Game Over

Stephen F. Powell

Playing violent video games was turning me into a person I didn’t want to be. I needed to change.

My friends and I were really into video games. The games we played were not driving games or sports games. We spent most of our time playing violent games that tried to show us what war was really like. My mother had been trying to get me to stop playing them, but the games were fun, and I thought she just did not understand the amazing things that the computer could do. I never realized that my behavior had changed until President Gordon B. Hinckley gave us the six Bs (see “A Prophet’s Counsel and Prayer for Youth,” New Era, Jan. 2001, 4).

I started to notice that after playing those violent games, I could not be nice to people. One time, after playing a game, a friend asked me if he could get something out of the refrigerator. I responded to him very rudely. I thought I was joking, but he didn’t. I felt horrible for being mean to him and making one of my best friends feel bad. I never wanted to hurt anyone after that.

I could not “be smart” or “be humble,” as the prophet has told us. These games distracted me from studying. I spent all of my free time playing these games so I could be better than everyone else. Playing these games built up a lot of pride in me, and I could not control myself from making fun of the people I had beaten. After a few weeks of feeling horrible after playing games like these and feeling horrible about the things they influenced me to do, I resolved to never play a violent game ever again. It didn’t matter if the game was just a little violent or a lot; I would never play a game with violence in it.

I have tried this for a while now, and I see blessings for doing so all around me. Giving up these games has allowed me to do so much more. I went from having no job to having a full-time job, from starting to lose friends to making more. I can spend more time on school and my studies. I have even started to write a short story that I enjoy.

I have found that listening to your parents and the prophet can save you a lot of heartache. The simple phrases “be humble” and “be smart” have made me a new person. I believe that as I continue to stay away from violent games, I will be blessed.

This Is No Game

In 2001, nearly half of the 70 most popular video games contained serious violence. Many studies have been done on the effects of violent media on young people. Although much remains to be studied, a few sad trends are becoming clear:

  • Playing violent video games leads to more aggressive thoughts and behavior.
  • Playing video games for long periods of time hurts academic performance.
  • Playing video games excessively can hinder or damage children’s and teens’ brain development.

Be a Gaming Guru

The New Era wants you to be an expert gamer. No, we don’t want you to be able to beat every opponent or game you play, but we do want you to be an expert about the games you choose to play and how long you choose to play them.

Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles has said, “Just as we exercise great care about what we take into our bodies through our mouths, we should exert a similar vigilance about what we take into our minds through our eyes and ears” (“Windows of Light and Truth,” Ensign, Nov. 1995, 77).

And Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles has said that we all need recreation, but we should not let “things get out of balance. It is not watching television, but watching television hour after hour, night after night. Does not that qualify as idling away your time? What will you say to the Lord when He asks what you have done with the precious gift of life and time? Surely you will not feel comfortable telling Him that you were able to pass the 100,000-point level in a challenging video game” (“Be Strong in the Lord,” Ensign, July 2004, 14).

Choosing Video Games

  • Know what the game ratings mean, but also rely on your own judgment. Even if a game rating says the game is suitable for everyone, ask yourself if it is appropriate according to Church standards.
  • Try renting a game before you buy it.
  • If there are inappropriate themes on the cover of the game or in its advertising, it’s safe to assume the game is also inappropriate.
  • Stay away from games where your character is the “bad guy.”

Playing Video Games

  • When you do play video games, try to play games that make you think.
  • Instead of playing games by yourself, play games with others who share your values.
  • Limit game playing to a reasonable amount of time. Set an alarm to remind you of when you had planned on stopping.
  • Use video games as well-earned recreation, not as an escape from things you are supposed to be doing.
  • If a game makes you feel bad or think bad thoughts, that’s a good sign it is keeping you from feeling the Holy Spirit. Get rid of that game!
  • Before you start playing a game, see if there is anything else of value that you could be doing. Do your parents need help with a project? Have you fulfilled any responsibilities you have in a Church calling? Have you done your homework?

[Violence]

“Depictions of violence often glamorize vicious behavior. They offend the Spirit and make you less able to respond to others in a sensitive, caring way. They contradict the Savior’s message of love for one another.” —For the Strength of Youth, 19.

For more on this topic, see “Finding Peace” (Ensign, Mar. 2004), by President Thomas S. Monson; “It’s ‘Only’ Violence” (Ensign, June 2003), by Brad J. Bushman; and “Mixed Signals” (New Era, June 2001) in the Gospel Library at www.lds.org.