I begin with just a few lines to one of my favorite video games, Final Fantasy IX:
A voice from the past, joining yours and mine.
Adding up the layers of harmony.
And so it goes, on and on.
Melodies of life,
To the sky beyond the flying birds – forever and beyond.
Solomon says in Proverbs 22:6, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.”
Govelius from the Master Sega System captured my three year old son’s imagination back in the late eighties. Plopped up beside his Dad , armed with just a controller and a beaming face of pride, they entered the fascinating world of video games together. Not long after, my youngest son would be using the controllers as teething rings in his walker. He inspected every inch of them with his mouth (Editor’s Note: Apparently true, though I honestly can’t remember!). I suspect he knew they were important objects -that’s probably why he choose them over teething rings.
The game that hooked him into the fold was Secret Of Mana. At the ripe old age of four, I recall him proudly playing the Sprite with his dad and brother. That game claimed our entire 1991 Christmas vacation! Day after day, we all layed bundled up on the floor glued to the televison. The world continued outside, but we were not in the world that week. No, we were in the gaming world together, as a family, sharing thrilling adventures and fascinating journeys, laughing, and simply having plain old fun! These are moments that remain suspended in time in all of our hearts and memories. It’s a gift we all share. As a mother, thinking back, I have to call them divine!
Times weren’t always all good memories, though. It was in those early years I had to examine , as a Christian mother, if video games were a good thing for my two young Christian sons. Many voices at that time accused them of being violent, evil, and even from the Devil! In our house, by contrast, they were fun entertainment. We took the good out of them, and we played to share in adventures as brothers, family, and friends. So, was I to forbid them from playing for the sake of looking like a “good” Christian mother raising good Christian sons? Honestly, I thought that would be living under someone else’s standard of good and evil – not God’s. If God was everywhere, and we can see reflections of His glory everywhere, then why not in a video game?
God’s principles came right out of the way we played them. Video games may have begun as a quality time with Dad back then, but I remember two very important little people with tiny hands, huge controllers and swelling chests feeling very special to be playing. Self esteem was at an all time high as they played – what kid doesn’t need a little encouragement every day? The teamwork, strategy and problem solving skills needed to complete Mario, Link and Mega Man was an incredible accomplishment at that young age. I remember the hours and hours of patience and persistence through tough jumps, grinding, leveling, and beating bosses. Heck, those rocking video game chairs my kids had tell the story. I think their behinds were embedded into the plastic. Surely we cannot even comprehend all that they are learning through their gaming hours.
Appearances aren’t everything; how you perceive something determines how it is it used. In that sense, video game are instruments that He has given us to use for good and not for evil. They can be reflections of the good or the bad in us. In video games, we learn the principle of reaping what you sow. Paul says in Galatians 6:7-8
7 Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. 8 For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.
Every video game encounter gives you a choice. Video games reinforce the ability to make decisions and choices that have, sometimes, huge consequences for good or for bad – every encounter and situation becomes a new choice. Ultimately, years of choosing leads to independence , as counting on yourself to get the job done by choosing wisely or stupidly produces immediate results. Choices like “what weapon should I use” or “should I take this path or that path?” or even to “what’s the best strategy for this boss” creates in a person responsibility for their actions. Nobody wants to go back to the beginning, after all!
There cannot be a better place to learn these truths in a natural, progressive way than in the warmth of one’s living room. The love and benefit of reading emerges in the fun and informative manuals and Player’s Guides (Editor’s Note: When they were always full color, had great original artwork, and actually helped you learn the game. The little piece of paper that is Assassin’s Creed III’s “manual” is a travesty). Video games provide the thrill of accomplishments in beating bosses or levels or games and the agony of defeat in not progressing . These were not things that were watched passively on a television screen as they played; they were lived! All of these things and plenty more were thankfully just a part of the gaming process.
As games grew tougher and my son’s grew more and more frustrated getting to the next level or trying to beat a boss, they were able to learn the power of prayer – it really does work (Editor’s Note: Trust me, I did this and still do this. Just I do it for WoW lewtz now.)! Why would God not want to answer a young child’s prayer to show He is there and prove He is listening. He is ready to help at anytime and in any place and for anything! The praying process sunk into their hearts at a very early age, all because of video games! As Paul says in 1 Thessalonians,5:17., “Pray without ceasing”!
The bonding of my son’s through video games is nothing short of sacred, set apart in our memories; we recall moments and games like they were yesterday, not decades ago as they are. I also remember sleep-overs of fun and laughter, of Mario Party and Mario Kart. Surrounded by big pillows and comforters, Goldeneye 007, Perfect Dark, Halo, and Pokemon were constant fictures in our home. Don’t forget the red licorice and popcorn too!
The music continues to play a role in rekindling these memories. Play a Final Fantasy theme and I am transported back in time sitting with my two little boys (Editor’s Note: Or even now, really!)! I love those melodies. I even went to the Distant Lands concert last spring. God certainly gave Nobuo Uematsu the talent to create heavenly music! That’s exactly where I feel I go when I am listening!
The rewards of working hard to finish games that would sometimes spill into fifty hours in length over flowed into my son’s lives – trying their best and giving their all is still their way of life today. They have learned that you have to be committed to the task at hand to finish a game (Editor’s Note: Or a thesis.). All in all, they played long and hard. Through the twenty plus years they lived, they died, got back up, and did it all over again. They played fantastic journeys and thrilling adventures. Amazingly, and most importantly through it all they were learning God’s ways!
Castlevania: Symphony of the Night sums it up perfectly in the song, “I Am The Wind.” It goes, ” I face my destiny everyday I live….and the best of me is all I have to give.” Luke 6:38 reveals the principle:
Give and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together,and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.
The melodies of life continue in our home; video games set hearts on fire for Jesus Christ that will never burn out as long as we remember.
If I should leave this lonely world behind,
Your voice will still remember our melody.
Now I know we’ll carry on.
Melodies of life,
Come circle round and grow deep in our hearts, as long as we remember.