What 10 Priests Say About Video Games

What 10 Priests Say About Video Games

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10 priests were recently asked to write roughly 4 sentences on the topic of video games. Here is what they said…


fr-connollyFr. Edward Connolly from Pennsylvania
Reality is where I work out my salvation. Reality is where I meet Mom and Dad, Brother and Sister, Son and Daughter, Wife or Husband, God and Neighbor and, come to think of it, Myself. Video games are Alternate Reality. There I can pretend that I don’t have Mom, Dad, Brother, Sister, Son, Daughter, Wife or Husband, God or Neighbor. Only Myself. It’s kind of like Hell.


fr-peter-hannahFr. Peter Junipero Hannah from California
I recall when I was a kid the first Nintendo system came out, and I saved allowance to buy it since my parents did not have a high opinion of such diversions. After the purchase, they suspected my extended use was frying my brain, and I recall defending it to them on the grounds that it improved hand-eye coordination. I now think this argument a load of hooey (I probably knew that then too), and find myself after twenty-five years to have arrived at—surprise—roughly my parents’ views. I wonder how much better off intellectually, artistically, and even physically and morally, young people (especially boys) would be if they unplugged and gave their adventurous youthful vigor to more worthy pursuits.


fr-matthew-schneiderFr. Matthew Schneider, LC from Rome
Video games are not necessarily evil—I remember playing video games with friends: my nerd friends and I would play Warcraft II after school. Games like that teach strategy and planning but are also a great way to relax; they’re similar to Axis & Allies. Even today, I like to play Wii from time to time (my sister and foster-niece practice Mario Kart more and always cream me)—however, today video games can cause trouble in three ways: 1. Games that have inappropriate content such as a recent game where you had to fight terrorists in an airport surrounded by civilians (you inevitably shoot at least one) and with graphic death sequences; 2. Where video games put you as the bad guy such as the GTA series; and 3. Simply playing too much where this recreation keeps us from important duties such as work, school, or exercise. If you avoid all 3, enjoy video games in moderation.
[Note: for those of you unfamiliar, Warcraft II is a strategy game where you control a town and army of orcs or humans; World of Warcraft is a completely different game which easily falls into problem #3 because of its addictive nature.]


msgr-popeMsgr. Charles Pope from Washington, D.C.
Video Games are entertaining to be sure. But they are poor training for life which does not unfold at the pace of these games. Much of the ADHD diagnosed today is more likely a poor attention span that results from hyper-stimulation intrinsic to many of these games. One may wonder how a steady diet of these frantic, loud and sometimes violent games can dispose one to pray and listen for the still, quiet voice of God.


Fr-Ezra-webFr. Ezra Sullivan from Rome
Like television, many people make arguments in favor of video games that have little to do with the real purpose of the game. For instance, people say they can learn about history by watching television; or they can perfect eye-hand coordination by video games. But everyone knows that the real point of video games is to have fun by escaping reality. That sort of fun is like a highly-toxic medicine: it should be taken in small, rare doses, if at all.


Fr-callowayFr. Donald Calloway from Massachusetts
Children should be outside playing, doing physical activity, and not sitting in front of a screen all day playing the part of a cyber hero in someone else’s fantasy world. As a norm, adults should not be playing video games; their leisure moments should be more dignified and age appropriate. It’s so sad today to see how many grown men live in a fantasy world of video games; waste of time and money. No woman I know delights in dating and/or marrying a man who sits on his duff all day pushing buttons frantically like a lunatic.


fr-chris-pollardFr. Christopher Pollard from Virginia
How many hours of Tetris are too many? When you close your eyes yet the pieces are still falling and the music is still playing. After college I banished games from my computer. Now it’s a lot easier to pray when I close my eyes.


fr-longuaFr. Thomas Longua from Texas
Do the research. There are serious consequences mentally and physically. Morally: ask an exorcist about what he has to deal with because his patients are hooked on these things.


Fr-MurphyFr. Edward Murphy from Florida
The very concept of virtual reality is causing our children to have a significant disconnect with reality as we know it now. When our youth are obsessed with video games, they fantasize about things that are inane, ludicrous and violent. Why, we may ask, do we continue to see the pattern of mass shootings in schools and universities? It is a known fact that many of these senseless acts of violence can be attributed to our young people living in a fantasy world.


fr-hollowellFr. John Hollowell from Indiana
The sci-fi thriller “The Matrix” was a film about an alternate world that seemed real to those living in it. One of the characters was rescued from the “fake world” but wanted to go back in. I see this in many young people today – video games are so realistic that people often times desire to “live” in them, but this can only be damaging. God is encountered only in reality, and so those who are enslaved by electronic realities can not encounter God unless they return to the real world where God is to be found.

