Remembering My Creator – Volume 1, Number 6: November 2010

Remembering My Creator

Volume 1, Number 6

Theme: The Internet and Video Games

In This Issue:

  • “Cyber Bullying” by David Bushnaq
  • “Family Time” by Chip Foster
  • “The Snare That Binds” by Randy Sexton
  • “Should I Insert Another Quarter, Or Is It Game Over?” by David Bushnaq

Cyber Bullying

By David Bushnaq

The internet. Something we’re all very familiar with, I’m sure. Since it’s invention by Al Gore, it’s come a long way. But what I’d like to write about are some of the dangers we could face. Should we copy that floppy, or should we Alt-F4 it from our lives?

It has truly spread over America like wildfire; after all, you’re using it to read these articles. The internet has made our lives easier in many ways. For instance, without it, my board game collection wouldn’t be near as impressive as it is, and several other items I wouldn’t have in my possession. Another benefit [and curse] is it allows you to meet others who have similar interests.

I’ve met several great people who also enjoy video games as much as I do. That and a great community that’s helped me in my growth as an Ocarina player. Also if it wasn’t for the internet, I wouldn’t be writing these. I truly am blessed to have a loving and supportive family who aids me in my growth, Randy for his project and allowing me the opportunity to use this as a medium to people around my age, and for the congregation I worship with. All of which working together have supported me and my growth as a Christian [and hopefully eventually as a preacher.]

With that said, the internet isn’t exactly the kind of place we should play around with carelessly. While the internet certainly can be used for good, it can also be used for evil. Of course the first example that comes to mind with this is pornography, but I’m going to focus on the pressures we could face on the internet.

Cyber bullying. A very rampant problem we face today. People take on the guise of screen names and fake handles for them to “troll” [or harass others for their own amusement] without fear of them being found. They could do anything from just saying ugly things about someone to even going as far as harassing people during a funeral.

The internet makes this very easy as you can find a group of like minded individuals [unfortunately] and they could support someone in their slanderous and defiling dealing with others. What’s worse is when they band together to attack someone as a group. We as Christians must always make sure we never fall into that crowd. They may claim that there’s no harm in a few ugly words to someone, but you likely have read news articles and stories about people who have killed themselves just because one person, or a group of people doing this to them. And the worst part of it is, the most prominent people doing this are our age!

On the same subject of pressure, there are also a group of people who get together in chat rooms looking for young women to ask them to undress for them, and if their parents aren’t around… some times that pressure leads to them doing as their unknown predators ask, which leads to all kinds of trouble.

With the internet not only readily available, but also in our own rooms, it’s difficult [if not impossible] for our parents and older, wiser people to keep watch and tell us whether or not we should do something. That’s what these predators look for. Younger, naive women who don’t quite know what they’re doing is wrong, and eventually blackmailing them [by telling their parents] into doing things that are evil.

That’s why we must ask our parents about this and to make sure we aren’t doing anything that could lead to these things happening to us.

But what about falling into the wrong crowd? We could very easily do a search for something and find a website that seems innocent at first, and maybe their justification may seem valid… at first. I join the message board, and at first everything’s fine. I share similar beliefs, and a strong sense of right and wrong, and then they do something terrible [or worse! Doing so in the name of good!] When they get caught for doing something illegal, I’m just as guilty as them due to guilt by association.

Or worse! They don’t do anything chaotic, but by reading more and more of their more extreme viewpoints, my mind could become poisoned to the point where I share the same viewpoints. This is even more dangerous, friends! 1 Thessalonians 5:6 tells us to be watchful and sober. Sober here means clear-minded. They want me to think like they do, so I can join them, because “misery loves company” but I have to remember to compare my life with the bible, and if there is error, it’s on me.

One of the easiest ways Satan can trap us is by showing that you don’t get in trouble for doing something wrong… at all! For instance, go ahead and download that Nintendo game, it’s 20 years old, and Nintendo no longer gains any money from it, just price hiking collectors. No harm done, right? Wrong.

If I was to download a game that I don’t have the legal right to download, it is stealing, plainly and simply put. Regardless of its age, regardless of its quality “I’m just downloading titles I’ll never buy anyway, so I’m not hurting anyone!” Is a very flawed justification. But people believe this and as such never seek forgiveness for doing so. Ephesians 4:28. Not only do you get more of a sense of accomplishment when you obtain something you’ve worked for, you also don’t have to worry that what you’re doing is wrong.

Indeed, justification is something we have to be VERY careful of. If we have the justification for something [flawed or otherwise] we no longer think it is sin, and if we don’t think it is sin, we don’t ask for forgiveness for doing so. It could be anything from a music file, to an old game, to a movie. If we don’t have legal access to it, we can’t download it. Simply put.

So in conclusion, while the internet is an invention that can be used for good, it, too, can be used for all kinds of evil. We have to make sure we are always alert and not to just allow the thinking of others to enter our minds as our own without first testing them to see if they are congruent with the bible. It allows us access to people all over the world who have wildly differing thoughts and beliefs concerning God and the bible. Some even go so far as to slander God and defame everything he has done for us, for the sake of their own twisted sense of humor.

