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Karma and video games

KeromeKerome Did I fall in the forest?Europe Veteran

In my recent course of basic Buddhist concepts at the local Tibetan centre (Gelug), the monk was explaining karma and he said, "even intense thoughts can leave a karmic imprint". Now it occurs to me that computer games generate pretty intense thoughts and emotions, and so may well generate karma, but they also include actions. You are actually killing your on screen opponent, albeit by pushing a button rather than hewing him in twain with a broadsword as our distant ancestors might have done.

From that standpoint, computer games are going to generate between a little and quite a lot of negative karma. You may be killing non-player creatures in the game, things that look non-human, or you may be killing very accurately displayed characters representing actual human players. You may be very "into the game" or you may be very detached and treat it as just pixels. All of which is besides the fact that greed and treasure are big motives in most games.

Certainly food for though... what's your opinion? Do you even believe in karma?

Comments

  • KeromeKerome Did I fall in the forest? Europe Veteran

    And if pushing buttons generating a lot of karma feels strange, consider that a gun trigger is a kind of button, the cockpit of a fighter or bomber jet contains a lot of buttons, a reaper drone's control centre contains many buttons, the nuclear launch suitcase contains very important buttons...

    An awful lot of killing gets done with buttons and most of them have less realistic graphics than a 2017 computer game, placing you more at a remove than the game does, from a perspective of lived feeling. It makes you wonder how they accumulate their karma.

  • vinlynvinlyn Colorado...for now Veteran
    edited August 31

    This should be interesting. But it's sure an example of a first world problem.

  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Veteran

    You aren't killing a person, you aren't killing anything. You just make pixels move around and take different forms. That's like saying poking a puddle with a stick kills the puddle.

    I believe in karma, in some senses anyways, but not in the sense that thought alone, with no real life intention or action behind it, has karmic power. In the sense that thought leads to action, yes. But not beyond that. I don't think stepping on a Goomba in Mario is going to get me any type of karma compared to catching and releasing flies and spiders from my house. There is no real life impact, and to me, it only makes sense when that is the result. If you play video games, and put yourself into a rage and yell at or even hurt people as a result, or use them to fuel already-existing rage, that's a mental health issue that needs addressing, IMO.

    Often times we don't even control the thoughts that come, we only control what we give action and a voice to. I think trying to discuss it can make it quite complex, but I think most people who are paying attention to how everything they do affects them, know the truth for themselves.

  • lobsterlobster Veteran
    edited September 1

    Where you keep your mind will affect you. You know that. Game on?

  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Moderator

    That's Affect, @lobster. Affect, Effect. So close, and yet so far....

    Affectionately, your everlovin' grammardian Angel Mod. ;)

  • FosdickFosdick in its eye are mirrored far off mountains Alaska, USA Veteran

    She's right you know.

  • lobsterlobster Veteran
    edited September 1

    @federica said:
    That's Affect, @lobster. Affect, Effect. So close, and yet so far....

    Affectionately, your everlovin' grammardian Angel Mod. ;)

    Go back to Italy! :p

    I looked it up and thought I chose the correct option, :3 knowing some are a little obsessive about the American language - Tee hee. Anyway corrected. o:) I have been forgiven (see next post for info.) Must have been a well needed holiday ...

    Good game.

  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Moderator

    It's an extremely common error even among the cognoscenti. You're forgiven.... :)
    The current Grammar-Craze is the "Fewer/Less" distinction...

    lobster
  • KeromeKerome Did I fall in the forest? Europe Veteran
    edited September 1

    @karasti said:
    You aren't killing a person, you aren't killing anything. You just make pixels move around and take different forms. That's like saying poking a puddle with a stick kills the puddle.

    That's a standpoint I respect, it's one possible way these things could play out. On the other hand, what you are killing looks and acts like a person on screen. How is your karma, or even your subconscious mind, going to know the difference between being in a Reaper drone control room and killing 20 Taliban with a missile strike on a screen, and shooting the crap out of a stream of enemies in Call of Duty on Xbox?