Photo CC: Tom LemmensGamerscore Blog and Mike Licht [both images were altered and combined]

Comments

comments

10 PriestsWhat 10 Priests Say About Video Games
  • Ladasha Smithson

    Everything they’ve said about video games one could say about sports and athletics. Yet I never hear anyone condemning sports.

    • http://www.homeschoolingcatholic.com/ Draper

      I am pretty sure no one accuses sports of creating an alternate escapist reality. Aside from the argument that anything done in excess at the expense of other things you should be doing is wrong, I don’t actually see anything in the quotes which could be applied to sports. I think the overall sentiment is one of caution and moderation as opposed to outright condemnation.

      • Fr. Josh Miller

        Sports are all about creating an alternate and escapist reality, so you can count me as one who makes the charge. This was true in the days of the Colosseum, as surely as it is today. A football game, played with an arbitrary set of rules created by humanity, says little about the nature of reality or God, beyond the basic rules of physiology and physics: it provides momentary diversion, a break from the stresses and the cares of life, allowing individuals to enjoy a team of their liking (usually based upon regional proximity) before returning to the world of cares and troubles. The game becomes a stage upon which something unfolds. And that “something” has absolutely nothing to do with my telos as a human being.

        The problem with what you put together here — as ZoidbergsGhost points out below — is that a couple of these are not warnings in regard to video games and their potential for abuse, but rather stand as condemnations based upon the notion that because they’re not rooted in reality, they are de facto not worth our time. Perhaps we owe this to the editing (as you noted in response to Zoidberg). But regardless, many of these statements are problematic. Fr. Donald Calloway, Fr. Ezra Sullivan, Fr. Edward Connolly, and Fr. Hannah — as represented here — are all making the claim that “video games are x, and x is bad.”

        Not that gaming has the potential to be bad if misused, but that gaming IS bad by its very nature and end result in human beings.

        I would challenge my brother priests who wrote these sentences to think about the last time they sat down to enjoy a movie, a novel, or yes, even a good baseball/football/basketball/hockey game. Weren’t they seeking out some form of immersive entertainment? And if they were — if they sought to disconnect themselves from the reality of their hard and taxing work for but just a moment in Middle Earth or the latest Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie (which I have yet to see) — is that such a bad thing?

        • Ralberta

          Ask a parent if video gaming is a problem with their boys. Okay, ask me.

          Yup. Sports? Nope.

          I have never seen any of my boys addicted to playing sports, as much as they love them. But video games, yes. The reason is that video game stimulus (as well as internet surfing to a lesser degree) is shown to have the same effect on the same part of the brain as other addictions. The same effect is present with watching television, though to a lesser degree. This is precisely the point. To say, “Sports are all about creating an alternate and escapist reality” neglects the nature of what video gaming is versus sports. I mean, using the same logic, one could say the same of going for a walk, praying, composing songs, or painting a picture. But some “alternate and escapist” realities have tremendous positive health, physical, emotional and spiritual benefits, particularly when we are participating in the creative act of God, and most especially when what we are doing serves to build up the kingdom (which is what truth, beauty, and goodness do).

          We have come a looooong way from the saints who avoided idle chatter and meaningless waste of time to now defending video games. When we shut them (and TV) off in our household, suddenly our kids began playing instruments, reading books, and developing other skills. I, for one, am grateful for the “alternate and escapist” songs, poetry, and inventions that now fill our home.

          • Fr. Josh Miller

            Hi Ralberta!

            I’m originally from Nebraska. Being from Nebraska, I can tell you all about individuals who take being a fan of sports to the extreme, to a level we might rightly consider “unhealthy.” Football is State Religion: a priest friend of mine recently commented that it was just about time for him to make his yearly, “If we only invested our hearts in God, so much as we do the Cornhuskers” homily.

            I do not deny that some leisurely activities — which are means of escaping reality for a time — are more useful than others. Sitting down to paint or write a SciFi short story is certainly time well spent, for example, because you’re engaging your talents and faculties in order to produce something. As far as moral neutrals and goods go, there is a hierarchy, as you point out quite well. This is why we need to foster in young men and women the ability to create a healthy balance in regard to leisurely activities, such that they don’t abuse any of them to the point where reality, responsibility, and intellectual formation are stunted.

