The opposite of love is not hate, but indifference.  The passions of anger and hate are actually aroused because you love something, and that something is being threatened.   This is the sense in the Gospels when Jesus says we must “hate” even father, mother, and so on for His sake.  This is not meant to say that we are to actively disdain and deride our family, but it communicates the magnitude of the love we are to have toward God – it is so great that we would even “hate” the family.

If what we love is disordered the rage we feel or the anxiousness with which we defend that love reveals the disorder.  This is because when we love the wrong things, we have built our house on sand and the waves of attack reveal our insecurity.  We love a thing, are attached to it, finding meaning and enjoyment from it, and therefore if someone attacks it we might just explode.

I have been involved with mentoring apostolates for young men since I was in high school, and I can tell you that in the last 5-10 years there has been a major shift in the topic of video games.  Prior to this shift, proposing that video games might not be a good thing resulted in benign reactions, maybe a little pushback, and usually just a reinforcement about moderation in all things, blah blah.

But now, the defensiveness of those wrapped up in video games reveals deep insecurity and disordered love.  Recently I was in a room with hundreds of young men, and the talks were ranging from the problems of abortion, masturbation, pornography, adultery, gay marriage, transgenderism, and every other hot-topic of the culture wars.  But then someone brought up video games, and suggested that perhaps young men should put those aside in order to grow in maturity.  Outrage!  The roar in the room and the backlash was astounding.  You would think someone propose that they castrate themselves.  Someone was attacking a disordered love and insecurity.

The same thing happens on this site.  In fact, I’m often amazed at how often it is women that comment on the articles and feel gratified by the content, but the young men usually come with pitchforks at this topic.  Before jumping to the comment box now if that’s you, can we at least try to examine what’s going on here?

First, in comparison to the objective gravity of other topics, video games ought not arouse our passions that much.  Since they do, it reveals some sort of insecurity.  Being secure in a way of life means that you don’t blink if someone derides it – you know the truth and live happily in it.  In America, young men who are the same age as Don Juan of Austria was when he won the battle of Lepanto are rallying for few things, but they rally to defend their games.  Usually this includes talk of “all things in moderation,” which is actually not a true statement.  Lots of things – like love, compassion, and virtue – are not done in moderation. Moderation, then, needs moderation.  And the inability for modern man to distinguish between leisure and amusement makes that a difficult conversation to have anyway.

Some sort of studies or reasoning about how games improves coordination or problem solving skills are also then proposed, which I have always found unpersuasive.  Because ends don’t justify means, I would say problem solving skills are better learned while solving problems, and we can’t do formation as if life depended on brain/thumb coordination.

But let’s get at the heart of the felt passions.  And, let me defend these gamers a bit.

Our motherly society seems to have come to a truce about male aggression by keeping boys safely locked up in air-conditioned rooms (first aid kits in the bathroom), while letting them play grotesquely violent video games, though most of them are adventure and warish games.  The fact is, the staggering and nearly all-male world of “gamers” is thriving off of our bored and suppressed young men.  We keep taking the expectations and experiences of power, danger, and adventure away and gaming companies offer a imitated substitute and sell it to them.

Games gives the sense of achievement and identity that traditional rites of passage would have done.  And this is why the insecurity in their reactions is so palpable – you’re attacking who they are, not just what they do.  In games they feel something, and outside of them they are surrounded by drywall, fluorescents, and the Gather hymnal, so games feel a lot better than “real life”.  Once after a talk I was swarmed by young men eager to talk about this.  One of the boys was shy and quiet, and was visibly shaken by my proposal that he might need to stop the games of his childhood.  After going in circles I finally asked him, “Inside the games, do you feel like you have purpose, like you’re a hero with real skill?”

“Yes, I am very good at them,” he replied.

Then I asked, “Out here, in this world, do you feel like that?  Do you feel like a loser?”

“Not at all,” he said, looking down.  “Out here I am a loser.”

