Zen and the art of gaming?

I am an avid Livejournal user, a Lj-addict, if you will. I got my first Livejournal in 2002 and I’m now on my third and (hopefully) my last.

For the benefit of those of you who are Livejournal-less, the place is littered with communities on pretty much every subject you can think of. Naturally, I’m subscribed to plenty of gaming ones, a few too many about hair dyeing, and the odd random. The other day, as I browsed my friends page to catch up with a couple of days worth of lost community stalking, I happened upon the subject of gaming in a community I didn’t expect to find it in at all.

This was a Buddhist community. I almost thought I was reading an entry from one of the gaming journals until I went to reply to it. The poster was curious to know the opinion of Buddhists on the subject of computer games. Buddha had one said “We become what we consume” so going on this theory the poster wondered if it was almost “un-Buddhist” to play violent games because of this very statement. As if your actions within a game had some impact or reflection on the person you are in your everyday life, and that you are glamorizing suffering.

I was stumped, I stared at my laptop screen in disbelief. This is an argument, no matter how much I think about it, I just can’t wrap my head around. I know the media just love to sensationalize games and their effect on the mind (especially young, impressionable ones) but questioning the merit of a game from a spiritual point of view has really baffled me.

Those who know me well know that I’m a huge animal lover, I ensure everything I use is BUAV approved, and more recently I’ve become vegetarian. But as I sit here, playing through Tomb Raider anniversary (further to my post on the lovely Lara earlier this year) I’m happily shooting wolves, yelling “Argh! You little s**t!” at the screen. So does this simple act of pixellated animal cruelty make my efforts in real life less genuine? Further to this, does my reveling in a successful slaughter in Hitman make me a sadistic person? Surely the efforts I spend in my everyday life (right mindfulness, right speech, right effort) are more than enough to show I’m not a wolf-shooting, cheesewire-loving slaughter monkey.

I was disappointed to see many responses to the persons post stating that the enjoyment of these games was indeed “un-Buddhist” and representative of all that is wrong in the world.

Now, I’m sorry if this makes me less of a spiritual person, but my soul is squeaky clean AND I enjoy massacring pixels who rub me up the wrong way. If that in any way makes me less likely to achieve Nirvana then I’ll eat my own hat.

Peace out!







5 responses to “Zen and the art of gaming?”

  1. Donna avatar

    It is an interesting question definitely. Surely relieving stress and anxiety in a safe way would help make one more enlightened and able to find inner peace.

    Seriously though, it is a baffling question, but not one I have to contemplate luckily, being an atheist. :o)

  2. City avatar

    One of my good friends is a Buddhist, and he plays games. I never once thought to ask him about the whole violence thing. I dont think he would play manhunt purely because it dpesnt fit in with his tastes, but he is looking forward to Diablo III.

    Im with Donna, also being an atheist, this is not something I worry about.
    I play games for my own enjoyment, and at the moment I am maybe enjoying killing hordes of Zombies just a wee bit too much.

    I like the Tomb Raider options at the start of a level for guns etc.. Alex, you could take a trank gun, and then you wouldnt have to kill them?

  3. Uzi avatar

    I figure I’ve killed about 1,000 mercenaries in Far Cry 2, so far. Apparently, the A.I. got jacked up when I got to Reputation Level 3. They’re getting extremely aggressive, now, not even needing to see me, somehow sensing when I am on the other side of a hill. The technicals are charging mindlessly at me and I’m mowing down lots of drivers saying to them, “That was really stupid.”

    It’s starting to bother me just a teensy bit.

    There does seem to be a disconnect. In real life, I don’t see much need for owning a gun. Guns are for putting holes in people and there aren’t any people I desperately want to put holes in and go to prison for.

    One of my favorite singers is Natalie Merchant, a far-Left Liberal Democrat. She tends towards Buddhism, if towards anything religious. From what I can gather, she is EXTREMELY anti-gaming, and her perspective seems to be shared by many on the Left.

    Until they provide me with a game that faithfully recreates all of the wonder and culture (including the many flourishing religions) of the Ancient world in the 1st Century, they shouldn’t complain that I’m catering to my more “masculine” side.

  4. Michael avatar

    I have wondered about that very thing, as I mentioned, um, somewhere around here I think. But not for any, hmm, change in how a person is upon playing a game or genre of game for X amount of time. No, but for the use of history as a device for an FPS – events in which real people suffered and died are condensed into us vs them pieces of entertainment. The good thing about that, no doubt, is that many of the people who experienced such events aren’t likely to complain. Because they’re dead.

    As for games influencing you, I have found it can be something of a moral playground – particularly in those sandbox/non-linear games. It is a fascinating thing to me that I often revert to a specific character type; take Fable 2. Can I be bad? Yes, I can. Does that mean I am? No, because it makes me uneasy. It’s not who I AM. Now, what I am, as I have previously said (in a comment for one of Tony’s blogs, I think), a Catholic. Time was, if you put much stock in psychometric tests, I was apparently well suited to theology/priesthood (yes, Irish and Catholic – being a priest is something of a no-brainer!). The point is, I’m not very devout… what I mean is, I don’t believe that attending church etc is not what it’s all about (as many seem to do) and have found that the most fervent church goers are overly… pious. By all means follow your religion, whatever it may be, but learn that not everything is questionable (if that’s the right word) because of it.

    I think I may have rambled…

  5. Lorna avatar

    I think it’s a good thing to be able to ‘be bad’ in a safe environment. You get to have a taste of evil without the consequences and corruption. I don’t believe in you are what you play…there would be some very odd types out there indeed…scurrying imps, east European gangsters flying helicopters repeatedly under bridges, and many spikey haired heros with swords bigger than they are. And you’d never move down your local for space-suited marines…

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