My children (and husband!) really like video games. Although I often discourage this addictive habit in favor of them choosing to be active and play outside, I must admit there are times when an exciting round of Legend of Zelda or Animal Crossing has brought our family together, in the same room, and provided evenings of family entertainment. Recently, the winter weather and a bout of a flu-like illness resulting in several sick days has given us opportunities for several rousing video game marathons in our living room. I realized that gaming is not all bad, as it brought us together, in one room, for some family fun and healthy competition. Upon examination, I was even able to draw some parallels between the video game world and the pursuit of the spiritual life.
In video games, there is usually a conflict of good versus bad; a battling of opposing forces. Similarly, in life, we battle the destructive forces of evil in the forms of the world, the flesh, and the devil, in our daily lives. We are reminded of the battle between St. Michael and the devil in Revelation: “Then war broke out in heaven; Michael and his angels battled against the dragon. The dragon and its angels fought back, but they did not prevail and there was no longer any place for them in heaven.” (Rev 12:7-8) We must be on guard against the temptations and pitfalls that can lead us astray from God and living a holy life. As in gaming we try to destroy the evil forces that threaten our survival, in the spiritual life, we work diligently every day through prayer, the sacraments, and living good lives, to attack and eliminate the temptations of the devil in our lives, and our own vices and faults, so that we can become more Christlike.
In gaming, as in life, we are working toward an ultimate goal. We are pursuing a victorious end – to win the game and obtain a triumph or successful end. We can and should look at our lives as a pursuit of the ultimate goal of heaven. It takes commitment and perseverance to achieve this goal and it is not achieved easily. We give time and attention to our relationship with Jesus and work diligently toward becoming saints so that we can win the crown. St. Paul encourages us to compete well to the end to win the prize of heaven. “Do you not know that the runners in the stadium all run in the race, but only one wins the prize? Run so as to win. Every athlete exercises discipline in every way. They do it to win a perishable crown, but we an imperishable one. (1 Cor. 9:24-25) Are we disciplining ourselves daily and keeping our eyes on the “prize” – to achieve the ultimate reward, life in heaven with God?
When playing video games, you are usually given several lives, or chances, to obtain the objective of the game. In his great mercy, God also extends many opportunities for us to rise and begin again when we fall. One of the greatest gifts we have as Catholics is the Sacrament of Reconciliation, where we can be cleansed of our sins and begin again. In essence, we receive a “new life” with which we can start over after every defeat. As Our Lord instructed St. Faustina,“Tell souls where they are to look for solace, that is, in the Tribunal of Mercy [the Sacrament of Reconciliation]. There the greatest miracles take place [and] are incessantly repeated.” (Diary #1448) When we approach the confessional, we receive a chance to begin anew with a clean slate and to correct our sins and faults through penance and a change of heart.
Even though I wish my children would opt more often for active pastimes, I am trying to look on the bright side and see the benefit of sitting indoors and working a Nintendo controller on days when there are no alternatives. I have loved basking in our warm living room this wintry season with my family, experiencing the time we have together. Despite my hesitation and misgivings, we have certainly created some special moments that I will fondly remember.