            Again, my larger point: just because something CAN be abused or misused does not make it a moral evil, which is the sentiment of some of these statements. Only Fr. Matthew Schneider makes this point well.

            What you do not make clear — nor do the priests I criticize above — is what “the nature of what video gaming is” in your opinion. You seem to believe that video games are on line with “idle chatter” and a “meaningless waste of time,” but in making those charges, you also have the responsibility to describe how, in your view, gaming is in fact a meaningless waste of time, and do so in such a way that you also do not condemn movies, television, crossword puzzles, or other media we “passively” consume. That’s a claim I’d be most interested in hearing.

          • MillerJM

            I know runners who neglect their children because all they can think about is the next marathon. I know parents who become so competitive about sports, they become savages. Iv’e see soccer hooligans rioting in Amsterdam. I’ve seen boys become so obsessed with being number 1 that they use steroids. I’m not sure where on earth you get the idea that sports can’t be a problem. ANYTHING, even water (polydipsia), is a problem when taken to the extreme and not being guided by the Spirit.

      • MillerJM

        “I am pretty sure no one accuses sports of creating an alternate escapist reality” – tell that to the wife who can’t get her husband off the TV set on Sundays.

  • Shawna Mathieu

    This is one of the stupidest things I’ve ever read – the “reasons” go from ignorant to “well everyone knows…” all the way to bizarre.
    Why does it matter what 10 priests, who all, amazingly, turned out to all believe video games are bad, think? Does that prove anything? There’s a strongly implied message that, just because these are priests, their opinion is far more trustworthy than everyone else’s, so Catholics better get rid of those video games.
    By the same token, I should have tossed my PC and gotten a Mac because I had a parish priest who was an ardent Apple fan. And I should have removed Windows from my system and go to Ubuntu Linux because another parish priest hated Windows.

    • http://www.homeschoolingcatholic.com/ Draper

      One could argue that priests likely hear about video game addictions in the confessional all the time and might have some insight into the topic. That aside, the idea of collecting quotations from priests isn’t necessarily meant as authoritative as much as it is simply interesting. We could easily at some point in the future write a “What 10 Catholic Moms Say About Video Games” or “What 10 Catholic Teens”.

    • Ladasha Smithson

      I agree with your comment. Blaming and hating on video games has become trending in the past few weeks. At least video games don’t cause an increase in violence against women like sporting events do.

    • http://wasteyourtime.mtgames.org/ Scaevola

      Read it again, and note Fr Schneider’s actual statement (the only priest, it should be noted, who is engaging with the commenters); this post is quite literally “9 out of 10 priests agree…”

  • Pingback: God Can Only Be Found In Reality! What 10 Priests Say About Video Games | Courageous Priest

  • ZoidbergsGhost

    These responses, with the exception of Fr. Schneider’s, are poor. These arguments wouldn’t pass in a first year philosophy course in Seminary and should not be employed here: straw men, ad hominems, appeals to the majority, cherry picking, question begging, and slippery slope arguments run rampant just to name a few.

    The most common argument is an escapist mentality that substitutes a false reality. Yet, many of these priests have lauded great literature that has the ability to do just that: create an alternate reality. I don’t see these priests lashing out at Tolkien or Chesterton for creating alternate realities. Now, before you claim that the fiction of Tolkien and Chesterton are good, because they use their fictitious, alternate reality to reveal some truth about the real world, and thus, God, it is important to note that the arguments being made by most of the priests are about an alternate reality, per se, rather than an argument that the alternate reality is bad in it’s instantiation. Lest someone also claim that video games fail to convey truth about the world in their alternate reality, I would simply say they are not familiar with the proper games.

    Just as movies may, using an alternate reality, convey truth, so to may video games. Does Tetris communicate something about the Divine? No, but then neither does hearts or solitaire, yet I fail to see breathless blog posts about the vast number of elderly folks wasting their lives playing bridge or bingo, both staples of entertainment in the typical Catholic parish.

    I think what is the most egregious fallacy of these arguments (again, excepting Fr. Schneider’s) is that they all assume that video games are not morally neutral. Yet none of them have bothered to justify that premise, except with an occasional nod to one of the above fallacies. There are many ways one could make such an argument, say through Marshall Mcluhan, but nine of these priests don’t bother. Any of these could be used to describe written fiction, alcohol, tobacco, or any number of morally neutral objects. The failure to employ that distinction undermines almost every argument being made.

    I believe God is the source of all truth, and Satan the source of all error. No matter how good the intentions or the end, nothing justifies employing logical fallacies.

