Sometimes It’s Just a Game, Mark

Our household recently, but reluctantly, purchased a Wii. My inner ten-year-old who grew up on Atari wonders what gives with all the reluctance. I tell him the usual things: there are better ways to spend one’s time, I don’t want my kids to become drooling idiots, gadgetry causes one to die a little bit inside every day, etc. and so forth. He rolls his eyes at me and when I respond to that with even more principled protests he levels the boom and says I sound just like my mother, and I understand. He recently smirked from ear to ear when I completely (and I mean like totally) shattered my Wii Golf high score of three under on the eighteen hole course. He says, “So now what, Mr. Smarty Pants?” Well, the justification for all my giddiness is that golf was invented in the land of Presbyterians. A good walk spoiled, it is the sport of all exiles. Quite true, it’s best done on something like the links of Wawashkamo Golf Club atop Mackinac Island—preferably during the summer between high school and college where one works, living in solitude in the little caddy shack off the courtyard, one late afternoon after one has completed all day work on the links mowing the tee surrounds and green edges, by himself with nothing but chickadees tweeting and a soft, warm breeze streaming through the trees and a purple-pink sky, all occasionally cut with a modest cursing for shanking into the relentless rough.

But it can’t always be like that. Some of us have become hapless humps who dwell in the suburbs where to golf means having to get paired up with strangers who can’t get off the tee to save his life or boors who are trying to sell you something. For us, it has come to Wii. And if that weren’t depressing enough along comes Mark Driscoll who says that “video games are stupid.” Sigh. He says they aren’t sinful, but the tone sure sounds a lot like that time he told us “Avatar” was the most satanic movie he’d ever seen. But Drew Dixon has some critical thoughts. He even employs some logic to show how the good pastor might want to re-think the golf claps he gets for all his inductive foibles. That should please some Outhouse readers who are under the unhappy impression that confessionalism is anti-logic.

All of this from Driscoll also seems to have that “Do Hard Things” undercurrent to it, which reminds me of this.

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22 Responses to Sometimes It’s Just a Game, Mark

  1. Pooka says:

    You know, sometimes I have the HARDEST time with recreation. It’s like my biggest hangup is working. Fun is bad and work is good.

    I need to read more about how God’s creation was good and that He originally intended us to enjoy it. And Him.

    I see me doing the same thing with my kidlets. More work, less play. And usually it sounds like: More righteous, less sin. Lord help me, I’m so backward too often.

  2. Zrim says:

    All work and no play didn’t work out so well for Jack Torrance or his family, even worse for the family that preceded his. If you get any offers to oversee a summer resort during the long winter months, run away, just run away.

  3. Paul says:

    “I don’t want my kids to become drooling idiots,”

    There’s actually a ton of good, peer reviewed scientific journals [ducking now for appealing to science when God made it, like logic, foolish, ahem] that supports the claim that video games (in small (2 hrs at most a day) doses) actually improve the functioning of several significant cognitive areas. Several studies showed an increase in ability in several I.Q. and reasoning tests after a few months of game play. Not all games, though, apparently first person shooting-type games are the best. See Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain by John Ratey for some of the evidence and list of journals.

  4. Zrim says:

    My inner ten-year-old thanks you for that. But did you miss the fact that I linked Dixon, who makes use of logic to criticize Driscoll’s two-dimensional-five-and-dime cultural commentary?

  5. Pooka says:

    Two words:


  6. Paul says:

    Ya, you use it when you think it works for you, disparage it when it works against you.

    Other than that, the Dixon piece is pretty bad, technically. First, his def. of inductive reasoning is very weak, at best covering a very small subset of iductive reasoning. He claimed it’s all bout reasoning from sample to population, but you can reason inductively from population to sample or sample to sample. Moreover, it needed be about “properties” of groups to the same “properties” of the other.

    Second, he kept referring to inductive researh conslusions as “valid,” but of course they’re not “valid,” since that’s a technical term of deductive logic. He should have known that, especially since he begins by saying he’s gonna give “a lesson in logic.”

    Also, technically, Driscoll said video*games* are stupid. Now, that’s stupid, but not for the reasons the author suggests. It doesn’t matter if you look at all the stats of game*ers*, for that would never show that video*games* are “stupid.” Video*games* are neither stupid or smart.

    Also, it’s not clear that Driscoll really meant to imply that all video gamers whatsoever are wasting their life. He actually never said that. So Dixon actually added context to Driscoll’s claim and made it mean what he wanted it to mean.

  7. Drew says:

    @Zrim – Hey thanks for the link!

    @Paul – I was trying to keep this little article simple–when you get into complex discussions about logic, you quickly lose the average blog reader. If you want to write the companion piece on how dumb I am, be my guest.

    He said video games are stupid. That is a categorical statement, he then went on to describe gamers without making any qualifications–thus all gamers are living in a fantasy world. He had many opportunity to make such a qualification but he neglected to.

    I actually did not keep referring to inductive research claims as valid. I think did that once–so I would advise against the term “kept on” that is not entirely accurate.

