What I Learned About Life and God From Playing Video Games

Wisdom's Friend

What I Learned About Life and God From Playing Video Games

God can use anything to teach us about himself and life–even our playing video games. I know this is true because he has done this for me. Here are some of the lessons he has taught me in this way.

1. There is a God.

This is the Intelligent Design argument for God’s existence, an updated version of the Watchmaker’s argument. A video game, or a watch, could not exist unless someone designed it. This is so obvious that it seems incredulous that anyone would actually argue against this. Nevertheless, many do, refusing to see the hand of God in his created works (Rom. 1:18-20).

There is a God.

2. There is a purpose.

A game with no purpose is not worth creating or playing. Though a supposedly purposeless game might possibly have some temporary entertainment value, say, one that simply displayed varying color patterns, those patterns still have a purpose if for none other than temporary enjoyment. Still, such a simple game would soon be discarded by players after the initial, short-lived enjoyment wore off. No one wants to keep at a meaningless game; it is a waste of players’ time as well as not worthy of the creator’s time and effort. A game worth creating and playing must have a purpose (Is. 14:24, Is. 55:11, Jer. 32:19, Lk. 7:30, 2 Cor. 5:5, Eph. 3:11).

There is a purpose to life.

3. There is a goal to be achieved.

This is a slightly different thing than purpose. A goal can be described as more limited than purpose. A goal is the place designated as the end (as of a race or journey: 2 Tim. 4:7, 1 Cor. 9:24, Phil. 3:14). A good game needs a definite goal, something to aim for (Eph. 4:14, 2 Cor. 13:11, 1 Cor. 14:1, 2 Cor. 5:9).

Purpose, on the other hand, is a broader concept, involving anticipation (Rom. 8:19) that the goal (game or life) will be reached and also guides the planned actions of the game/life towards that goal (Jn. 16:13, Prov. 4:11, Is. 58:11).

Without either of these, a goal and purpose, there is no meaning to a game or life; then one becomes weary of playing the game (Jer. 12:13, Jonah 4:3).

Life has a goal. It is worth living.

4. There are rules.

This is a necessary consequence of item three. If there is a goal to be achieved, then there must be a clearly stated way to achieve that goal, otherwise players could easily stray far and wide (Ecc. 7:29) and never attain the goal and then wonder why they are playing the game at all; they would soon tire of the game. This happens often in life and often is the result of not playing the game by the rules but seeking to use it for one’s own purposes, that is, perverting the game for uses not intended by the creator of the game.

There are rules for living life as God has designed it.

5. Disobedience to the rules has consequences.

Again, this is a consequence of the previous item, number four. Rules for a game are not just given willy-nilly, for no reason; there is a definite purpose for the game and there are definite rules by which that purpose must be attained. Rules are given for a reason. Rather than stifling a game, they are what makes the game interesting and satisfying. To try to subvert those rules results in penalties and possible end of game.

Now, some games do have what are called “cheats” which enable a knowledgeable player to get around certain restrictions in the game. But such cheats are available only at the discretion of the game’s creator; if they have not been programmed in, even though hidden from players in some way, then it is impossible to get around the stated rules. If you want to win the game, you must play by the creator’s rules. If you don’t, there are consequences. The creator of the game is in charge of how the game will be played, not the player. The only way the player can win the game and actually enjoy it along the way towards winning it is to play the game according to the rules (2 Tim. 2:5).

Life lived outside the rules given by God will ruin that life.

6. The game ends.

There are a few games that might be described as never-ending, but that is because, for example, they have so many levels that they only seem that way. One game I play briefly to relax between intellectually demanding tasks (such as writing blogs!) apparently has no actual end to it. It just repeats the same challenge over and over, but with increased difficulty or skills required to achieve the same goal. Surprisingly, it does not thereby become boring or too challenging (at least yet). And since you can save the previous level you achieved, you do not have to start over again each time you play the game. You can save what you have achieved (Mt. 6:20, Col. 1:5) and start anew there. As of this writing, I am at level 675. One player claims to have reached level 800 and still no end to the game.

Nevertheless, most games do have a definite end. There comes a time when the clock runs down to zero or all the player’s lives are gone–and time runs out one way or the other. The game is over. Then comes the final lesson.

Life ends.

7. Some players win, some lose.

There is usually little reason to play a game without a clear expectation of being able to win it. By the same token, there is no satisfaction in playing a game that is so easy that it is virtually impossible not to win. For winning to have any meaning, it must be possible to lose.

I say reverently and with no intention of demeaning life or making less of it, but to the contrary, seeking to increase the seriousness of it, that life is a game that all must play and it is possible to win and it is possible to lose. The stakes could not be higher. For the cost of playing the game is one’s very soul–and that for all eternity.

Summary and Recapitulation

God exists. He created all life and has given that life a purpose. That purpose is found in Jesus Christ. He is the one for whom we all exist.

“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him” (Col. 1:15-16 NIV).

Just as there are rules for playing a game, so there are rules established by God for living life. We are free to disobey those rules, but that leads to death (Rom. 6:21). Obedience gives life (Mt. 19:17) and enables us to direct our lives towards God’s eternal goals and purposes for those lives.

Life ends. Then comes judgment by God and the determination of winners and losers. I pray that all who read this will take their lives seriously. For though the above has compared life to playing a game by showing similarities to the two, in reality life is far too serious to be called a game. The eternal fate of one’s soul rests upon how that life is lived, for oneself or for Jesus. Therefore, may all who read this heed the words of Scripture:

“I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:14 NIV).

“Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient” (Eph. 5:6 NIV).

“I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. Only let us live up to what we have already attained” (Phil. 3:12-16 NIV).

Life is like a game, but it is not a game. It is deadly serious. Live it with the seriousness it deserves. Only then can it truly be enjoyed, now and forever, in Jesus Christ.

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