“Increasingly, games aren’t allegories that say something about our lives; they are our lives.”
I recently had the opportunity to give a number of tech workshops at a convention in the NorthWest. I was blessed to have people share with me their questions, concerns, and hopes in the realm of tech and I found they all had one thing in common: Family. Every person I spoke with had a story, whether of tech victory or struggle, regarding a close family member and the impact fo tech on their own lives.
The frequency of such stories can often lead us to jump to conclusions. If we hear enough people talk about the dangers of screens we start to assume that must be what we’re experiencing. Similarly, if all we hear is the amazing blessings of tech then we assume those who are having difficulties are making too big a deal out of it, or are some kind of outlier of unhealthy tech. But what if the answer is in the middle?
What if technology isn’t driving humanity towards perfection or off some kind of existential cliff as much as it is reflecting who we are and what we want? If current trends are to be believed, it appears we want a new reality. As of January of this year there are more than 532 scripted show series available for viewing. That’s the most ever in history. By a lot. That number is more than double what was available just ten years ago.
It’s a similar story with gaming. According to the Entertainment Software Association more than 75% of American adults gamed in 2019. The average age of a gamer, contrary to popular belief, is 33. In a world of fear, stress, and the difficulties of adulting it’s no wonder we often choose to unplug from reality and plug into a world where we control everything, mistakes are never fatal, and the reset button is only a touch away. It’s easy to get caught up in the fun. As psychologist Richard Freed puts it “gaming provides pleasures real-world activities may not be able to match.” (Huffington Post, 2017) We’ve seen that to be true. Everyone has an experience where real life just doesn’t add up to the glitter of a simulated experience. In his research on how our everyday tech has been influenced by the gambling industry Andrew Thompson makes the powerful insight that “Increasingly, games aren’t allegories that say something about our lives; they are our lives.” They aren’t a thing we go to, enjoy, and leave. Increasingly our tech is our lives. In fact, even the colors on the screen of my smart phone begin to feel like something I need rather than simply want. (For a fun experience, try gray scale for a week and let me know what you think!)
But with all of the harshness of reality and glow of unreality, we have to realize what is really happening: Unhealthy tech is a symptom of misplaced hope. When we look to our tech to make us feel better we are plugging our hope into an outlet that simply can’t sustain how much we need from it. Yes, we’ll always have another rush, game, account, or show to look to for our next pick-me-up, but it will never satisfy.
This is why Jesus reminds us what we really need: Him. He tells us that if we stay connected to him, letting him take our problems, mistakes and fears, we will bear much fruit. But when we look to our own ideas for strength we can do nothing (John 15:5).
This then is our reminder for the week: We don’t need more escape unless we’re escaping to the arms of our loving heavenly father. We don’t need more “me” time unless it’s to the great I Am who can make us less and him more. We don’t need to fear tech but to remember it can’t make us whole. The only reality that makes us of who we are designed to be is one plugged into the One who made us.
So this week let’s focus our eyes on the one who made this great adventure we call reality. Let’s love God, use tech, and use the days we’re given to serve those we’re given.