"I just gave everybody what they wanted."
"Since when have people known what they want?"
What does it mean to feed the flesh? At our core we are creatures who strive to please ourselves. Despite the fact that we were created to glory in God our nature is to please ourselves and that is sin. Many video game companies are working very hard to figure how to appeal to that side of who we are. Though they do not realize it, they are working to help us indulge in a very sinful activity that inflates our pride. Below I will present you with the first of three ways that the current gaming climate feeds our flesh, but first kind of a sad proof of what I am talking about.
My friend and mentor has talked at length about a young member of his family and how he worries for the young man. “He plays Call of Duty.” He tells me. “And on a recent vacation to a rural area the young man told his family all he wanted was two days to play the game then he would do whatever his family wanted to do.” The concern on his face was very real. “I don’t even know. I can’t imagine doing much of anything for two days. Is there anything he could do for that long?" My answer, sadly, is “Yes.”
Video games are a changing market. Companies used to create long single player stories and add a smaller multiplayer component to encourage a little extra play. That has changed with the advent of the internet. Now that a large number of players can almost instantly connect online the story or main game is typically created shorter and a greater emphasis is placed on the multiplayer game. This is the online competitive or cooperative mode where you join a group of anywhere from four to sixty-four other players to play versions of the game that are designed for competition. The hook here is that the game is different and familiar every time you play. There are several things about this environment that feed the flesh.
First, the current games feed the flesh by rewarding the player for continued play. Who doesn’t like getting rewards for the things that they do? As players complete their matches or games they are given a level of experience for playing. This total is usually higher if you win, but none the less you are rewarded. As the player’s level rises they are given prizes in the game. These can change the appearance of a character or give them new abilities. Higher levels, of course, give you better stuff. Naturally, better stuff is a badge of honor. A way of saying “Look how good I am, I have pink armor with battle damage.” …I wish I was making that up, but a higher level bonus in Uncharted was a fat version of the main character. Most games display your level proudly for you and opponents online. All of this works to make a player feel a sense of accomplishment. This feeling is a bit fake though, as many others are doing the same thing, but more on that later. By rewarding the player with items it creates benchmarks for the player to strive for all the time. This encourages players to reach for the next goal.
This leads to the next point…but that will have to wait.