    The point of my article is two fold–first, Driscoll makes assumptions about gamers based on having done very little if any research–I think I showed that pretty extensively. Second, a lot of people play games–the majority of Americans in fact–I cited my research there. Driscoll makes a generalization about a large swath of people–I think that is an unhealthy thing to do and compromises his commitment to being missional.

    Every definition I have ever read of an inductive fallacy is pretty much what Driscoll did. Sure there are types of inductive fallacies and if you want to take the time to expose just which one be my guest, that would actually be helpful.

    My point was the Driscoll was dishonest (not on purpose but he was) and generally we should avoid being dishonest as its not helpful to our mission as Chrstians.

    Thanks for taking the time to read my article. Blessings.

  8. RubeRad says:

    Yay for Wii! Sports Resort is awesome (although I prefer Frisbee Golf, archery, swordplay, …), you also want Wii Fit+, Boom Blox (and the sequel Bash Party), and MARIO KART! MK is the best. thing. ever.

    As you can see, I also don’t buy into the blanket rhetoric against video games. At their best, video games

    * are (inter)active, as opposed to TV, which is completely passive
    * the latest generation of games inspired by Wii (Kinect, etc.) are even actually active
    * they teach perseverance, problem-solving, patience — you can’t get past that level, unless you practice; do the necessary work. There are no shortcuts. (Unless there are cheat codes or something)

    Of course, like anything, there is potential for misuse, and you have to watch out for the dark side of:
    * addiction
    * desensitization to violence
    * Reset-itis (giving up on things too soon)

  9. Paul says:


    * The companion piece on how dumb you are? That’s a bit of an emotional overreaction.

    * He did not describe all video gamers without qualification, that’s your addition.

    * You used ‘valid’ twice, not once. aFTER YOU USED IT “once” you “went on” to use it again.

    * You took a 4 minute quip that traded between talk of video*games* and video*gamers*, and so was sloppy to begin with. You a couple short quotes from him, you didn’t “show” anything “extensively.”

    * How do you know *from the video* that Driscoll was talking about *all* gamers *without exception* rather than a *subset* of gamers who waste their life playing them?

    Moreover, he clearly qualified the *scope* of the videogamnes and gamers under discussion to war games and the gamers that play *them. I could nuance this further, but it’s enough to show that even his poorly-thought-out statements weren’t about *all* video games and *all* videogamers.

    Next, his claim about video*games* being “stupid” wasn’t an inductive fallacy, at best it’s some kind of fallacy of anthropomorphization.

    There’s a lot of ways to commit inductive fallacies, so I wonder what you mean about by saying “Every definition I have ever read of an inductive fallacy is pretty much what Driscoll did.”

    Anyway, you’re probably thinking hasty or sweeping generalizations, but those can be inductive as well as inductive.

  10. RubeRad says:

    Driscoll: “I was thinking about this today, since I’m in that mood”

    Exhibit #348,572,989 in favor of lectio continuo

    I could use grocery store romance novels and pulp detective stories to make the same case: “Books aren’t sinful, they’re just stupid”

  11. Zrim says:


    As someone pointed out to me elsewhere, the equivalent in most of our churches would be: “Football is stupid,” or, “March Madness is stupid,” or, for those older congregations, “Bingo is stupid,” etc.

    More examples might be “Knitting is stupid,” or “Hunting is stupid.” I’ve never been a jock or a gunnie or a knitter, but at the same time I can’t bring myself to call what others legitimately enjoy “stupid,” unless they fault me for not enjoying what they enjoy. Then what they enjoy and I am indifferent about becomes, well, sort of stupid.

    The other thing that bothers is how Driscoll likes to wave his hand and claim he’s not really calling certain behavior sinful but just stupid. This seems like a classic way of claiming to be using the category of wisdom but using a tone and tenor that conveys sin. It’s how one does soft legalism. The upshot is that the so-called “exhortation” becomes specific and hyperbolic instead of sufficiently vague (yet clear), another mark that it’s soft legalism. And I know it’s a short clip, but the third mark of soft legalism is that there is nothing about the gospel involved to deliver us from sin and compel us to holiness.

  12. "Michael Mann" says:

    Of course, the problem isn’t that Driscoll thinks video games are stupid. Neither it is a problem if someone thinks it’s stupid for me to read a blog entry about whether WARP is a valid statistic in baseball. We all have our diversions, even a king, who “attended with every pleasure he can feel, if he be without diversion and be left to consider and reflect on what he is, this feeble happiness will not sustain him; he will necessarily fall into forebodings of dangers, of revolutions which may happen, and, finally, of death and inevitable disease; so that, if he be without what is called diversion, he is unhappy and more unhappy than the least of his subjects who plays and diverts himself.” (OK, that was a little bit heavy for the topic at hand. That’s Pascal, BTW.)

    Where Driscoll goes wrong is giving his opinion from the pulpit, as if his opinion is more authoritative than anyone else’s. Makes one wonder if he is clear on the difference between his opinion and scriptural declarations. I *really* enjoy having a pastor who knows the difference.

