The vast majority of my Entertainment Thoughts are on video games. That’s because for most of my life, all I did was play video games. When I decided to cut back on game playing and focus more on the Catholic faith, I created a few rules for the types of games I would no longer play.
1. No gratuitous violence or sex.
This is really two rules rolled into one, but they are related enough for me to count them as one rule. I follow this rule not just for video games, but for all entertainment. If I feed my mind violent or sexual material, I at least become desensitized to what should be shocking. Going further, I may come to enjoy seeing these things or even become addicted to them. In the worst case, I may seek to take these things from fantasy into reality, acting out in the form of murder, adultery, fornication, or other related sins. This is a rule that all Catholics should follow, part of the ninth and tenth commandments, which deal with matters of not coveting sinful things.
The Witcher 3 is an example of one the games I avoided because of this rule. I’ve never played the game, but from my research the game was filled with brutal violence against both monsters and humans from limbs being severed to beheadings to torture and everything in between. Many of the women in the game were promiscuous, dressing immodestly and using their looks to take advantage of others. Some towns featured prostitutes. The player could get almost any of the digital, fantasy women in bed with their character if they wanted.
2. No endless games.
Many games these days are made to have vast amounts of progression for the player to go through. It keeps the player in the game longer. The developers hope the player will see good value in the game, making it an easier decision to buy the next game in the series. The problem is that many of these games can take 100s of hours to do everything. On top of that, many developers add downloadable content requiring even more time. Some of these games are online, where the network effect of having several friends playing keeps the player wanting to play ever more to keep up. I was trying to cut back on games, reduce how much time I spent with them. Just casually playing one of these games could take a year or more to finish. I had to avoid these games.
An example of a game I chose to avoid because of this rule is Diablo III. The game started off slow but after a few patches and an expansion, I really enjoyed the gameplay. It was just so fun to fight monsters and collect loot. I had big plans for my characters in the game. I had all kinds of fun items I wanted to find and skill combinations I wanted to try. There was the problem of time though. Doing all these things was going to take years of my free time to finish. That was too much of a sacrifice, especially for something (entertainment) that has no value in eternity.
3. No pay to play games.
One of the game genres I loved to play was massively multiplayer online role-playing games. These games had vast worlds to explore and thousands of other real human players to interact with. I just loved the scope. The fantasy worlds felt that much more real because of the size and all the people playing. Most of these games were extremely time consuming, so they would already fail the rule of “No endless games” above. Even more, many of these games had monthly fees. No matter what I did in the game, I would always have to pay some money to access the game. There was no way to reach a point where I could just play in peace. Having a monthly fee constantly made me feel like I had to play longer to get more value out of the money I spent. After all, I still had to pay the same amount whether I played 20 or 80 hours.
One of my favorite games I had to give up was World of Warcraft. I loved pretty much everything about the game, but I just couldn’t justify paying money every month. There were more than enough one-time fee games to entertain me. This rule also applies to the free-to-play games, which essentially require money to make any progress. Many of the “free” games try to fool players into thinking they can do everything for free. There are a small subset of these games where this is possible, but it is very rare.
4. No games without a pause and save feature.
One of the choices I made as part of becoming a better Catholic was being more available to family members. I hated it when I was trying to talk to someone and their attention was distracted due to media. I decided I wasn’t going to be the same. That meant I couldn’t be playing a game that had no pause functionality. If someone came up to ask me something, I needed to be able to pause the game and focus my attention on the real person standing there, not what was on the screen. In addition, what if the person invited me to do something? I wanted to have the option to drop whatever I was doing to spend time with family. The game needed to have the ability to save almost anywhere. Family is more important than any game. I want to always be available.
Many, many games violate this rule just because they are primarily online multiplayer games. An online game can’t have one player pausing the game and forcing everyone else to wait. If the game requires multiplayer, I can’t just save the game and come back exactly where I was. Everyone needs to be on the same page to play together. Because this rule would pretty much make all online and multiplayer games unplayable for me, I made one exception to this fourth rule. I can only play multiplayer games in person with friends and family. Parties and family get-togethers are when this is the case. Everyone is taking turns and watching others play. The game might not have a pause feature or the ability to save anywhere, but I am available to the people around me. In that situation I also don’t care about winning or losing. It’s all just for fun.
From now on, I follow these rules to the letter. With these rules in effect, I usually only play single player games. With how little I play them, each game lasts many months. This has also helped me save a lot of money, which I can use for more important things. The Catechism speaks of gaining self-mastery over our actions (CCC 2339). There are many areas of my life I am still working on, but video games (and entertainment in general) are not one of them. This continually makes me very happy knowing how much I used to adore games. Now I can focus on what really matters.
May God bless you with his abundant grace,