    For example, over the past year I've had several quite intense dreams which enacted video games. That to me shows quite clearly that games do leave traces of a certain strength, karmic or otherwise. The subconscious gets drawn into it, largely because of the connection to feeling and caring and acting on desires.

    If you play video games, and put yourself into a rage and yell at or even hurt people as a result, or use them to fuel already-existing rage, that's a mental health issue that needs addressing, IMO.

    I agree. But this brings up the interesting issue of acting out our negative emotions. Psychologists will often advise people, "beat up a pile of pillows". From a Buddhist point of view, is it not better to treat the anger with the energy of mindfulness, so that it's seed does not grow, rather than acting out the emotion at length? You could say that using a video game to burn up anger is in the same category.

    Often times we don't even control the thoughts that come, we only control what we give action and a voice to. I think trying to discuss it can make it quite complex, but I think most people who are paying attention to how everything they do affects them, know the truth for themselves.

    That's true but this is what makes gaming interesting - it is interactive, they are your choices and actions being expressed in the game.

    person
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Moderator
    edited September 1

    I'm delighted to report that I never give this question a single thought.
    I eliminated this train of thought by never playing games.

    It's startling to see how simple the solution actually is. And it's one less thing to karmically worry about....

    lobsterdhammachick
  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Veteran

    @Kerome It would be interesting to know if there are studies that separate out (just for curiosity sake) games that are so realistic like Call of Duty (never play those types of games, or shooting games in general at all) or things like Mario where nothing in the game resembles real life. I'd honestly find a game like Sims to be more realistic than anything else I play, and has much more real-life-like consequences, like having your kids taken away when you neglect them. I simply don't have time to play much of anything, which I prefer. I'd rather be busy living, lol, but I still enjoy them once in a while. 95% of what I play though are games like Zelda and Mario and Mario Kart etc, so there's little connection to real life. I do play Elder Scrolls games, but despite humans being characters, they are so far removed from real humans that the connection just doesn't happen for me (ie they have magic skills and fall off huge mountains without dying, lol).

    But what if you look at the flip side? If you are going to consider whether killing a person in a game causes negative karma, don't you then have to look at whether NOT killing, or saving/helping someone in a game (assuming this game isn't online and there is no actual other person on the receiving end) generates good karma? Looking at it from that angle seems ridiculously silly to me.

  • Karma is not a belief system.
    It is a fact of imprints within ourselves, created by our actions, emotions and thoughts.
    We ARE our imprints, the habits of mind and emotion that we have created, and we strengthen existing imprints or create new ones every second we exist.

    Of course playing video games will create imprints within us. It is inevitable. Which is part of why Buddhists focus on paying attention to what goes on inside of them .. part of why.

    As for your questions, the person to be asking is your teacher. And THEN take their answer and observe yourself and your life to see if events support your teacher's answer. You know your teacher's qualifications ... you do not know mine. And, in the end, your observation/experience is your primary teacher.

    lobsterperson
  • lobsterlobster Veteran
    edited September 2

    @federica said:
    I'm delighted to report that I never give this question a single thought.
    I eliminated this train of thought by never playing games.

    It's startling to see how simple the solution actually is. And it's one less thing to karmically worry about....

    Indeed.
    Gaming, gambling and eating garlic and tomatoes is forbidden for strict sangha. Wot no pizza! :p

    For lay practitioners, very few games are of benefit. For example is Lara Croft still killing endangered species? Has Mario ever installed a bath after all those mushrooms ... ;)

    If I get my mobile smart phone going I might play this ...
    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geocaching

    ... I have tiny Buddhas and a city to explore ...

  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Veteran

    geocaching is excellent, and even more fun when you start making and finding your own! It is something we do a lot in the fall, when the bugs die off.

  • JeffreyJeffrey Veteran
    edited September 2

    And good karma I imagine some games I play lately. Like some games you can negotiate with enemies rather than just all 'mowing down the grass' of enemies. And of course you know that your computer is not suffering or the ones and zeros in the computers architecture are not annoyed. Presumably.

    For role playing games I imagine that I am guiding the character and it is not me in the adventure. Because I am not the chosen one to save the world but my character in the game is!

