Social Games: Good or Bad?
by Rev Cheryl Birch
Today I felt strongly that I needed to share and perhaps shed light upon a phenomenon that seems innocent, but is having an insidious affect upon many well-meaning Christians. It’s those cute, fascinating, challenging, intriguing and sometimes frustrating social games. It’s the well known multi-level candy game, the farming game, detective game, also building cities, conquering the frontier, running your own mall, fighting off gangsters, and collecting pets or fish. The games look innocent enough at first glance but they are seriously infectious and are quickly becoming disease-like as they are starting to de-habilitate many in the body of Christ. The games steal time and attention away from the destiny God has ordained for the life of a believer. If left unchecked or challenged, they could cause a person to miss their destiny altogether in a prison of bondage to a game.
If you play a social network game or specific game(s) for more than an hour a day or you find yourself constantly thinking about the next level or how your sheep are doing, or you wonder in the middle of studying the bible if you got enough building parts to erect a cabin or skyscraper, or you constantly have on your mind what you can do to get more coins or virtual dollars to buy that special virtual prize… or if you “see” the game (or games) in your “mind’s eye” when you close your eyes, you have a problem…one far more serious than you think.
This article I pray will give hope to those of you caught up in this trap of time and mind stealing social games and I pray it will prevent many of you from ever getting involved in them. I can say they are a disease, a trap and a prison because I’ve been there and now I am free.
It all starts out in just a couple of ways. Possibly a search for wholesome fun and recreation. It is hard to find entertainment these days that is free of sexual images, foul language and the occult. Or, while on a social network a cute screen of candy, a cartoon cow, purple skyscraper, or orange octopus is posted to your wall and out of curiosity you accept the “gift.” Possibly, you responded to an invitation from a begging friend who needs a “neighbor” or partner so they can “level up” or expand the game. And, in all cases you get a bunch of fun virtual rewards for becoming part of the network and a sense of acheivement. Your friend is happy. The game folks are happy too and give you encouragement and more free stuff. Other people want to be your game friend. In fact, you can find yourself gaming with the help of folks from all over the world. There are an estimated 42 million people playing social games, probably more, worldwide.
For me it was farming. Adorable little critters: cows, chickens, cats, dogs (mine was named Henry), sheep and lambs, pigs and piglets, horses of all kinds, then turkeys, turtles, ducks, bunnies, swans and on and on. Plus, bonuses of buildings, flowers, unique decorations and, of course, the crops – have to tend to those virtual crops. I played at first to connect with folks far away and just because it was different. The intricacies of those computer programs fascinated me as an artist and the adorable “paper doll” quality of the avatar, animals, and decorations grabbed my “inner child.” It was fun and didn’t take much time…in the beginning.
Then when I couldn’t sleep for a time due to a stressful period in my life, I played to pass the time and to tire me out enough to sleep. I said it was relaxing and it distracted me from the weight of heavy issues I was dealing with. Then I started staying up an extra hour in order to play. Then I played in the AM before work and PM when I got home. Then on weekends I needed to check on the farm several times a day. Then there were friends with huge farms at higher levels than me and they posted free stuff at certain times of the day… so, of course, I needed to check on that too. I thought, it will only take 5 to 10 minutes “just to check.” The game always had something new to offer and the 5 to 10 minutes would grow to an hour very easily as I got through screen after screen of the latest virtual toys they offered. If you are a social game player, the escalating pattern probably sounds familiar. Or, maybe you know someone who is a player and this describes them.
Guess what? If you are a player and find you need to be on the game once a day or more or you spend hours on certain days – you are addicted. Not maybe addicted, You ARE addicted. Even though the game developers themselves tout how addicting their games are as a selling point, it’s not a good thing. And, No, it’s not just for fun and No you can’t handle it. Just like alcohol, drugs, food or pornography you are an addict. You need help to be free. Shocking? Want more proof, because you just can’t believe it’s addiction? Here’s more…
If you need to plan your day, your week, or any part of your life around social network games, you are addicted. If you have to be sure your virtual kingdom (farm, city, zoo, whatever) is okay before you leave on vacation and you check it the moment you get back, you are addicted. If you check your game by IPhone from work at lunch and on break, or worse, use your work computer, you are addicted. If you shop at websites that give you virtual dollars for the game when you buy from them, you are addicted. If you quit the game and missed it so much you went back to it, you are addicted. If you spend hours thinking about strategies to level up or arranging and rearranging your virtual items, or changing over your game to seasonal themes, you are addicted. If you didn’t get the special super duper virtual bonus offered by the game and you are disappointed, even frustrated or angry, (or jealous that a friend got one and you didn’t) you are addicted.
