Each week in The Female Gaze, Faith Newport engages the trends, events, and issues that affect women—and the men who care about them.
If some of my previous posts about watching The Bachelor and my love affair with knitting haven’t already clued you in, let’s establish right now that I’m a total girl’s girl. Like Debbie Stoller of Bust magazine, I’m a devoted post-feminist who passionately believes that “girlie” stuff is equally as valuable as manly stuff and that the feminist revolution will not dramatically come grinding to a screeching halt if I bake cupcakes now and then. I still get excited about anything with ballerinas on it.
I’ve also recently discovered that I really like video games.
Now, admittedly, I’m not anywhere near being a hardcore gaming nerd. I’m choosy about which games I’ll play, reluctant to take my gameplay too seriously, and if the whole thing doesn’t have interesting graphics, I’m out.
My husband also loves video games. Which makes sense, since the guy is head-to-toe nerd. It also makes sense that since we’re very compatible people, the things that we enjoy about video games look pretty similar. We both like mastering the varying strategies involved, overcoming the challenges, and exploring the story lines contained within a particular game. When it comes to silly ones like MarioKart, I think we enjoy those most for the pure sense of fun involved.
So I had some pretty serious reservations about Russell Moore’s recent comments on video games and pornography.
Among the article’s problematic elements is Moore’s implicit presupposition that only guys enjoy video games and porn, and his analysis of the issue is alarmingly gender-biased. Reality seems to paint a vastly different picture. While performing accurate studies to research pornography use and addiction (for either sex) are logistically difficult, some findings show that one out of every six women struggle with an addiction to pornography. Recent data also notes that 42% of gamers are female and that the fastest growing player demographic is adult women.
So, if guys are primarily into video games and porn because “God intends a man” to crave the things they supposedly replace (just war and marital love with a woman, respectively), then how do you explain the increasing number of girls who are just as susceptible? You could try to say that any female who enjoys either is simply rebelling against her own feminine nature and is spiritually deviant—but that’s a heck of a lot of women to account for!
Maybe we need a better reason, one with a little more logic. Something that makes sense for both genders.
In the book of Genesis, the Bible teaches that both sexes were made in the image of a creative, imaginative God. Our need for self-expression is innate, but how often do average Americans get to really engage their imaginations? How often do we play?
If video games must be a substitute for something, I’d argue that it is at least as reasonable for them to become a stand-in for the imaginative, active play society taught us to outgrow. The idea of needing play could explain why video games have an equally compelling effect on women. It could also explain why one of the most popular games with my husband and his friends is the relatively non-violent Portal, something that the line of thinking Moore is advocating can’t adequately account for.
In this sense, perhaps video games used in moderation can actually accomplish the opposite of what Moore describes. By connecting us to our imaginative cravings, perhaps they bring us a little closer to our roots and a little closer to our imaginative Creator. They can function as a symbolic reminder of parts of our natures that we might otherwise leave unengaged. If that is indeed the case, I can see plenty of reason for guys and girls alike to thank God for video games.