    Edit: I'll add that video games are more fun when playful and with a 'light touch'. Awareness practice!

    lobster
  • @karasti said:
    geocaching is excellent, and even more fun when you start making and finding your own! It is something we do a lot in the fall, when the bugs die off.

    Bugs have to die too? :o Ah well ... dukkha, death and ... just found my local Buddhist temple has a geo-cache.
    Game On! B)

  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Moderator

    That sounds like fun! Once I get a new phone (mine is on the way out. Seriously, it has both feet out the door!) I might just try this!

  • KeromeKerome Did I fall in the forest? Europe Veteran
  • seeker242seeker242 Zen Florida, USA Veteran
    edited September 2

    @Kerome said:

    Certainly food for though... what's your opinion? Do you even believe in karma?

    Sure! A video game can certainly produce karma as everything we do produces karma. Killing a video game character is very different karma than actually killing something. So much so, that one can say the two aren't even related. Even in a video game, there is no intention to actually kill anything. It's just a fantasy. However, when you play a video game and, for example, lose the game and become quite angry, that's karma too.

    The Buddha taught that thinking, itself, is an action and all intentional actions are karma.

    Him speaking to his son:

    "In the same way, Rahula, bodily acts, verbal acts, and mental acts are to be done with repeated reflection."

    "Whenever you want to perform a bodily act, (verbal act, mental act) you should reflect on it: 'This ...act I want to perform — would it lead to self-affliction, to the affliction of others, or to both? Is it an unskillful .... act, with painful consequences, painful results?' If, on reflection, you know that it would lead to self-affliction, to the affliction of others, or to both; it would be an unskillful ... act with painful consequences, painful results, then any ... act of that sort is absolutely unfit for you to do.

    Bodily acts, verbal acts and mental acts (thoughts) are all karma.

    Keromeperson
  • nakazcidnakazcid Somewhere in Dixie, y'all Veteran
    edited September 12

    I frequently play video games and have 'killed' countless pixels. That said, I do believe that violence, whether real or imagined, leaves a karmic imprint. Now conciously killing an actual, living human is far more serious than killing his avatar in a video game, I still think it leaves a negative impression. This whole discussion reminds me of Thich Nhat Hanh's Fifth Mindfulness Training:

    Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful consumption, I vow to cultivate good health, both physical and mental, for myself, my family, and my society by practicing mindful eating, drinking and consuming. I vow to ingest only items that preserve peace, well-being and joy in my body, in my consciousness, and in the collective body and consciousness of my family and society. I am determined not to use alcohol or any other intoxicant or to ingest foods or other items that contain toxins, such as certain TV programs, magazines, books, films and conversations. I am aware that to damage my body or my consciousness with these poisons is to betray my ancestors, my parents, my society and future generations. I will work to transform violence, fear, anger and confusion in myself and in society by practicing a diet for myself and for society. I understand that a proper diet is crucial for self-transformation and for the transformation of society.

    Emphasis is mine. I think violent video games would fall into the category of toxins for Thich Nhat Hanh. Sadly, I can't say I live by that precept, though I think I do an OK job of following the regular five precepts...

  • techietechie India Veteran

    Video games are the future of humanity. Just a few decades ago, we used to have very basic games - laughable by today's standards. Now we even have virtual reality. Soon we may have games which are almost as real as this world. Holograms can help us do that. Which means we'll have the power the create any world as we please, with any rule/no rules. In short, we'd have the freedom to do what we want because we'll no longer be restricted by the world we live in.

    Kannon
  • KannonKannon Ach-To Veteran

    @techie Is right. Video games are part of a large technological trend. I think they are fascinating.

    I do not believe they have true karmic consequences because the actions have no consequence in real life https://www.pbs.org/kcts/videogamerevolution/impact/myths.html of course we discern between fake and real violence.

    On compassion in video games http://www.pcgamer.com/world-of-warcraft-level-90-no-kills/

    As lay people we do not adhere to monastic ideals. I just pre ordered Fractured But Whole, South park's new video game. I can't wait. The title alone is genius.