    • http://www.homeschoolingcatholic.com/ Draper

      Writing a 4 sentence sound bite is a bit different from a philosophical treatise. I don’t think you could find anything which is actually in error, only things which are incomplete… because it is only 4 sentences.

      • ZoidbergsGhost

        There are a few errors mixed in with the logical fallacies, but I will focus on the most egregious: “God is encountered only in reality.” That statement is objectively false. Throughout the tradition of the Church, many have employed fiction, which by its definition is not reality, to encounter God. I gave two examples in Tolkien and Chesterton, but there are many more examples: Dante, Chaucer, Waugh, O’Connor, Percy, and Hopkins to name a few. These men and women used fiction as a means of shining light on reality, though their writings were just as fictitious as any video game.

        Now lest I be accused of taking Fr. Hollowell’s statements in an uncharitable way, I don’t think he means what he says. A quick google search of Fr. Hollowell reveals quite an appreciation for Tolkien, and thus, he must have some appreciation for the ability to meet God in fiction. I think the broader issue is that the 4 sentence format falls prey to precisely the ill these priests are trying to address: the medium is the message. To boil down any complex issue to 4 sentences will fail to do it justice, whether the topic is video games, film, human dignity, or the interplay of nature and grace. To appeal to arbitrarily imposed limits as an excuse for ill-formed, misleading, or incomplete thoughts is disingenuous. Silence on a given complex topic is better than an answer that serves only to misinform.

        You are correct, that these aren’t philosophical treatises, but at the end of the day, if your defense of logical fallacies and a lack of careful distinctions is the short format, what is the point of even posting these at all? It’s hard not to see this as shameless clickbait, intending to oversimplify and polarize both sides of an issue, while failing to bring anything substantive. I sincerely hope this is not the case.

        If video games encourage an escapist mentality, sound byte style blog posts on complex issues breed the intellectual complacency that trades valid arguments and real thoughts for a nice sounding simulacra. These 4 sentence oversimplifications are about as real as professional wrestling.

        • http://www.homeschoolingcatholic.com/ Draper

          I am not Fr. Hollowell, but I certainly don’t mind defending the proposition “God is encountered only in reality.” The term encounter means to meet or come face-to-face with. Obviously, the most direct way we can “encounter” God is in the Blessed Sacrament, but we also encounter God in prayer, Scripture, and even in science. I would not say, however, that I “encounter” God in a completely fictional–man-made–setting. I might encounter the author’s idea of God, and thus, I might learn truths about God, but I wouldn’t go so far as to say I encounter God in Narnia or Middle Earth, or certainly not in a video game. (I would exclude Dante, because I think the Divine Comedy is more a representational work–like a religious painting–and not a pure work of fiction.) As you say, fiction can be used to great effect to “shine light” on reality, but fiction is an aid, not an end in itself.

          As for the 4 sentence format, just because you can’t say something exhaustive about a topic, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t say anything at all. Ultimately you can blame me, as the Editor, if you wish, but I think if you approached the quotes as charitably and logically as you say you wish to, you will find a great deal of truth (and I would argue no error).

          You mention logical fallacies. That is a fun thing to say, but they are not apparent to me, and I would appreciate some concrete examples, which could then be examined. You do mention in your first comment, “I think what is the most egregious fallacy of these arguments (again, excepting Fr. Schneider’s) is that they all assume that video games are not morally neutral.” This seems odd to me, because having read them all numerous times, I don’t see the quotes which suggests all video games are inherently evil (which is your implication in saying “not morally neutral” unless you are arguing they are saying they are morally good which I doubt). I might even be forgiven for thinking that your classification of them as claiming inherent evilness is itself a straw man.

          I have said this elsewhere, but the overall tone is one of caution, not condemnation. (In the case of Fr. Longua, which could be cited as the one exception, I suspect he is referring to the worst kinds of games of which the Grand Theft Auto series is a good poster child, and in that case, yes, there is condemnation). I suspect you yourself would agree that there are a many video games which are indeed inherently evil, but a majority are not.

          • ZoidbergsGhost

            The Catholic tradition has always held that we encounter God any time we encounter Truth, Goodness, or Beauty. If this is true, the statement “I might learn truths about God, but I wouldn’t go so far as to say I encounter God…” doesn’t really make sense. Any time we encounter Truth, especially Truth about God, we encounter God. (ccc 214-217, ccc 2500-2502). Further, we see from the example of our Lord Jesus Christ that fiction does bring us to experience of God. Christ regularly taught in parables, that were fictitious, yet still communicated Truth about God, and thus, lead to a real encounter of God. The parable of the prodigal son truly enables us to encounter God, as does Rembrandt’s depiction of it, even though it is not real (in the sense we have been using that word, as in non-fiction).

