By Peter Anderson
“Who are you not to be great?”
You don’t have to be an expert in psychology or sociology to understand the universal desire to accomplish something significant in life. We all want to be great. In many ways, this reveals the brilliance of the marketing campaign by Sony for their newest video game console, the Playstation 4. In two short commercials, Sony has tapped into the heart and soul of the video game culture and leveraged some very basic human desires with powerful effect.
The first commercial (found here) centers on a crescendo of weighty questions and responses posed by a man steadily marching toward an unknown destination. The energy builds in each step as this man considers why notions of greatness, bravery, or notoriety should be reserved for only a select few. After all, you could attain power over life and death. You could serve as judge and jury over your own actions, no person would criticize your authority. You can rewrite history, give (and take) life, you could be honored and revered! Excitement builds as a crowd builds behind the commentator as the camera pans to approaching scenes of adventure, combat, and conquest.
Yet there is only one little problem; all these visions of greatness, power, and notoriety come with specific circumstances. That is, accomplishing such feats requires a digital world of pixels and code that appears to be quite real and quite convincing, yet under closer scrutiny does not line up with the more tangible realities of our daily lives. In this way, the propositions in this commercial might turn out to be more harmful than helpful. Is this really a reflection of true greatness? What if we never accomplish the notoriety and reverence we believe is latent within?
How do I actually BECOME great?
My focus on video games is quite deliberate because video games are increasingly influential and formative (along with movies and television, too) on human life and morality. Maybe I am alone when considering how much a digital universe of bits and bytes to define who we are and what we could become. Maybe I am alone in seeing the temptation to emotionally and spiritual engage with a form of media very real but often divorced from the concrete truths of life as God created it. Maybe I am alone seeing the impatience or frustration that develops with the sheer difficulty of accomplishments in the tangible world when life is more easily controlled in a digital world.
Maybe I am alone…but I am probably not.
Consider these statistics from the Entertainment Software Association:
1) The average game player is 35 years old and has been playing games for 13 years.
2) 68% of gamers are age 18 or older
3) 36% of heads of households play games on a wireless device, such as a cell phone or tablet, up from 20% in 2002.
4) 60% of gamers are male.
Video games play a significant role in our daily lives and the advent of the smartphone and tablet has only increased our exposure. Historically, men have a connection to this medium because of our innate desire for accomplishment and purpose. While such desires are not solely masculine, men are often very task-oriented and enjoy checking off the goals or objectives found in a digital world.
Clearly, video games are here to stay.
Since these things are realities of our world and because men often engage in these activities, how should Christians process the role that digital worlds have on our desire for greatness?
Here are four practical suggestions:
1) Reevaluate your definition of “greatness.”
Developing a habit of spiritual reassessment provides opportunity for healthy introspection helps us avoid pragmatically defining greatness by skills, tasks, or accomplishments. Christian ministry is especially vulnerable to this misunderstanding. Remember, it is not the number of parishioners, conversions, published articles, obedient children, or perfect Facebook photos that determine our greatness. Our success is only measured by how accurately we reflect the glory of our Savior to a lost and sinful world. Yet be wary of your intentions because our deceitful heart (Jer. 17:9) will often twist good and proper desires into seeking our own, selfish ends. Constantly reevaluate your definition of “greatness” through the person and work of Jesus Christ because his model servant leadership (Phil. 2) and self-sacrifice serves as our example of greatness.
2) Reevaluate your daily habits and forge spiritual disciplines.
Similarly to the point above, be aware of the kind of person you are becoming because greatness is not a calculated or tabulated result of more good actions than bad ones. The daily habits of your life contribute to shaping whom you glorify. My father always told me this simple phrase that reminds of this truth, “Sow a thought, reap an action; sow an action, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character; sow a character, reap a destiny.” This could not be truer than when considering the role of digital media and games in our character development.
3) Reevaluate where you root your sense of purpose, control, and peace.
It is alluring to be drawn in by the controlled environments of video games or visual media because the risks of earthly life weigh heavily on Christian men called to lead. Visual media tempts with a controlled and directed set of circumstances that allows a predicted outcome. Yet our reality is not so clean. We wrestle through financial loss, relational instability, death, suffering, and pain. Instead of running to digital worlds, depend on our good and sovereign God for lasting peace. Trust that his way of living as exemplified in Christ and preserved in Scripture reveals our true purpose. Our desire for greatness reflects our created purpose. We exist to bring God glory and pursuing him brings lasting peace.
4) Establish accountability for your time management.
One of the less obvious consequences of our increased level of access to games and media is the amount of time we waste. It is very easy to spend a few minutes here and a few minutes there that turn into a few hours here and a few hours there. Consider the importance of lasting, intimate community found in relationships found outside of a digital environment. We were created for human community and one of the best ways to guard against the overuse of technology remains solid accountability partners. Accountability not only guards against an overuse or abuse of technology but also builds positive relationships.
There is a second commercial in Sony’s marketing campaign (found here) focusing on “The Perfect Day.” This clip presents the “perfect” relationship shared between two guys who live out epic duels, heart-stopping races, and massive battles. What a perfect day! Or is it? As a Christian man, consider what gives you real, lasting joy. Consider the tasks and responsibilities you excitedly anticipate each morning. In many ways, our desire for a perfect day reflects an inner longing only realized in Jesus Christ. There will be a perfect day yet to come when our Savior returns for his Bride. This perfect day should motivate us to be great men who passionately pursue the glory of God.
Peter Anderson is a PhD student at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary studying Christian ethics and technology. He lives in Wake Forest, NC with his wife and three children.
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