Super Good Advice: When would playing violent video games be a sin?
The one where I find questions people ask the internet and deign to answer.
When would playing violent video games be sin?
u/Successful-Crow81 asked in r/CatholicGamers. One comment rightfully points out that video games are lines of code, while another not-so-helpfully pointed out that GTA involves killing innocent people.
Sin is not a matter of opinion, but of fact. The Catechism of the Catholic Church provides clear criteria of what makes something sinful. Let’s review and check the CCC.
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1849 Sin is an offense against reason, truth, and right conscience; it is failure in genuine love for God and neighbor caused by a perverse attachment to certain goods.
1850 Sin is an offense against God: […] Sin sets itself against God's love for us and turns our hearts away from it. Like the first sin, it is disobedience, a revolt against God through the will to become "like gods," knowing and determining good and evil. Sin is thus "love of oneself even to contempt of God."
It is not the content of your game that matters, but your intention and then your gaming habit in general.
First, intention matters. Do you play GTA because it satisfies a craving for murder or because you just want to kick back and play a video game for fun? While many games contain violent or unsavory elements, few are completely dedicated to encouraging or promoting crime. Some games certainly are, and those number among the few that have been banned in several countries, such as Thrill Kill which focused excessively on extreme violence and sexual violence. But even in GTA, there’s no suggestion that you, as a crime lord, are in any way a good guy.
Then there’s gaming habits. Is excessive gaming causing you to neglect God and your neighbor or is it just a hobby? It can be your only hobby, that’s fine, but if it’s making you miss Sunday mass and holy days, or ditch your responsibilities to your parents, friends, studies (i.e., “perverse attachment”) — then you are failing in your “genuine love for God and neighbor.”
But is it a sin? There are degrees of gravity when it comes to sin. Excessive gaming can fall under addiction, and addiction is a disease. There is reduced culpability in this case. Addiction is insidious and can creep up on you: almost no one ever means to get addicted to something, whether it’s drugs, alcohol, or even video games. But when the addiction is recognized, it’s important to seek help to manage it. Suffering from the addiction isn’t sinful, but it’s our responsibility to try to treat it.
Furthermore, actions in a video game — a fictional world made up of code — are not your actions. When you play a Necromancer in Diablo, you yourself are not raising an army of the dead. If you join the Dark Brotherhood in Elder Scrolls, you yourself are not becoming an assassin. Your avatar is doing that, and it’s taking action against code. Not “innocent people.” Code.
Now, if you love Elder Scrolls so much that you hit up the dark web to become a real-life assassin…we can safely say that’s a sin. But the sin wasn’t playing the video game to start with. Or perhaps it’s because some people cannot separate fact from fiction. But that’s due to mental illness, not a video game.
The CCC has clear guidelines. Priests may have their opinions (emphasis on opinions), but the actual teaching is transparent. In a world where innocents are dying every day due to famine, disease, and war, I think God has more concerns that what one piece of code is doing to another piece of code.
Scrupulosity is an evil. Don’t give in to it. God gave you a rational soul and put eternity into your heart.