  • dhammachickdhammachick crazy Aussie BUJU Sydney, Australia Veteran

    @techie said:
    Video games are the future of humanity. Just a few decades ago, we used to have very basic games - laughable by today's standards. Now we even have virtual reality. Soon we may have games which are almost as real as this world. Holograms can help us do that. Which means we'll have the power the create any world as we please, with any rule/no rules. In short, we'd have the freedom to do what we want because we'll no longer be restricted by the world we live in.

    That's the scariest post I've read in a long time.

    @Kannon said:
    I do not believe they have true karmic consequences because * I don't believe the actions have consequence in real life https://www.pbs.org/kcts/videogamerevolution/impact/myths.html of course we discern between fake and real violence.

    • fixed
    federica
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Moderator

    Yes, @Kannon, what you think, and what others believe, are not necessarily the same. When speaking on topics of conjecture, it does not bode well to retain a fixed notion.
    Just a hint. ;)

  • DavidDavid some guy The Hammer in Ontario, Canada, eh Veteran
    edited September 12

    @techie said:
    Video games are the future of humanity. Just a few decades ago, we used to have very basic games - laughable by today's standards. Now we even have virtual reality. Soon we may have games which are almost as real as this world. Holograms can help us do that. Which means we'll have the power the create any world as we please, with any rule/no rules. In short, we'd have the freedom to do what we want because we'll no longer be restricted by the world we live in.

    Like the movie The Lawnmower Man. People will get addicted and some will even die in these lands.

    This may sound very laughable to most but I'm not entirely sure video game violence has no real life consequences. I'm not even entirely sure the avatars getting killed do not suffer in some way. It is made to seem as real as possible though and I can't help but feel I would be contributing to and even enabling a violent mind set either within the individual developer or a community of gamers.

    dhammachick
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Moderator

    I think we need to simplify this.
    Karma = Action. Cause.
    Vipaka = Consequence. Effect.

    Everything we think, say and do, is Karma.

    Everything we think, say and do, carries a consequence, or an effect.
    On others and/or ourselves.

    If people are unsure as to whether playing these games is harmful or not, the question may well be academic.
    Because the very fact they do, carries with it a consequence.

    What that would be, when it would be, is conjecture.
    But an effect, a consequence, exists.

    lobster
  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Veteran

    VR games make me motion sick, lol. I can't even do the "explore the ocean" thing on the Gear VR. Generally speaking, at this point I'm unlikely to continue to keep up with the gaming world. I play rarely, and when I do, the games are 10+ years old. Skyrim is the most recent game I play other than Nintendo game like Zelda and the upcoming Mario. I just don't enjoy the newer games because they are so high-stress. I don't need fake stress in my life or people swearing at me, lol. I don't play games to interact with people and don't enjoy those types of game at all. I prefer, any time I am given the chance, to interact with the real world. I have that chance (as do the rest of us) basically every moment of the day. For me, using my limiting life time on months or years worth of gaming isn't a good use of my time. My husband does. Hours. Every day, ever since he was a child. I often ask him what he thinks he will think about how he spent all that time as he gets older. Granted, I watched many hours of hurricane news this past week, and I watch 90 mins of Golden Girls before bed every day :lol: Who am I to say the way I spend my time is better than how anyone else spends their time? I'm sure they would find little value into the time I spend simply sitting in the grass under a tree.

  • KeromeKerome Did I fall in the forest? Europe Veteran
    edited September 13

    There are some games that have no or very few negative aspects, for example Flower or Journey by thatgamecompany. I was watching the Apple Event this morning and was very pleased to see that their new game Sky is coming out for iPad, iPhone and Apple TV.

    These games are meditative, cooperative where they offer multiplayer and artistically beautiful. I may have a look when the new one comes out, seeing if for the first time in 5 years I might buy one.

  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Veteran

    @Kerome, Asking as more of a devil's advocate question, as I do get it, having seen similar games. But what is the point of immersing oneself in a fake natural world versus the real one? For me, interacting with the world in that way is about all the senses coming together, and not just sight and sound. When tactile and scent senses are missing, it's not real to me and therefore mostly pointless. Plus, the more immersive games like that are, the more people decrease how much they move their bodies. that is one thing I like about coming AR interactions, at least it gets people moving. Half the world mocked those who play(ed) Pokemon Go, but at least it got people outside and moving. The lack of movement in our lives continues to be a major player in our health and the more our entertainment encourages us not to move, the worse that is going to be.