Be ever vigilant, friends.

Family Time

By Chip Foster

When a husband and wife decide to have a child they must consider all things that go in to being a parent. There are duties and a responsibilities that go into parenting that all should consider.

In Ephesians 6:4 Paul writes, “And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.” The instruction for fathers is clear; they should bring up their children by the precepts of the Lord. In Titus 2:3-5 Paul writes, “the older women likewise, that they be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things—that they admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed.” These verses are most often used for older women in the church as they teach the younger women, but these can also be used for the instruction that a mother gives to her daughters. In the book of Proverbs we can see many instances where parents are to provide instruction to their children, Proverbs 13:24, 22:15, 23:13-14, 29:15. These are not advocating beating a child, but the correction that comes naturally from warranted spanking. These also advocate teaching and instruction from parents before the spanking would become necessary. In the Old Law the commandment stated, “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the LORD your God is giving you.” Paul says this is the first commandment with promise, Ephesians 6:2, and this is true because parents should teach their children those things that will lead to long life on this earth and especially those things that lead to eternal life with God in heaven.

And this is where family time comes into play. The secular world rightly states that family time is important to the family. It encourages dinner time around the table. This can be that time where the floor is open for all manner of discussions. Each member can tell of their day and talk about the problems that may have occurred. Parents must remember to keep their comments as light as possible because the children do not want to know the troubles of the office in detail. This is not to say that parents should lie to their children but they don’t need to go into the details like they would with their spouse. This is the time for parents to encourage their children to talk about their day. Parents should listen and give their insight as necessary.

Family time can be a movie night where the family enjoys a movie together. It can be game night where one or more games are scheduled and played. The rules of game night might include no pouting when you lose and no over-the-top bragging when you win.

Family time could be riding bikes around the neighborhood or a walk to the park. When was the last time that your family had a picnic? That is about as old fashioned as one could get but there is little better family time than a picnic.

Family time is a time to be silly and goofy. It is a time for the family to forget the world and its ideas and just be a family. It is a time to strengthen the bonds that exist within the family. These bonds exist not only from parents to children and reverse, but also between siblings of varying ages. These bonds can be strengthened even during the adolescent and teenage years when the bonds can be put to test. This family time strengthens the family. Families will go through times of hardship and trial and stronger bonds in the family will aid in getting through these hard times.

It is important for families to spend time together. The TV and cell phones are turned off. The internet connection is disabled. The family comes together as one and increases the physical and emotional bonds.

As with all things we must remember to put God first. In all of our family time activities we must be an example of godliness. Parents must remember their obligations in training and teaching their children, as noted above, and that all activities must be done with respect for God’s law. In all of these activities we can teach our children the importance of God and strength of family in our lives.

(Copied by permission from http://www.truthfortodaysyouth.com)

The Snare That Binds

By Randy Sexton

There is an evil that I have seen and it is young people entrapped by the undue influence of video games that control their minds and overtake their lives in pursuit of the “next level.” As David Bushnaq points out in his excellent article, there is an addictive nature that can lure young people. Like a black widow leading her victims and then entrapping them into her web where she entraps them and shoots her paralyzing venom in them, so the video game can have a very destructive influence on young lives.

As Chip Foster points out, video games can steal time away from family time and from the time that parents are to instruct their children in the precepts of the Lord. There are a limited number of hours in a day and if left to their own direction many a young boy will spend every available minute on his Playstation, Xbox 360 or Wii. Parents must exercise discipline and young people must understand the addictive nature of the games. They must take deliberate, proactive steps to bring balance and control into their lives, especially in the area of the internet and video games.

“Should I insert another quarter, or is it Game Over?”

By David Bushnaq

Hello, everyone! I’ve been put in an interesting position this month…Video games are something I’m VERY familiar with. I’ve been playing them for 22 years now, nevertheless, the question for this month is “Should I insert another quarter, or is it Game Over?”

GTA. What are the first thoughts that pop into your head when you see those letters? The violence? Profanity? Lewdness? I think it goes without saying for any of us, that GTA will not exactly help in our lives as Christians, but that’s just a one-off example. Are ALL video games bad?

Video games, themselves, have developed quite impressively since their lowly beginnings in the 70s. We’ve gone from single screen tennis to somewhat realistic war simulators in the matter of 30 years. From a few pixels on a screen to almost lifelike realism. However, is it for the better?

The game designers go for what’s popular at the time [of course- it’s all a money game] so if what’s popular are the juvenile games where you have to shoot things, swear 100 times, or be overcome with near nudity, that’s what is made. Gaming is holding itself back. It is much like in television. A unique game is made and sure enough, dozens of clones [or hundreds if you’re talking about multiplayer war simulators] are made and the market is saturated, until another unique title appears that’s a sleeper hit and that’s copied. That’s not the fault of the designers [well… not completely] but the price of making a video game has increased to the several million dollar mark. There simply is no room for error in that kind of environment so they have to do what they know will sell.

