Minecraft and Other Video Games are Good Parenting

 

If you’re a geek, a parent and a Christian, you’ve probably participated in the  below conversation at some point in your church life (or at least, one very much like it).

Friend: So, you’re a geek, do you let your kids play video games?

You: Yeah, of course. They need to…

Friend: Oh, I never let my kids play video games. I want them to actually do things, you know, like origami knitting

You: I didn’t know origami knitting actually existed. There is this one game called Minecraft  where they can create…

Friend: Yes, computer games are sucking the life out of kids, dont you agree?

You: Well, they can, but that’s where you have to do some thinking and praying….

(Now, if they are a right wing Christian, they’ll say the following.)

Right Wing Friend: Video games cause violence and the desire to shoot people

You: That’s actually not quite true because Jesus said out of the heart…

Right Wing Friend: VIDEO GAMES ARE VIOLENT AND CAUSE DEATH (striking the table with their hand, drawing one of their many legal firearms).

(Now, if they’re a left wing friend, they’ll say this.)

Left Wing Friend: I’m concerned that computer games are destroying our souls, making us lonely, and preventing any meaningful dialogue.

You: Well, that can happen for sure, but a lot of computer games are very interactive and encourage…..

Left Wing Friend: COMPUTERS MAKE MEANINGFUL DIALOGUE WITH PEOPLE IMPOSSIBLE. END OF DISCUSSION (walks off to read Sojourners).

I’m obviously exaggerating just a bit here to make a point. Still, I can’t tell you how many times I encounter Christians who think it’s the height of holiness to “protect” their kids from all contact with video games. Also, I often hear ministers who  degrade video games right in front of kids who are gamers and geeks. They wonder why these kids don’t come back to their ministry.

A friend of mine, who is a campus minister, does outdoor leadership trips with college students. He lamented to me about not being able to get men to go into the outdoors.

I asked, “What do they want to do?”

He sighed, “All they want to do is play video games.”

As we started to talk about it, he realized there HAD to be some way to meet them half way. He came up with the brilliant idea of doing a week of an Outdoor/Video Game trip. The first half of the trip would be spent doing gaming stuff, and the next half of the week would be spent outdoors.He still can’t get church people to buy into the idea

Why? Why does the church, right and left wing, think video games as a thing of evil? Yes, just like everything else in this world, games can be used for twisted ends. Yes, there are certain games that can appeal to the sin in our hearts.

There’s got to be a better conversation on this issue and geeks must lead the way.

First, there MUST be a recognition that not all games are the same. Not even close. There must be a good, learned discussion on what games your kids should play. Even certain first person shooter games might be fine. Friends of mine (and myself), let their kids play games where they’re shooting zombies or monsters. They never let them play games where they are shooting other human beings. Not everyone would agree with my friends choice. That is fine, as long as they understand all “shooting” video games are not the same. In fact, in my house, my oldest learns to overcome his fears by shooting monsters.Consider it free therapy.

Second, the church needs to realize there are games that can help your child develop real world skills. Here are the facts. Computers are a huge part of the modern day work world. Even if your kid is going to work at McDonald’s for the rest of their life, they need to know how to use a computer.

Chuck Klosterman points out in his book, I Wear the Black Hat, that not letting your kids use the computer is bad parenting. I couldn’t agree more. Kids must be ready to take jobs in the future. And, the best way to start them is to use games. Thanks to Minecraft, my oldest learned now film his own videos, edit them, problem solve and create worlds. Did I teach him all those skills? No. I gave him a computer and said, “Figure it out.” I helped him here and there. I allowed him to play and tinker so he could learn for himself.

Finally, find games that will help teach your kids these life skills. It’s important, so allow me to suggest a few. First, there is Minecraft, a fantastic game where kids must create their own worlds using building blocks of various material. I’m amazed at some of the things my kids create, build, and share with their friends. They learn to problem solve, work with others and help sub create.

Tolkien would be proud.

I also recommend any of the Lego games. There are a TON to choose from ranging from Lego Indiana Jones to Lego Harry Potter. I love these games for my kids because they’re fun, clean, teach the kids to problem solve and they can play with each other.

So, take time to actually parent. Take time to really explore your faith and allow the Holy Spirit to guide you in regards to letting your wee ones play video games. It’s bad parenting to do otherwise.

For a more in depth analysis of this issue, get the book Of God and Games by Kevin Schut. Please buy it from my friend, Byron the Book Master.

Agree? Disagree? Let the conversation begin…..

 

About Jonathan Ryan

Jonathan Ryan is a novelist, blogger and columnist. His novel, 3 Gates of the Dead, published by Open Road Media, is in bookstores everywhere. The sequel, Dark Bride, will be out early next year along with a powerful new Young Adult Trilogy, Revolution of the Wolf and a moving middle grade series, Ghost Bear.

  • Ambaa

    I’m a geek and I love my video games. They have benefited my life in lots of ways! I’ll definitely play video and computer games with my kids :)

    • Author Jonathan Ryan

      Woohoo! Thanks, Ambaa.

  • Jakeithus

    As someone who is expecting their first kid soon, I’ve been thinking about this topic a lot. Video games have been a huge part of my life (less so for my wife, which might cause some issues).

    Besides just being fun, there has been tons of skills I have developed and information I have learned because of video games. I cant wait to share those types of experience with my kids. You just need to have a bit of wisdom about it. Video games might be fun, but for my family they will not replace other activities like church, music, sports, going outside or spending time with friends in real life, just like they didn’t for me growing up. I never really played shooters until I was a teenager, and I think I’ll carry that rule over as well, as I think kids need a time to develop before exposing them to too much simulated violence.

    Just like any media, I want to help my kids think about what and why they are playing.

    • Author Jonathan Ryan

      Good thoughts, Jakeithus. Much appreciated. Thanks for stopping in at the “Rogue”.

  • Siobhan Green

    Everything in moderation and with some thoughtfulness! With my boys, age 7 and 9, we find they can learn a lot from games such as Minecraft, Lord of the Rings Online, and Star Trek Online. The last two have tons of great moral lessons about fellowship and cooperation, and my husband loves to play with the boys. I also love the lego games and many other WII games – we play as a family. We also use IXL and starfall for math and language lessons.

    We are careful about letting them get onto some of the chat rooms associated with some online games – lots of racist/sexist/homophobic bullying language and terminology I don’t really want my kids to be exposed to yet (such as calling winning an encounter “raping” the other team). However, done thoughtfully and at the right age, there are lots of opportunities for lessons on how to cope with those situations where other kids are behaving in inappropriate ways with mom or dad right there in the room.

    The fact is, computers are here to stay, and we need to be teaching our kids life skills to interact with them and with other people online.

    • Author Jonathan Ryan

      Sibohan,
      Thanks for sharing. You are right on. I love parents like you who are taking the time to parent your kids, walk through life with them and screen what needs to be screened.

      Thanks for stopping in! Keep coming back. :)

      J-


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