  • @Kerome said:
    In my recent course of basic Buddhist concepts at the local Tibetan centre (Gelug), the monk was explaining karma and he said, "even intense thoughts can leave a karmic imprint". Now it occurs to me that computer games generate pretty intense thoughts and emotions, and so may well generate karma, but they also include actions. You are actually killing your on screen opponent, albeit by pushing a button rather than hewing him in twain with a broadsword as our distant ancestors might have done.

    From that standpoint, computer games are going to generate between a little and quite a lot of negative karma. You may be killing non-player creatures in the game, things that look non-human, or you may be killing very accurately displayed characters representing actual human players. You may be very "into the game" or you may be very detached and treat it as just pixels. All of which is besides the fact that greed and treasure are big motives in most games.

    Certainly food for though... what's your opinion? Do you even believe in karma?

    As I understand it, karma is cause and effect, it is not a system of punishment for doing wrong, but the natural consequences (of which we might not be are of) that follow certain actions. In this sense, the 'karma' of playing computer games would involve, perhaps, the frustration of having your character killed, of not completing a level, of not being good at the game, of becoming anti-social, of wasting your talents... and so on.

    Furthermore, as I understand, karma is extinguished through learning and understanding, and the karmic consequences are determined by our willingness and ability to learn and understand. For example, if I lie about something and feel so bad about it that I become determined not to lies in future then the lesson is learnt. If, however, I lie about something but do not care then perhaps I will need to experience being lied to in order to understand the nature of lying and the detriment of it.

    For me, karma only becomes a mystical and abstract reality when lessons are not learnt, and so - perhaps due to a deluge of karma to be worked through - are postponed into later life or future lives when the connection between our actions and effects are no longer noticeable. This is why when an advanced spiritual practitioner does something 'wrong' the karma of the event will return much quicker... because there isn't a backlog to be worked through.

    This is just my understanding. I might be wrong.

  • KeromeKerome Did I fall in the forest? Europe Veteran
    edited September 13

    @karasti said:
    @Kerome, Asking as more of a devil's advocate question, as I do get it, having seen similar games. But what is the point of immersing oneself in a fake natural world versus the real one? For me, interacting with the world in that way is about all the senses coming together, and not just sight and sound.

    Well, a game can give you an experience that's not available in the real world. Something like Flower can be gently enchanting much like a good book. It is a form of relaxation and de-stressing for a few minutes or hours. It's not so different from a good walk - except that you get to open flowers and change the world, rather than getting tired and smelling the forest.

    Another one that I've enjoyed in the past was Limbo, which was more dark and moody puzzling. But it was kinda funny and very reminiscent of "impermanence". There's such a wide range in different gaming experiences.

    Unfortunately these kinds of gentler experiences are rare, more often they are stressful.

    karasti
  • vinlynvinlyn Colorado...for now Veteran

    @dhammachick said:

    @techie said:
    Video games are the future of humanity. Just a few decades ago, we used to have very basic games - laughable by today's standards. Now we even have virtual reality. Soon we may have games which are almost as real as this world. Holograms can help us do that. Which means we'll have the power the create any world as we please, with any rule/no rules. In short, we'd have the freedom to do what we want because we'll no longer be restricted by the world we live in.

    That's the scariest post I've read in a long time.

    ...

    No offense to Techie, but in my personal view, that's a very poorly worded sentence. "The future of humanity" is a far too encompassing statement. I suppose at some point someone said that "Radio is the future of humanity", and then "Television is the future of humanity". There are a lot of things that will make up the "future of humanity", and video games pale in comparison to many other aspects of what will be life.

    karasti
  • SnakeskinSnakeskin Texas, USA New

    Whatever intentions
    Now expressed in speech, body or mind
    Reoccur in the future,
    Just as a mallet-mashed mushroom respawns
    Again and again.

    -- !Dhp. 1

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