            The fact that fiction shines a light on reality means it has the ability to communicate something of the encounter with God. I completely agree that it is not the highest means by which we encounter God, but certainly that should never stop us from using that good all the same. We use Sacramentals even though we know they are objectively inferior to Sacraments, because they are still goods that draws us to God. Fiction is not the highest or best way of coming face to face with God, but it is a good way.

            I don’t think it is necessary (or possible) to speak exhaustively on a subject, but at the point that an incomplete statement draws us away from the whole truth as opposed to leading to it, silence is much better. Which I guess brings us to the heart of my issue: formal logical fallacies.

            Fr. Hannah’s comment is almost entirely an anecdotal fallacy where he bases the conclusion on his personal experience. There is nothing wrong with sharing anecdotes, but when the answer to a non-question in the form of a question is posed, based solely on anecdotal evidence, that is a fallacy, 4 sentence limit or not. We can easily see the absurdity of such an argument if someone were to appeal to a saintly friend who built virtue by playing video games. Such an anecdote would in no way justify an argument that games are worthwhile.

            Fr. Calloway’s comment exhibits both an ad hominem attack on men who play games and an appeal to the majority. He makes the broad claim that adults should not play video games, and then paints adults that do as similar to lunatics. This is not an argument, it is name calling. He also appeals to the majority when he says he knows no woman who delights in marrying the ad hominem that he created. Even if that is true, what does that tell us? The majority of women in the US would not delight in marrying a man who wishes to practice NFP. Since when does an appeal to what most people want in any way shed light on whether an action is good?

            Fr. Longua’s comment eschews an argument for the exhortation to “do the research.” He doesn’t bother even trying to support his claim, but simply begs the question with a statement intended to appeal to facts, none of which he musters. Had he only morally objectionable games in mind, he could have made that caveat clear easily within his 4 sentence limit, for example, by adding the phrase “on the effects of hyper-violent video games on youth” to his claim do the research. He also makes an appeal to authority, implying that exorcists somehow have a unique authority in this matter. Our archdiocesan exorcists regularly fields questions about video games when he gives public talks, and I have heard him say over and over again that video games (or board games or Harry Potter books for that matter) are not the cause or even contributing factor to the demonic oppression or possession cases he has dealt with. This underscores the precise problem with the appeal to authority. What makes my unverifiable claim about an exorcist any different than any other? I know my claim is true, but it should in no way bolster my argument to make unverified, hypothetical appeals.

            Almost all of these responses employ some form of special pleading: Any of these arguments could be made against written fiction in general, yet most of these priests have publicly lauded written fiction. To draw the line between the two would be arbitrary, falling into the sort of Emotivism that Alister MacIntyre decries in After Virtue. These are ultimately 10 priests feelings about games, presented as if they are rational arguments or “facts”. One could replace the word video game in every single one of these comments with the word “novel,” and the arguments would not change in the slightest, yet none of these Priests would be willing to affirm the position that “the very concept of novels is causing our children to have a significant disconnect with reality.” Why are video games a special case?

            To say that the “very concept of virtual reality is causing our children to have a significant disconnect with reality” is making the claim that video games, regardless of their content, are morally evil. That is not a note of caution, but an all out condemnation of the very medium itself. I would not say I find a great deal of truth in straw men, question begging, ad hominems, appeals to the majority, special pleading, and appeals to authority. It doesn’t matter whether the conclusion is that video games are a waste of time or that Satan is evil, the arguments we use to get to a given conclusion are important.

            Now all of this may seem pointless, like it’s not a big deal. It is precisely these sort of short, uncareful, comments that reinforce the false assumption that people have about the Church: she is anti-rational, anti-intellectual, and only concerned with supporting her claims, regardless of whether her arguments are good or even valid. This is an assumption that I come in contact with on a daily basis. and it is one that is reinforced by these sorts of blog posts. We need to be championing good arguments just as much as we champion good conclusions.

            I apologize for how long this post is. I wanted to respond clearly to your questions and give concrete examples. Sorry it turned out to be a novel.

          • http://www.homeschoolingcatholic.com/ Draper

            If you want to use the term “encounter” in such a broad way, it becomes meaningless. I encounter God in a brothel because there is beauty there! I encounter God in heroin because it is his creation! If you want to use the language of encountering God where you discover something true, good, or beautiful, without qualification, it is meaningless.