Would you rather feel like a loser or a hero?  We that are skeptical of gaming cannot just throw stones at the subculture until we have a culture that provides the real things that games are imitations of: challenge, adventure, mission, heroism, danger, and belonging.  Our real world is the one of safety, individualism, and affordable interest rates.  No wonder games are made with boys in mind.

I had games (Scorpion’s fatality is done by holding block and pressing up up), but when Mortal Kombat came out the game industry was just starting to capitalize on male boredom as a 13 billion dollar industry, and I was blessed with opportunities for real experiences too, but by college the growing addiction was clear among us.  Addiction to games is similar to addiction to pornography, and both are growing the masculinity crisis.  Today the industry is over 30 billion, and if pushers of drugs and porn are any indication, the focus on getting and keeping males addicted will continue.

The things that typically draw in young men, even when unhealthy or imperfect, share a sense of loyalty and solidarity, with the nobility of self-sacrifice being praised and selfishness being punished.  The military, gangs, and sports – things dominated by males – all share a belonging, a hierarchy of codes and authority, and the call to do daring and dangerous feats.  They are ways of living and belonging, and the dangers is are not just for the cheapness of “thrill” but in the willingness to sacrifice for a cause – to be for others and for a mission.  What, beyond economic security, are we for today?  If you have ever felt repulsed at the disrespect of a young man absorbed in video games, you can usually count on him being absorbed in a game that attempts, however feebly and pitifully, to reproduce the things forgotten by a society gone bored.   That’s the problem behind the problem.

06 17 2017
Back to all articles
  • Tammy Craig

    For more recognition of the "problem" https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/jun/16/internet-addiction-gaming-restart-therapy-washington

  • GuineaPugs

    As a young male that was addicted to playing games for probably 15 years, I agree with the author. I love games but I realize the ugliness of them and their dopamine-riddled mechanics are really disastrous. I play them in moderation now but I still would like to rid of them completely, no matter how much fun they may be.

  • Darby O’Gill

    Feminize the men, masculize the women....and removing God from their hearts will be easily accomplished. Godless Marxism is winning.

  • Patchfur

    This article is yet another in along series of articles expressing the author's opinion that young men are not doing what the author wants. It is full of rhetorical devices, including the preemptive dismissal of any defense by labeling it disordered love. The author will persuade no one, and certainly not these young men, by attempting to shame them into behaving into a certain manner of behavior.

    Perhaps there is nothing whatever wrong with these young men. Perhaps they are behaving as young men always have. Perhaps they notice that the world seems to have nothing but contempt for them and they are responding to the incentives that are in place. This article certainly expresses that contempt for young men playing video games clearly.

    If incentives were in place that rewarded the masculine behavior that the author clearly longs for, they would respond to that. Don Juan's society certainly rewarded young men for defending their homes and winning battles. Is it any wonder they responded in kind?

    There is still a masculine world out there. Your son can join a society of men that are not ashamed or afraid to speak their minds, to observe the world clearly, and give honor to God. You will need to lead the way as his father. Show him the reward of hard work, take a rifle and get outside, engage in some activity that makes a difference with comrades of a good heart.

    For those unhappy children of God who have no fathers, well, do what you can and pray.

    Live pure, right wrong, fear God, and honor the King. Just as relevant now as it was 1,500 years ago.

  • Christopher Freeman

    In games they feel something, and outside of them they are surrounded by drywall, fluorescents, and the Gather hymnal

    Shots fired at the Gather hymnal... haha.

  • A few comments.

    * Your article is replete with condescending psychoanalysis. Basically, 'If you feel strongly about this topic then there's something wrong with you.', to say nothing of the 'loser' theme. I would think that Catholics in particular would avoid this kind of game, especially when (presumably) attempting to help people. People can, and routinely do, cast the entire Catholic belief system as one big coping mechanism for the deeply disturbed and possibly dangerous. It's wrong there; it's wrong here. It's doubly odd since you recommend 'not just throwing stones' at the culture, in the midst of hurling a number of rocks. I can just imagine how you'd react to an atheist suggesting the merciful action of not mocking and belittling Catholics, "who are superstitious, of low intelligence, and usually are trying to compensate for the emptiness and disappointment in their lives by talking to an imaginary friend." That would be both insulting and grossly uninformed. The same is true here.

