can we prove it to others?
First, Jesus transcended competence with excellence and calls us to do the same.
Our Lord was exemplary beyond description. His teaching was so brilliant that even his enemies admitted, “No one ever spoke like this man!” (John 7:46). Jesus was the greatest preacher, teacher, healer, and leader of all time.
Now his word instructs us: “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Philippians 4:8). We are to “approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ” (Philippians 1:10).
Second, Jesus transcended autonomy to mastery of self and calls us to do the same.
Our Lord defeated every temptation of the enemy (Matthew 4:1–11; Hebrews 4:15). He maintained self-control in the face of blasphemous ridicule and horrific persecution.
Now he has given us “a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Timothy 1:7). We are to live “self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age” (Titus 2:12).
Third, Jesus transcended community to sacrificial service and calls us to do the same.
Our Lord washed the feet of the very men who would deny, betray, and abandon him (John 13:1–11). He prayed for those who crucified him (Luke 23:34).
He called us to follow his example: “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet” (John 13:14). He taught us: “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all” (Mark 9:35). We are told to “bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2).
“The greatest adventure is what lies ahead”
Excellence, self-mastery, and sacrificial service are characteristics that will attract many to our faith and our Lord. But we cannot follow the example of Jesus without the power of his Spirit.
Would you pray right now for the Spirit’s help to live today with excellence, mastery of self, and passionate service to others? Would you choose to settle for nothing less than “my utmost for his highest,” as Oswald Chambers so famously urged us?
The greatest adventure is what lies ahead.
Today and tomorrow are yet to be said.
The chances, the changes are all yours to make.
The mold of your life is in your hands to break.
NOTE: Questions about our faith are common—to skeptics but to Christians as well. We all need clear, biblical responses motivated by grace.
That’s why I wrote my new booklet, Biblical Insight to Tough Questions. I’d like to send it to you to thank you for your gift to help others discern today’s news from a biblical perspective.
I hope the booklet helps you grow in your faith and engage our culture with truth you can trust. To receive your copy, click here.