            Fr. Hannah’s quote: He isn’t even making any definitive statement! He is asking a rhetorical question, after giving a little example of his own experience. Yes, it would be wrong to base a universal conclusion on ancedotal evidence, but he isn’t doing that. At best he is implicitly saying, “It seems like a waste of time” and that children might be better served by other pursuits. Lets also be clear about the weaknesses and strengths of anecdotal evidence. They cannot be used to justify universal conclusions, but they can be used to justify particular conclusions. Fr. Hannah, purely from his own experience, cannot validly claim that video games are a waste of time for all people, but he can validly claim that they are a waste of time for SOME people, because he knows it to be true in at least one case. Knowing it to be true in some cases, he then asks the rhetorical question… I wonder for how many other children this would be true for? There is no logical fallacy in any of that.

            When it comes down to it, however, I think the thing you are missing in your logical analysis, is that logical fallacies only apply to actual arguments. These quotes are not a list of 10 arguments (though some might be in that form). They are saying what they think, not necessarily building a logical argument justifying their sentiment, which I am sure you would agree would take more time. I think the thing you are most disappointed in is that this is just a list of unsubstantiated opinions. I can’t really argue with that. Having time to elucidate and substantiate a full position takes time. If your response to that is… well, then I shouldn’t have said anything against video games at all, my response would be that I didn’t. I had no intention of making an argument against video games… Lord knows I play more than my fair share. The fact that many or even all, chose to use their 4 sentences to issue a word of caution is something I wasn’t frankly expecting. Yes, they are a list of 10 priests feelings on the topic, but I disagree that this is being somehow misrepresented. You claim that they are only feelings, but being presented as facts or arguments. They are not. It is just “What 10 Priests Say About Video Games.”

    • http://22Catholic.com/ Matthew P. Schneider, LC

      Thanks for the compliments.

      • ZoidbergsGhost

        Your are welcome, Father. Your reasonable response stands out from the others.

  • Araceli Eckart

    who do they think they are?!?!?

  • C Johnston

    I have been a priest for 10 years and I play video games. I have since my childhood and have always found enjoyment in them. It seems that the assignment for this article was “Find 10 priests who have something bad to say about video games because they don’t personally like them”. They all end up sounding like tired old grandmothers who don’t like these crazy modern things. Of course, if one were to spend their entire day rotting in front of a game, that would be a problem. Most people realize that these things must be dealt with in moderation, just as with anything else.

    • http://22Catholic.com/ Matthew P. Schneider, LC

      Hey, please don’t insult me; I said they’re good but can be abused. (I don’t know how he found them all but he found me online – Search FrMatthewLC and you’ll find me.) By the way, you should volunteer with the author to be on his next “10 priests” blog as you might have a good position.

      • C Johnston

        Dear Father, you don’t need to take my words so personally, but you do have to admit that the editor of this article has offered to readers a stacked deck against the playing of video games. Yours was the only one of the ten that gave any sort of wiggle room for the playing of video games, though you listed more caveats than positive points. The general impression of the point of view offered is that somehow the playing of video games is humanly, spiritually, educationally inferior to other forms of entertainment or passtime. Can we say, for example, that golf is somehow better than playing a video game simply because it is “outside” and requires a certain amount of physical activity? I’ve found a better glimpse into human nature and better moral lessons learned in some games than I have in flower gardening or baseball or many books that I’ve read, for that matter. I generally like Catholic Household articles, but this one doesn’t do the Church any favors in providing this almost united front of Catholic clergy against something that is not contrary to the teaching of the Church and is no more immoral than playing basketball or jogging five miles a day. It doesn’t do the Church any good to demonize most of our parishioners who are under 30 years old. Now there are a few games (a small few) which are absolutely abhorrent such as GTA, but most are not.

        • http://22Catholic.com/ Matthew P. Schneider, LC

          Well, I wrote mine thinking of talking to a mom more than a teen. I probably would have worded it differently had I thought of a teen audience or known how negative the other 9 would be (I assumed mine would be in the middle when I submitted it).
          For instance were I speaking to a teen I would not have opened with the same phrase.

  • http://www.homeschoolingcatholic.com/ Draper

    It is kind of frustrating when it seems you try to give the worst possible interpretation to comments. I did not deny universals or the transcendentals. Not even close. What I took issue with was the term “encounter”. Whenever you are dealing with the truth, beauty, goodness, or even being of a created thing, that truth, goodness, beauty or being comes from God and is in a sense a participation in His Divine Attributes. They are not, however, identical with His Divine Attributes. The being of a horse is not the same at the Divine Being. That would lead you to pantheism. Encountering the beauty of a flower is not the same as encountering God’s beauty. It would be incorrect, and even pantheistic to say that every time I see beauty, I literally see God. No, I see the evidence of God. A creation is not the Creator.