    * You mention Mortal Kombat, presumably to buy some credibility as someone with direct knowledge on this topic. MK came out in 1992, a quarter century. Since then, the gaming market has changed massively. Gaming *demographics* have changed massively. In 1992, it would have been a joke to suggest that there was a big market for gaming among women. Currently - even if they're in distinct genres and subcategories - it's common knowledge. Look at Popcap and Bejeweled. Look at Facebook itself. Look at the mobile market. You talk about the change that took place since Mortal Kombat, but you apparently aren't aware of those changes - and that's just at the big-picture level. It's even more different at the micro level.

    * Another major change that has taken place since the Mortal Kombat days: games are no longer seen purely for entertainment. They tell stories, sometimes deep ones, other times not. They're easier than ever to create, thanks to open source and free-to-use systems and digital distribution. They're now heavily integrated with the internet, which means people make friends - real friends, at times - online. And at the same time, they are controversial, with agenda-pushing and attempts at censorship popping up as real threats. Once again, I'd think a Catholic would be able to understand the leeriness of such a thing, since Catholics themselves are often looking down the barrel of a censorship gun lately.

    I urge you to stop and reconsider what you are doing here. If you want to address the 'masculinity crisis', this is the wrong way to do it, and it really seems like you're relying on some bad/outdated understandings besides.

  • Andy

    I'll just leave this here...

    www.troopsofsaintgeorge.org

    Great commentary. We need to give boys real experiences of adventure. At a bare minimum, cut the cords and let them find their OWN adventures.

    And Catholics, we're gonna need to have lots of kids, so that our kids have somebody to play with! Everyone else's kids are inside their media rooms all summer...

  • donttouchme

    Video games are a flash point now because of gamergate. Women find your content gratifying because youre basically a feminist who only discusses men's duties and never their rights and privileges rightly owed.

    • Patchfur

      Insightful comment.

    • Christopher Freeman

      Why should we talk about our "rights" that we are due? What good does that accomplish? And just what rights do you think we are due?

      • donttouchme

        Because you have to ask "just what rights do you think we are due". It's frankly a stupid question, but understandable, since JPII and his sycophants have attempted to destroy the family by destroying the authority of the husband/father (especially) and of men in general.

  • Seán Tracey

    According to JP2 I would posit tge opposite of love is not indifference, but use.

    • Christopher Freeman

      I've been giving this more thought today, and of course JPII is right. Use is the opposite of love. But not all failings of love are instances of use.

      Think about when I fail to help a poor person that I easily could. I'm not using them, and I'm not hating them or directly causing them harm. But I'm certainly not loving them. It's an sin of indifference. I don't, in that moment, care about that person and their needs.

    • Christopher Freeman

      Use requires indifference. To use someone, you have to be indifferent to their personality, goals, dreams, hopes etc...

    • Alvaro B. Barrera

      Well the Lumineers say otherwise so...

  • Mr. Adams

    You being persuaded has nothing to do with the evidence. Evidence is not based on popularity. Games do have their purpose. I used them after my stroke to do ot (I did other things), but one of my exercises was to play video games.

  • neoconned

    "Our motherly society seems to have come to a truce about male aggression by keeping boys safely locked up in air-conditioned rooms (first aid kits in the bathroom), while letting them play grotesquely violent video games, though most of them are adventure and warish games." That's it, right there...

  • Timothy Davis

    Video games are themselves a medium, like film or literature. As such, at their height, they have the power to do what good film and literature do - enflesh what is stirring and noble, to see beauty realized. The best of video games - the Zelda series, the classic Final Fantasy series, The Last of Us, etc. do precisely that.

    Addiction to being stupefied in distraction ought always to be cut away, but the appetite for video games, it seems to me, needs purification and right ordering - not elimination.

    • Gabe Jones

      I don't think Mr. Craig's article above is meant to say video games should be eliminated completely. What I think he is saying though is that calls for "moderation" go unheeded, or that "moderation" is not actually "moderation" in practice.

