Question: My husband likes playing PlayStation video games. One of the games, called Summoner, is a role-playing game where you summon the devil. It is violent and uses spells, hex, magic and other occult practices.
He had been playing for hours every day, but I insisted that he not play this game. (The Bible says to stay away from anything that deals with the occult.) He becomes more distant, angry and addicted when playing, and I want these games out of my house.
He threw a chair across the room once when I tried to talk to him about the dangers of engaging in this kind of game. He has now stopped playing for a while, but he has not removed the games from our home. I am afraid that when he retires soon, he may return to these games. Do you have any advice? (New Hampshire)
Answer: Study of the link between violence and video games began in earnest with Columbine. In the spring of 1999, two heavily armed adolescent boys walked into Columbine High School in Colorado and shot to death 12 of their schoolmates and a teacher before killing themselves.
When authorities investigated, they discovered that the two boys had spent thousands of hours playing a "first-person-shooter" video game. The following year, a Chicago-area pediatrician named Michael Rich testified before the Chicago City Council and said that "more than 3,500 research studies have examined the association between media violence and violent behavior; all but 18 have shown that the more violence you see, the more likely you are to be violent."
Pope Benedict XVI, in his message for World Communications Day in 2007, said that "any trend to produce programs and products — including animated films and video games — which in the name of entertainment exalt violence and portray antisocial behavior or the trivialization of human sexuality is a perversion, all the more repulsive when these programs are directed at children and adolescents."
So I agree with your concern over your husband's fascination with violent video games; whether it actually produces violent behavior or not, it baffles me that any Christian could find entertainment in the suffering or death of others — whether real or simulated. (Throwing a chair is certainly not homicide, but it bothers me that your husband did that!)
Is there any way you might persuade him to go with you to speak to a counselor about your concern? (Or, if not that, at least show him this column!)
Questions may be sent to Father Kenneth Doyle at firstname.lastname@example.org and 30 Columbia Circle Dr., Albany, New York 12203.