If you have created one or more alias accounts and started more farms, cities, gangster fights or zoos, or you have spent your hard earned real money to get virtual money for the game, you are really addicted!
Here’s the deal: the game has invaded needs in your psyche. It’s possible that you are escaping the real world (which is really a mess right now) to a place that feels safe, but it’s not. That game is like a narcotic. Just like a narcotic it is numbing you to the real world where you are suppose to be the light of Christ. Maybe you didn’t have that much fun as a child. Your little girl or boy that still lives in your heart is thrilled with the fun. Possibly, you are lonely and the game connects you with friends all over the place with whom you can share and have something in common. Along the same lines maybe you need to feel needed. Helping friends to succeed in their game, fulfills that. It is very possible all of that is going on at once.
For sure, it is taking over your creative nature. We have been designed by God to be creative beings in His likeness. As the game takes over your creative side, it is stealing from you. It’s taking your time, energy, imagination, talent and thoughts. It has become a “high imagination.” It is one step from becoming idolatry. While you may not have stopped going to church or worshiping God, I would venture to guess that the game is on your mind just as much or possibly more than God is. Evaluate how you really feel. The Holy Spirit in you is grieved over the “mind grab” the game has on you. So, it is likely you are feeling a bit sad, even depressed at times or most of the time. You might even be exhausted because you don’t sleep so you can play the games. You may feel guilty and anxious because of wasting so much time on something that is not even real. The luster of your relationship with God has gotten tarnished and instead of sitting with Him praying for an hour, you pray for 20 and play the game for 2 hours. Read the Word for 15 minutes and play the game for 45 minutes. Or, worse?
Listen, there is great hope and freedom for you. I got free and got my time, creativity and joy back… you can too! So, how do you get free?
First step you got to admit you got a problem. Second step repent and ask God’s forgiveness for allowing something to take over your mind and life and to steal from you and Him. Third receive the forgiveness He pours out. As you wake up to what you have done, the “guilts” can hit hard and drive you back to the addiction. Remember there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. You are His and He has washed you clean. Run to His arms. Then declare you are free of all addiction and that you are strong in the Lord and the Power of His might. Declare the power of the addiction is broken and cast down the high imaginations that formed while you were playing.
Then it’s time to go “cold turkey.” Go to the social game site and block all emails and contact from them. Go to your social network and block all game apps. Block everything, even the ones you don’t play. Uninstall any game toolbars you downloaded. Delete any shortcuts to the game. If necessary deactivate your social network account for a time. Dedicate it as an offering to the Lord. Then praise Him for your freedom. Thank Him for helping you to stay free. Fill up your mind and heart with the Word of God. Meditate on Him and let the Holy Spirit grab your imagination with the thoughts of the Father toward you! Lastly, tell someone that is not a game player and who loves the Lord that you need help to stay accountable. Give them permission to follow-up with you to make sure you have not slid back into playing.
Believe me, it is worth it. You get your time back, your mind back, your creativity will flow again and a sense of joy and freedom will overtake you. You are back on track to your Highest Call in Christ Jesus. The Holy Spirit can use you more fully! Those games are a prison and Jesus wants you free! Those games take time that belongs to the Lord and He wants to redeem that time and use you for mighty exploits in His Kingdom work.
The final step is to share your testimony. Tell others what God has done to help you get your life back. I know that the Lord uses everything for our good when we love Him and have been called according to His purpose. He walked me through this social game experience and revealed the truth of it to me so that I could help others walk away from these games too. I am no longer addicted. I am free! When Jesus sets us free we are free indeed! No doubt He wants to use you to help others get free just like He is using me!
If you are a social games addict, whether you are serving God or not, and need freedom prayer, call me at 209-575-0902. Or, email me at Cheryl@cherylbirchministries.com. I understand and I know the power of God’s love can and will set you free!
copyright 2011, 2013 Cheryl S Birch All Rights Reserved