      • Tony Powers

        I'd actually say the contrary. The article starts with "the suggestion that video games might not be a good thing" and a point about how "moderation in all things" isn't always true, followed by a hand-waving dismissal of any sort of evidence that video games could possibly be beneficial, then immediately jumps to the psychology behind why males play video games (a psychology whose only provided evidence is the author's thoughts/anecdotal experiences).

        It certainly seems to be about the problem of video games.

      • Christopher Freeman

        If Mr. Craig were to defend himself, I think he might say that video games aren't the problem. They are a symptom of a problem. "The problem behind the problem".

        I know grown men with college degrees and familes and good jobs who spend the majority of their free time playing video games. Their wives complain (lightly) about it. But the men plan their days around video games. That's a problem. But it's not because video games are intrinsically bad. It's because they have a disordered love for video games. That's what is bad.

  • Tony Powers

    I wonder how much of the pushback is anger over identity being challenged, and how much is simply a pushback of the same scale they perceive the attack.

    It seems that no conversion about the problem of video games is able to accept the possibility of "sometimes." If there's a push against video games, it's always "no, no more, we can have none of that." Meanwhile, television, sports obsessions, and the like are ignored entirely, while video games get strung up and burned in effigy rather frequently by speakers. Perhaps the problem is simpler than that. Perhaps the easiest way to get young men unhooked from video games is to suggest that they must include time for other things, rather than going cold turkey.

    • Jordan Miller

      Agreed. This post, like many I've read on the subject, presupposes that the only options are "Life-consuming addiction to games" and "No more games." Why would that be? Film is a great art medium, a medium often recognized as such by Catholic authors. But you can certainly overdo it with movie watching, even great movies that are not in any way trashy or inappropriate. Sports are a good thing, but (as you suggested) there is a toxic sports obsession in modern culture, and its not limited to young men; men in middle age and older often seem to be able to talk about nothing else with one another but sports. A guy will talk for 2 hours about why the head coach needs to change his strategy, or about they ought to do with their draft picks if they want to rebuild next year, but try getting the same guy to talk for 10 minutes about Sacred Scripture or about his prayer life.

      I'm almost 36 years old, and I sometimes play video games (mostly action RPG games, no shooting games). I certainly think the author is right to say that our present culture emasculates nearly everything, and that men are therefore desperate to find something to replace the loss of adventure, challenge, risk, etc. This is the root of the sports obsession as well (i.e., physical challenge and action lived vicariously through watching someone else on a TV screen). But video games are not necessarily any more or less problematic than action movies, or sports fandom. Yes, actually playing sports with your own body is something higher and more real than playing video games. But for most grown men, being "into sports" means talking about sports, not playing them yourself.

      The most dangerous thing about video games is not the content of the games (although some games have content that is so violent and nihilistic that it is not healthy for anyone, regardless of whether you are an adult), but the 'video' aspect of it. In other words, the most dangerous thing is shared in common with TV, with laptops, with smart phones: i.e., it is one more damn screen, taking people away from the real world around them, the real world of sights and sounds and smells and touch and actual people and objects, and immersing them into a disembodied electronic pseudo-world. The danger of video games is not distinct from the danger of these other things. Addiction to screens is the central issue: video games are just one species of the genus.

      I would say that occasional video game playing is not any more or less of a problem psychologically or spiritually than moderate watching of action movies. Both involve living vicariously through a fictional character; therefore are potentially hazardous if you don't keep focused on real things. When a man watches an action movie, he is psychologically and emotionally putting himself in place of the protagonist; this is the whole reason why those movies make money. If it gets out of hand, if you find yourself needing to be continually immersed in a fictional world to be happy, then you are doing something very harmful. And this applies to female fictional worlds as well (movies, books, characters aimed at girls and women).

      If you can incorporate it as a once-in-awhile thing, a small part of a larger, richer life filled with many concrete, real world pursuits, then I don't see the need to push an all-or-nothing message.