Let’s Not Equate Porn and Gaming

Thanks to a Rick Warren tweet, I ran across this article that’s racing across the internet.  Called “The Demise of Guys: How video games and porn are ruining a generation,” it begins:

Is the overuse of video games and pervasiveness of online porn causing the demise of guys?

Increasingly, researchers say yes, as young men become hooked on arousal, sacrificing their schoolwork and relationships in the pursuit of getting a tech-based buzz.

Every compulsive gambler, alcoholic or drug addict will tell you that they want increasingly more of a game or drink or drug in order to get the same quality of buzz.

Video game and porn addictions are different. They are “arousal addictions,” where the attraction is in the novelty, the variety or the surprise factor of the content. Sameness is soon habituated; newness heightens excitement. In traditional drug arousal, conversely, addicts want more of the same cocaine or heroin or favorite food.

The consequences could be dramatic: The excessive use of video games and online porn in pursuit of the next thing is creating a generation of risk-averse guys who are unable (and unwilling) to navigate the complexities and risks inherent to real-life relationships, school and employment.

As a gamer (In fact, one of my proudest media moments is this profile by an online gaming magazine), I cringed.  Look, I know that many, many men and boys spend too much time gaming.  There are also many, many men and boys who spend too much time watching television, playing golf,  or obsessing over sports (and sometimes all of the above) — you name the diversion, and you’ll find people who indulge in excess.  But it’s a category error to equate games and porn.  To do so exaggerates the danger of games and minimizes the evil of porn.  So if I stay up too late Saturday night playing Diablo 3 (and I probable will!), is that remotely comparable to downloading porn?  Simply put, overuse of video games is destructive.  Any use of porn is sinful. What’s next?  An article proclaiming that women are ruined by adultery and Pinterest?

We must, however, do a better job working out the relationship between balance and absolutes.  How many people, having proven themselves incapable of achieving proper balance now argue for absolutes?  No television!  No games!  No carbs!  Conversely, we have so much trouble with the true absolutes — particularly sexual absolutes — that I’ve seen Christians more forgiving and tolerant of unscriptural divorces than they are of bad TV or even inefficient automobiles or non-organic food purchases.

Yes, it’s absolutely true that we guys have problems.  And it’s absolutely true that by many measures we’re approaching a moral and cultural crisis in young men.  But porn is pure poison while a good game is more like a bowl of ice cream: delightful in moderation but destructive in excess.

  • Justin Gunter

    “What’s next? An article proclaiming that women are ruined by adultery and Pinterest?” This line is perfect—in so many ways.

    • Bev

      I read that line to my husband, as he played Diablo III, lol. I lamented, “Yes, I’m addicted to Pinterest! I go several times a day. I have nothing to contribute, I just want others to feed my interest in crafts!”

  • http://blog.thesource4ym.com/ Jonathan McKee

    I saw that article yesterday as well and thought, “Really?” about the video game element. As for porn, sadly the article was right on. I’m a 20-year youth ministry who keeps my thumb on the pulse of youth culture. Just yesterday I ate lunch with another youth worker and we were talking about all the young men we know who can’t shake the porn habit. As for video games? Most technology reports show TV watching, Music and internet to be far bigger draws with the majority of young people (by literally hours per day). Yes, I’m seen some kids that have allowed gaming to become an obsession, but again… not the majority. The article would have been more accurate to say “Porn and Jersey Shore.”

  • Roy Koczela

    “How many people, having proven themselves incapable of achieving proper balance now argue for absolutes? No television! No games! No carbs!”

    I think that’s a reasonable interpretation of “If your eye offends you, pluck it out; for it is better to enter the kingdom of heaven blind than with two eyes to be cast into hell.” (paraphrasing from memory)

    Obviously Jesus wasn’t saying that eyes are bad all the time, BUT if you personally can’t stop engaging in sin due to your eyes, then do what it takes to avoid that.

    So somebody who can’t achieve balance is not necessarily wrong to eliminate the thing as a whole from their life.

    • David French

      Roy, good point, but in the modern formulation it would be “If your eye offends you, pluck it out — then pluck out everyone else’s eyes.” Some people can’t handle games (or TV or golf) and have to stop. Good for them. But there is nothing inherently wrong with any of those activities, and balance is possible. As for porn? There is no such thing as balanced porn consumption.

      • Harddop

        The decline of men is due ENTIRELY to the rise of the vulgar, dengerate form of Marxism called Feminisim. Video games and Porn are the defense against it. It used to be that the benefit of Porn was fun. Now, it is a weapon against gynocratic agression. Similar, Video games create a world the shouring psuedo-females cannot enter. These tools are essential to male indentify and personal liberty, as the 2nd Ammendment is to the political. When women finally tire of these vulval Bolsheviks, and throw them down in the pit to be bound for a thousand years, then we men can dispense with both forms of hpertrophied fantasy.
        And not until.

      • Roy Koczela

        Of course there is no comparison between those two things. I’m 100% with you on that. But I do understand the “sports good, video games bad” attitude, even if in these days it should be “sports good, video games not quite as good”.

        You can get overly obsessed with sports, BUT sports (playing, not watching) inherently always involves physical activity and almost always involves at least one other person, the first of which video games never do, and the second which they sometimes don’t.

        Raiding with the guild is one thing. I’ve also never had more fun than when me and another 4 people created alts and started doing red quests as 5-mans.

        But if you’re the kind of person who maxed his rep with Stormwind when the only way to do it was the Nethergarde package drops – or if you had a Wintersaber (BEFORE they nerfed that) or, to take a more contemporary example, if you can’t go to bed till you’ve “done your 25 dailies” – well – it might be time to look at whether that’s really how you want to spend that time. More than that I’m not going to say. Except if you have spent 100+ hours on FarmVille seek help immediately.