    My point is that we reserve the term “encounter” for something more particular.

    As to the main point, you are perfectly free to hold your position that you think it would have better had it not been posted, and I am even happy enough to allow you to share that position. I think there is a lot more truth contained in these quotes for those open to the truth and willing to hear, and contest the claim that people shouldn’t say anything about a complex topic unless they choose to treat it exhaustively.

    • ZoidbergsGhost

      It may help to lay these out syllogistically. Let me know which of these you disagree with and maybe we can find some traction:

      Premise:
      P1: God is Beautiful, Good, and True.
      P2: God is the source of all Beauty, Goodness, and Truth in the world.
      P3: Transcendentals transcend the boundary between the infinite God and the finite world.

      1) P1.
      2) Created things can be Beautiful, Good, and True, at least in an analogous sense to P1.
      3) Anything can be Beautiful, Good, and True in two ways: per se or in participation with another.
      4) Created things cannot be their own source of Goodness, Beauty, or Truth (implied P2).
      5) Created things must be beautiful through participation with another.
      6) P2.
      7) Thus all created things which are Good, True, or Beautiful must participate with God to some degree.
      8) The greater a creature participates with Goodness, Truth, or Beauty, the greater it participates with God.
      9) A human can participate with Goodness, Truth, and Beauty.
      10) A human can participate with Goodness, Truth, and Beauty in two ways: per se or through participation with an intermediate.
      11) A human can participate with Goodness, Truth, and Beauty through participation with intermediate.
      12) P3.
      13) Humans participate with the source of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty when participating with the intermediate.
      14) Humans participate with with God when they participate with Truth, Goodness, and Beauty.

      • http://www.homeschoolingcatholic.com/ Draper

        participation ≠ encounter
        I think it is at 10 and 11 where the language of encountering is going to cause trouble. Even the second instance of “participate” in 11 is troubled if only because participate is used analogously in the proposition. “Participation” with the transcendentals is very different from “interaction” with created things. Interaction, would be a better second term for 11 and 10. I can interact with a horse, I can’t “participate” in its act of being or its qualities.

        You also need to be aware that “Truth” is different than “truth”, because as you note, one is a proper Divine Attribute, the other is an analogous usage which refers to the correspondence of our ideas with reality. Same with “Beauty” and “beauty” “Goodness” and “goodness”. When referring to a created being’s participation, we have to understand that we are no longer talking about the Divine Attribute properly, but a created instance. I have beauty, but I do not have God’s beauty. My beauty comes from Him, yet it is also distinct.

      • http://eighthway.com/ Br Gabriel Mosher OP

        We must also add that although something is good per se that does not mean that it is good for any particular person at any particular time. Aquinas is clear about this point in any number of his responses in the Second Part of the Summa. The example that is most proximate to my mind is one of his replies to the objection that man is entitled to know all truths. To summarize his reply, the human mind is ordered to the knowledge off all things knowable as it’s object. However, not all things knowable can or should be known by anyone at any particular time. However, in the final consummation of all things, every secret will be known by all. By this he specifically supports the possibility of withholding true things from those who ought not know them, for some good reason while also preserving the perfectability of the human intellect. So, while it is correct that abstractly, and finally, man is ordered to the possession of God according to the perfect attainment of the transcendentals, and by grace, even God himself, it is not by this fact correct to conclude that our attainment of any particular good is necessary at any particular time.

        Further, it is necessary to make a distinction between limited and necessary goods. In the examples I’ve see you provide I’m seeing a mistake about how these operate in the perfection of the human person and in their use for mediating our relationship to God. Firstly, we must always remember that limited goods are never necessary goods even though they are truly goods. Second, we should never forget that limited goods only mediate our relationship to God in, at best, an imperfect way. They can even, given the proper circumstances (as hinted to above) do harm to our relationship to God. Necessary goods never have these qualifications. Now, it would be absurd to argue that video games are necessary goods. They are, in fact, at best, limited goods. Thus, you can take them or leave them. However, it is necessary to subject them to rigorous critique to see if they actually help or harm an individual person in their relationship to God. That is a judgment that can only be made on a case by case scenario. Thus, it is equally silly to argue that “all video games are good” or “all video games are bad”. Instead, it is better to say that we could do perfectly fine without them, and perhaps there are better activities that we can do with our time that more properly order our relationship to God.

