Consider these statistics as recently reported by Frank Guan: “155 million Americans play video games, more than the number who voted in November’s presidential election. And they play them a lot: According to a variety of recent studies, more than 40 percent of Americans play at least three hours a week, 34 million play on average 22 hours each week, 5 million hit 40 hours, and the average young American will now spend as many hours (roughly 10,000) playing by the time he or she turns 21 as that person spent in middle- and high-school classrooms combined. Which means that a niche activity confined a few decades ago to preadolescents and adolescents has become, increasingly, a cultural juggernaut for all races, genders, and ages.”
I confess these numbers blew me away. Yet one more astonishing change that overwhelms our culture brought to us by ever-replicating-mutating technology. Consider that if you are not a gamer you live in a world that is quite a bit different than those who do. Yet one more bifurcating element to our fractured society. And gaming has a dancing relationship to other emergent dynamics like how young working class men are spending 4 hours less on the job, but at least 3 hours playing games. This statistic spills into other statistics pertaining to less-employed men and their relative financial stability, drug use, and suicide.
But one researcher seems motivated especially by the behavior of his own son. “He is allowed a couple of hours of video-game time on the weekend, when homework is done. However, if it were up to him, I have no doubt he would play video games 23 and a half hours per day. He told me so. If we didn’t ration video games, I am not sure he would ever eat. I am positive he wouldn’t shower.”
Regardless of one’s personal point of view about these matters, we likely can all agree that escapist technologies are only going to get very much better and more compelling. A lot of old-school ink was spent on science fiction some decades ago predicting, discussing, and dissecting this eventuality and now—Ta-Da!—it’s here…
I’m uncertain where to go with this, what to think exactly, beyond a simple admonition to parents: be aware. But this does point to yet one more emergent distracting element from potentially thinking, feeling, and responding to things that matter most; and among these matters, one’s inner life or soul or spiritual well-being. DISTRACTION is the elephant in the center of America’s living room.
The only antidote for this resides in a person’s, or family’s, or community’s intentionality. I’m all for good fun and games. (Those of you that know me, realize I like a good party…and I’m increasingly intrigued about the world of games…) But as I wrote last week, distraction addiction takes many different forms. On the short run, these often seem to provide a euphoria equated with happiness. Long run, they produce a much darker outcome.
Lent offers an opportunity for fasting from anything that’s in the way of our advancing on the spiritual path that Jesus blazed. Just sayin’.