A Life of Play

An article in a recent issue of Third Way magazine on video game use states that players of the online interactive game World of Warcraft have logged in 50 billion collective playing hours since 2004. The game nets 5 million dollars a day in subscription fees. We might ask why does this game attract so many players? Among surveys of video game users, the overwhelming answer is simple: Reality is not as satisfying as the game. And why wouldn’t people see reality like this? Players described reality in these terms: pointless and unrewarding, depressing, unproductive, hopeless. Whereas in the world of the video game there is no unemployment. The game has a clear course. It has rules. It has feedback giving players an idea about how far they are along their quest. This game only functions when players navigate by the rules and chart their course accordingly. This game that tallies six million years worth of man hours is a reminder that many have no idea how to navigate life.

Broken lives on a deadly course are all around. We saw it in Norway in the deadly attacks that took place this summer. We saw it in the life of an amazingly talented singer like Amy Winehouse who also died tragically. How do we navigate the world around us? People idolize the imaginary world of a video game because they want someone to rescue them. They idolize the erotic, the desire for power. There are idols of nature, tradition, and of course – money. More than that we idolize perfection. If only we can gain the perfect body, the perfect children, or the perfect job then we would have contentment. But someone says, “Not me! My job is far from perfect just like my children and my body.” Now we become self-righteous and idolize our mediocrity. But in the midst of all the idolatry around us, what we are really looking for is something to give our life a clear course. The things we idolize reveal how we navigate life. They reveal our present course. In the giving of the Ten Commandments (Exod 20) it is the first commandment where we see that it is God who has rescued us, and because God has rescued us, we have a new course for our life. What is this new course? God becomes our North Star and therefore, we must navigate life by his life giving commandments.

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