  • Cap America

    Excellent piece and an excellent editorial concept.

    Implicit in these kinds of games is a kind of hyper-egoism.

    • David

      I say hang the wretches! The comments to this article have been so fantastic. It amazes me that so much can come from so little. I learn so much from the above comments about proper argumentation etc. G.K. Chesterson stated something to the affect that: “…Never let a quarrel get in the way of a good argument. A quarrel is a falsification of fact by the introduction of self…” Regardless, this has been great! The exchange between ZBGhost, Draper, and others is truly educational at the very least. Engaging much in the same way as video games and sports. I treat blog comments in the same manner as gamers treat their video games.

  • http://www.homeschoolingcatholic.com/ Draper

    Defining encounter was the very first thing I did. I said in my first reply to you, The term encounter means to meet or come face-to-face with.”

    Forms have to exist in the knower as they exist in the thing known, thus the properties of a horse have to exist in us if we are to understand what a horse it. However, the properties of a horse do not exist in us in the same way that they exist in the horse. You can say we experience the properties of being a horse without being a horse ourselves. This is what Thomas means by participate.

    You have the understand that the term “participate” is being used in Thomistic philosophy in technical way, which is different from its colloquial use. Fr. Koterski’s article backs this up. Fr. Koterski talks about how Thomas rejects the Platonic notion of participation and instead makes his own use which which is “to receive partially what belongs to another in a universal way”. Thomas’s special use should be clear from the phrase “are participated by” which really doesn’t make sense in modern English. If I said “water is participated by man” I would get some funny looks.

    When I say that I don’t participate in a horse’s qualities, I mean that in sense that although I know the horses qualities, I do not share them or partake of them in anywhere near the same way that the horse does. A horse “participates” in horse nature, and while it is true that my passive intellect is informed by horse nature insofar as I have the intelligible species in my mind, to say that a man “participates” in horse nature isn’t entirely correct. Participates is being used in a different sense–according to a different mode. Yes, in a sense the knower becomes the thing known–but in another sense, he doesn’t.

    • ZoidbergsGhost

      So let’s steer us back to the original issue. You stated that you don’t believe that any of the opinions given were in error. I complained that some of the comments cast video games as objectively wrong. Thankfully, Br Gabriel Mosher OP has called us back to task. I agree with is post completely. I don’t believe video games are necessary goods or even the best good for a particular circumstance in most situations. Br Mosher says: “Thus, it is equally silly to argue that “all video games are good” or “all video games are bad”. Instead, it is better to say that we could do perfectly fine without them, and perhaps there are better activities that we can do with our time that more properly order our relationship to God.” I agree 100%.

      Yet, Fr. Murphy’s position is: “The very concept of virtual reality is causing our children to have a significant disconnect with reality as we know it now.” That sounds a whole lot like all video games are bad. He claims the very concept of games is harmful to children, not just their particular expression.

      If you believe that we can encounter God in science, as you said in your earlier post, and if we participate in what we know (to some extent) as you said above, I can see no way of justifying your position that one cannot encounter God in a completely fictional or man-made setting. We would both agree that fiction is not the end, that it is a means of communicating something deeper, but I would say the same about science (and I suspect you would too). Coming back to my original contention, with a few clarifications for Br. Mosher, when we have an action that causes participation with Goodness, Beauty, or Truth, that action will always remain as a possible good worth following, even if it isn’t actually a good in a particular circumstance.

      My purpose in all of this, as I mentioned above, is to fight against the appearance of a knee jerk reaction against an entire category of things. A statement like “The very concept of virtual reality is causing our children to have a significant disconnect with reality as we know it now.” sounds quite a bit like that. I fear I’ve spent as much time as possible on this, and I have some other pressing issues that will prevent me from continuing this discussion, so I will let you have the last word.

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  • James

    Fr. Matthew wins the thread. All things in moderation.

    Having been on the programmer’s side of the video game, I see video games as no different than any other artistic medium. Some video games are truly harmful (e.g. Grand Theft Auto, especially GTA3 and later) , most are morally neutral mindless distraction, but some video games can be a way of expressing truth, goodness, and beauty.

    Following the logic of other commentators, they would condemn literature because of cheap serial fiction. They would condemn great works of art because of tacky and or tasteless modern work. They would condemn music because of junk pop. Their justifications don’t withstand closer scrutiny.

    The other commentators make the common error of condemning something because they personally don’t like it. This is the logic of the teetotaller and the iconoclast, not Catholic thought.