    Paul, you do your posts in Latin. Why don’t you speak the common tongue so the unwashed masses can dialogue with you?

  13. Zrim says:

    Of course, the problem isn’t that Driscoll thinks video games are stupid…Where Driscoll goes wrong is giving his opinion from the pulpit, as if his opinion is more authoritative than anyone else’s.

    That’s more or less what I’m driving at with the soft legalism point. It’s a glorified opinion. Whatever else is involved with it, what soft legalism doesn’t seem to understand is the power of sacred context and the fact that he’s (presumably) speaking on behalf of God. One has to wonder if he understood that better he might be more inclined to comport himself.

  14. "Michael Mann" says:

    Right, Zrim – somehow I didn’t see your previous post before I did mine. And good point about comportment as well.

  15. Chris S says:

    I see Mark Driscoll’s point, sort of. Here are some people where life or death was before them and today we sit around playing video games as if that were reality. I suppose it’s good to keep a handle on unreality, but who really thinks they are actually fighting off Taliban? Are there people out there getting PTSD from video games?

    So… maybe Mark Driscoll shouldn’t play video games if he thinks they are stupid, and I won’t watch MMA UFC – ’cause I think that is stupid, but what do I know, I’m not a preacher.

  16. drew says:

    Sorry for the emotional overreaction. That was uncalled for. I apologize if have recieved a lot of unhelpful feedback on this (like guys saying what is wrong with stereotyping and generalizations?)… I am weary and increases took it out on you. I sense your comment is intended to be helpful.

    Your comments on inductive fallacies are nitpicky–i think he is indirectly doing what I laid out in my article. The fact that he is indirectly doing that makes your comment helpful.
    I laid out pretty clearly above how Driscoll says all games are stupid then immediately launches into an example and never makes any qualifications. I listened to him again and its not limited to war games.

    I don’t think he ever clearly directed his comments to a subset other than “men and increasingly women.”

    That said I think your correctives here are mostly helpful. Either way Driscoll’s isn’t being helpful with this type of language.

    Overall I agree with you. What Driscoll’s does here is stupid and I do think it hurts his mission given the prevalence of games in the world he is trying to reach.

  17. drew says:

    That is an excellent point and I couldn’t agree more. “Selective” legalism may be a better term though as he would certainly fight for sports being meaningful.

  18. Zrim says:

    I see Mark Driscoll’s point, sort of. Here are some people where life or death was before them and today we sit around playing video games as if that were reality.

    Well, there is a whole category of people who actually don’t think it’s reality, who think it’s a fun distraction from reality. In fact, I’d wager that very few think it’s reality and are those who inhabit mental health institutions. I think there is a significant difference between those who spend way too much of their real time on certain actitivities and those “think it’s reality.”

    And try a thought experiement: switch out “playing video games” with “reading fiction” or “going to a play or lecture.” Sure, the latter can be said to have more enduring personal and cultural value, but when was the last time anybody declared that sitting around reading a lot fiction or going to a lot of play/lecture was “just stupid” without sounding, ahem, stupid?

  19. Drew says:

    @Paul, Of course you can reason inductively from population to sample–this is an example of reasoning from sample (some guys/girls who play videogames to feel important) to the conclusion that all games are stupid. So yeah I get your point. But that is pretty much saying anyone who plays any game is doing something stupid. My point there was that Driscoll is reasoning from a very limited sample to say that all games are stupid is invalid and dishonest. I was talking about a very specific type of fallacy while trying to avoid jargon and avoid explaining every type of fallacy. That seems like a fair thing to do to keep my post from becoming bloated.

    We would all agree that the type of sample one has for their claims is important–that was my point and I think a valid one.

    Zrim brings up an excellent point in this regard–this is sort of soft (or selective) legalism and its not helpful. If I am honest–this is the real issue at stake–I can imagine a changing culture with regard to videogames in Driscoll’s church after those statements and that is unfortunate.

  20. Pooka says:

    I just learned a new word today. And it’s not stupid. Whole new world of reading. Again. Thanks, Rube.

  21. RubeRad says:

    Glad to be of service! I like that term because usually that concept is described as “expositional preaching”. But really those words just mean “preaching that explains the text”. Granted, that’s a giant leap forwards in some circles, but the concept of actually preaching through an entire book, taking everything God has given us rather than just cherry-picking the stuff that’s easier to take (or give) involves more. This is the right term. (Although looking it up, it seems I spelled it wrong, it’s actually lectio continuA).

    That, plus buzzwords redemptive-historical, Christ-centered, gospel-proclaiming, and you got yerself some good preachin!

  22. John says:

    I don’t think video games are stupid – especially the wii. We haven’t got one (my wife and i), but we have gone over to friends and had a wonderful time bowling together and having fun.

    I think what concerns me (can’t speak for Marky-D) is the vast quantity of downright evil video games. Even games like Call of Duty are entirely based upon one’s proficiency in killing – which is being depicted in ever more graphic ways. Does spending my free time practicing and watching death-dealing do something to my soul? I suspect it does, as I am already a killer by sin nature. It’s not something I want to learn, frankly.

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