What does that mean for us? Well, we have people buying those war simulators and other games that are an extreme temptation for us Christians, and that means when we go into the local game store, that’s what we see. The phrase “sex sells” is just as prevalent today as it ever was.

Well, so what? I’m a mature enough adult that I can play those games without them causing me to sin, so what’s the harm? Philippians 4:8. While you’re playing those games, you are thinking about them and the visuals you are experiencing are not honorable, pure, or lovely. Let’s take it a step further. Let’s say I’ve been speaking to a co-worker about the gospel for some time, he/she decides to start going to church with me. This person is moved by God’s love for them and becomes a Christian.

That is all well and good, but after going to church one week, they come over to my house for some video games. I, of course, accept, not considering the kinds of games on my shelf. Sure enough, while going through my game library, he/she stumbles upon those kinds of games…GTA, Call of Duty, and others. Sure I can handle them, but can he/she? They see those games on my shelf and they believe that those kinds of games are not only allowed, but worth buying and now I got a problem on my hands. A problem that the 9th chapter of the gospel of Mark and verse 42 warns us of. We could cause someone to stumble!

We’re given another warning of this in Ephesians 4:19. Callousness is a very grave danger to Christians of ANY age, but especially dangerous for us, as we haven’t the experience and maturity an older, wiser person would. If we allow those things near us us and aren’t careful, it could snowball into worse and worse dangers until we don’t even realize that we’ve committed a grave error.

Actually it gets worse. By buying that game, we tell the designers of that game that we support them with our money. That’s right, we are saying “I support the makers of the game by giving them my money.” We are using money that the Lord has given us on things that will not assist us in being a Christian, in fact, quite the opposite can easily happen! Of course, pirating is another problem, but I have a feeling we’ll be going over that at a later time.

“So what you’re telling us is that we should only play the Mario and Pac-Man games, right?” Well, what’s so wrong with Mario, Pac-Man, or Tetris? The gameplay is timeless, you don’t have to worry about getting a headshot from 50 yards away on a goomba, and how many news stories have you read about someone killing someone else for not getting the I block that they needed to complete the Tetris they worked so hard for?

My friends, WE decide what we put on our screens, in our homes, and into our minds, and if we do as David describes in Psalm 101: 3, the thought of those games will not enter into our minds. We should set before our eyes things that are glorifying to the Lord and those things should cling to us.

“Hey! Have you played that new Call of Duty game? You gain experience by killing other people that gives you bonuses that make it easier for you to kill people!” Ever hear a similar question asked in school? I know I have. We have recorded in the book of Jude 1:18 a very similar concept. Peer pressure is one of the easiest ways those kinds of games sell. They’re everywhere on tv and on the radio [they have to be. Or else their multi million dollar project will not sell enough to make a profit!] and if people in my school are told that those kinds of games are cool, sure enough those in my class will buy into it and soon that game will become cool in my environment as well. And if you don’t buy the game, you become unpopular. “After all, you play Chessmaster. What’s the fun of moving pieces around?”

Does that mean we shouldn’t bother buying the new consoles and playing the cool new games? Not necessarily. There are plenty of good, honest, wholesome games out there on every system [some more than others] but you have to look harder for them. And don’t get me wrong, just because it isn’t Super Death Fighter 9,001, or World War 2 the 17th [seriously, how many times are we going to be retold the same story? The war only happened once!] doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot of depth and strategy to it.

So in closing, please consider these words when you go to your local game store and have a choice between Nintendogs and Call of Duty. What game would you feel more comfortable allowing a new convert to see? I know those are very large exaggerations, but you get the idea.

And besides, those kinds of games weren’t designed to be the super hardcore kind of game that grows in replay value as you grow in skill. They’re actually quite condescending to us. They dangle a carrot in front of our eyes until we eventually reach it. We’re given that carrot and another one is placed a bit further away from us. It’s known as a Skinner Box and gaming is very quickly reaching that point.

MMORPGs [Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games] are one of the worst offenders of this. You’re given carrot after carrot after performing work [not fun, not skill… WORK] and eventually you come to expect this kind of thing [worse is when you KNOW you’ll get the next carrot so you’ll sacrifice something in your life to get that carrot] so you start looking forward to that next carrot and before you know it… one of them had a hook on it. You are theirs. Your work suffers, friendships suffer, relationships suffer, all so you could reach another arbitrary level on a game where none of that will matter when the next one comes out.

“Yes, we know MMORPGs are dangerous and addictive, but so what? We aren’t talking about MMORPGs.” No we aren’t. Call of Duty does that as well. Most games with leveling systems do. [something tacked on to games in the early days to artificially inflate the time it takes to complete a game. Bad idea then, bad idea now.] And gamers today want that. They like the grinding aspect [for…some reason] if it’s hidden even slightly in something they believe is fun, they’ll perform the same repetitive task over and over again happily. Makes you wonder why gaming will likely never become completely mainstream and seen as a legitimate art form, doesn’t it? Gaming will never mature until the player base does.

Thank you for reading and I hope that the article has been of some benefit to you.