Is playing highly violent video games a sin?
I have a question regarding entertainment. I have played video games for a long time like many younger people tend to do. I am wondering if it is a sin for someone to play a violent video game. Games can be a good form of entertainment but when it comes to genre I would say that most of them focus on violence. Games such as Call of Duty, Grand Theft Auto, or Rainbow Six Siege are examples that I can think of. I have looked for answers before but I can’t seem to find any closure. I am stuck between the view of considering it related to what Jesus said in Matthew 5:27-28. Even though we may not commit things in real life it is no better if we commit them in our heart. Some have called this a virtual sin. The other view is that it is intent that determines if it is a sin, after all we may go to the movies and watch shooting and fighting but we ourselves do not take part in anything. Where do we draw the line?
I am sure that you can see for yourself that this is a debatable matter. However, my suggestion is that we as believers in Jesus should be very cautious about or perhaps even completely stay away from such grey areas. I simply cannot imagine Jesus playing Grand Theft Auto–cheering when he wipes out enemies–even if the activity is only virtual. There are a number of biblical principles which inform me that involvement in such extremely violent video games is questionable at best, or outright sinful at worst. For example, there is Philippians 4:8. “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.” I cannot see a Christian playing such ultra-violent games in view of this command. I would add Psalm 101:3 I will not set before my eyes any unclean thing. If we think that taking part in such activity has no effect on our minds, we are fooling ourselves. Can some of us take part in such kinds of entertainment and not have our minds polluted by it? Perhaps. I am not in a position to judge such a thing.
I cannot “prove” that it is sinful to play Call of Duty or Rainbow Six Siege, and I do not believe it is helpful for me to judge believers who do so, but I believe that this activity is very questionable for a Christian. Some might say “I really enjoy video games.” Others might say, “I only do this a couple of hours a week and I am not addicted to such games.” Fine, but could you not find a video game which is equally exciting which does not involve murder, mayhem, scantily clad women, violence–that does not bring out our worst instincts? Is killing hundreds of people–even virtually–helping you to be a better Christian? There are plenty of video games out there that are a lot of fun but which do not involve us in thinking about unwholesome things.
Personally, I do not prefer to use the term “virtual sin.” What does that mean? Either it is a sin or it is not a sin. I get where this expression comes from, but it is confusing to me. Is a virtual sin a sin? Hard to say. I would prefer to call sin sin.
How does this compare to watching movies with violence in them? That is a good question. This issue is similar but not identical, because when we watch a movie, we are taking part in a passive way–we are merely watching. To actually participate in violent acts–to personally initiate such actions, even if they are not real, seems to me to be a different thing. Of course, even merely watching violence for the sake of violence can also be problematic. Hopefully, Christians have some conviction about this as well. Surely there will be a limit to how violent a movie or television show we, as believers, are willing to view. Even the kind of violence matters. Watching a realistic depiction of the horrors of war in which humans show valor defending good against evil is one thing, but watching sadistic acts of murder is another. So these questions are related, but identical.
Let me remind you that I am giving advice and I believe that this is a debatable matter. Please take my comments for what they are worth–as advice based on biblical principles but not as hard and fast answers. Colossians 2:20-23 tells me that we should hesitate to create rules over debatable matters. We need convictions, not rules. You need to reach your own conclusion, but my advice is that you find a kind of video entertainment more wholesome than these hyper-violent multiple player games.