        Elrissa, 85 druid, Trivial, Hyjal.

        • Bev

          “Except if you have spent 100+ hours on FarmVille seek help immediately.”

          PLEASE!

  • Rob Smith

    Dave, where’d you get the mug in the pic at “The Home Front”?

    • David French

      I forget where I got it. Just google “WoW stein.” But it is glorious, is it not?

  • Ed Hamilton

    I get your point, the two aren’t the same for more then one reason. But they do have similarities and both can cause marriage problems in a big way. I’ve felt the draw of both and its hard to put a finger on it, but oddly, the obsession of WOW and porn seem to work similarly. Or at least they have with me. And I could only just quit. (Some alcoholics do the same, and you don’t have to believe in complete abstinence for everyone to believe some people can only be free from the addiction by completely quitting).

  • http://www.cmd-n.org BSkillet81

    Absolutely fabulous piece. Once again a so-called evangelical leader lays all the blame for marriage problems at the feet of men, while completely ignoring the moral agency of women; women who now initiate at least 70% of divorces (as you hint), with surveys showing the vast majority of the time the only reason for the divorce is that she was “unhaaaaapy.” Never have I heard a major evangelical leader take on the growing problem of female-initiated frivolous divorce within Christianity. Instead, they institute “divorce care” in their churches to support and enable women who frivolously divorce their Christian husbands.

    Of course, when I realize that 80 cents out of every dollar are spent by women, and that wealthy “self-help gurus” like Rick Warren therefore have a lot to lose by speaking the truth, I understand why they have to blame the XBOX instead of evangelico-feminism. It’s either God or mammon.

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  • Rico

    “They are “arousal addictions,” where the attraction is in the novelty, the variety or the surprise factor of the content. ”

    So I guess professional sports counts as well. Shall we put those on the “naughty” list too, Warren?

  • Rico

    Sorry, I missed that the original article was not by Rick Warren. But apparently he supports that message.

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  • tweell

    Guys are using games and porn as tools to opt out. Having realized that our current society is set up to screw them over, they’ve decided to go Galt. It’s amusing how our media has been distributing more shaming articles aimed at men. News flash to the news: these guys have already seen your BS, trying to shame them won’t work. They’ve watched their fathers get turned into walking ATMs or put in debtors prison for the crime of marrying a woman who’s unhaaapy. They’ve seen their friends diagnosed as ADD and drugged into zombies to keep the classroom quiet. They’ve been accused of sexual harassment or assault, and found that their accusers need only their word to make it stick, that they’re guilty because they’re men. Given the stacked deck society offers them, they’ve decided not to play society’s game.

  • Jada in GA

    Totally agree that porn and gaming are different animals….porn would not tolerated on my hubby’s computer. But just ask my hubby about his WOW habit, and he’ll tell you that MANY a heated argument has been fought over the times completely wasted on it! Knock down, drag out fights over it’s importance over family time and other things. Because of his gaming, my 3 kids have never been allowed to have handheld gaming devices, and we only have 1 TV in the entire house. This is just my experience, and I know that everyone has different levels of activity, but the virtual world my husband enjoys interferes with the real world much too often! Game with caution…you may irk me! LOL

  • Teri

    I am curious about why this topic is generating a thread of anger toward women…

  • http://n/a Rev. Kenneth A. Kok

    I would not equate pornography and video games. I would, however, say that adult–over, say, the age of 19– interest in video games does result in the perpetual adolescence of many, many young and not-so-young males. Just as adult interest in comic books (and in movies about comic book characters) is a sign of the infantilism of our culture, so is the growing interest in video games. I’m sorry Mr French, but it is time to grow up.

    • http://www.NancyFrench.com Nancy French

      Rev. Kok,

      David graduated from Harvard Law School, wrote many books, defended liberty in the courts, and joined the U.S. Army in a time of war. Then, he was deployed for a year in service on the front lines, adopted a kid from Africa, is a good dad to three children, and is a wonderful husband. So lighten up on the “it’s time to grow up” condescension.

      David’s wife Nancy

    • http://www.cmd-n.org BSkillet81

      @ Kenneth Kok

      Would you say that woman’s interest in emotion porn (aka romance literature and movies)–which “Christian” publishers produce in droves–results in perpetual adolescence of girls?

      • Roy Koczela

        Well, the ones that AREN’T by Christian publishers, which are usually well over the line from “emotion porn” to actual porn, sure do.

    • Rico

      Rev. Kok… I take it that you do not watch professional sports, or for that matter watch, read, or listen to anything that is considered to be “entertainment”? If that is not the case, you’re coming off more than a bit hypocritical.

      Yes, I play video games. Usually at night. After I’ve put in a solid 8 hours in at the office, had dinner with the family, read my kid a few books and tucked her into bed, and practiced for worship on Sunday morning. So please don’t presume to shame me for the entertainment choices I make for my well-earned (and scant) free time.

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  • Christine

    As the wife of a software owner we completely believe that God has blessed our company and is the CEO of everything we do! We make it a point to not allow any type of porn to be associated with our product so it is offensive to be compared as equal! However I will say I don’t believe a gun is bad but what a person does with it can be devastating. With everything in life too much of anything is bad! Girls are guilty too (thats right i said it) I deleted facebook from my phone because it took me away from my priorities ( my family ) but I don’t find Facebook bad either! If you make your priorities your priorities and then gaming is a great way to relax! Very very different from sin behaviors!!!

  • KLeAnneP

    Agree, agree, agree!
    “Simply put, overuse of video games is destructive. Any use of porn is sinful.” Sums it up right there.

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