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Video game violence and Buddhism

KeromeKerome Love, love is mysteryThe Continent Veteran

I know this topic has come up a few times in the past, and I did a search, and came across these threads, among others, which I will quote in order to lend some context to the post:

http://newbuddhist.com/discussion/9421/top-monk-plays-violent-video-games
http://newbuddhist.com/discussion/3580/indulge-in-violence-video-game-murder

I found the discussion around how violent games and movies are "just an escape" a little short of the mark. Movies introduce concepts of violence that are totally outside the realm of practical experience for many people, video games do the same but they give you agency and an active role within the game world.

Buddhism is in some traditions strongly associated with the idea that by teaching the mind you can approach enlightenment. If you create media experiences that teach you and train into you the wrong view of the world, the wrong reflexes and habits, are you not moving further away from enlightenment? Once it becomes a reflexive instinct to hit things in games one would suspect it's gone the wrong way.

The attachment aspect bothers me as well. As does the influence on world view. Violent movies, games and even in the news media creates an image of the world that is not true to life. Most people's lives are peaceful, surely there is no need to fill your mind with the kind of violent content that perhaps is only seen by one police officer in ten.

Other perspectives I found interesting from the threads:

  • gaming is wasting time, so an evasion of right effort
  • the Buddha spoke against board games for monks, surely that extends to video games (for monks)
  • you can play video games and still be Buddhist, it is just whether you can take the consequences
  • if it is just anger release, how did they used to cope in the times before games? Why choose violent games?
  • the Kitagiri Sutra labels some experiences skillful and others unskillful, independent of pleasure or pain
  • games are a form of sensual pleasure leading to attachment, games can be addictive
  • a game by its interactive nature is more engaging and involving than a movie which is a passive experience
  • opportunity to be unskillful in sports also creates a greater opportunity to be skillful - this may be a general principle

I'd be very interested in any further thoughts people might have had since the last time it was discussed...

person
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Comments

  • personperson Don't believe everything you think the void Veteran

    I stopped playing games where you compete against others, they really developed aggression in me. Though I will say that it did have some positive effect of allowing me to practice staying calm in the face of aggression. On the whole though it was negative.

    The same with poker, even though ethically everyone tacitly agrees to deception in playing, I didn't like the effect practicing the art of deceit had on me.

    I still do spend some time playing the time killing kind like Candy Crush. Am I killing time... or is time killing me?

    Keromeherberto
  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Moderator

    I don't play online games, I just don't enjoy them. I find most of the people who play them to be unnecessarily vulgar and rude and down right mean. I wouldn't play a game of football with them and therefore I won't play video games either.

    But I do play violent games. I play Skyrim, which is my main game (along with the other Elder Scrolls). I am still a Buddhist, and games do nothing to train my brain with how to react in the world. I've been playing games since I was a kid, and I've never once been trained that because I pretend in a game that those actions are acceptable in the real world. Actually, I often quite enjoy playing open games that allow you to make such vast choices and keeping a character that makes the choice not to kill anything or do other questionably moral behaviors like stealing.

    Honestly, the games that bother me (personally) the most are the mindless ones where you just click click click. I'd play candy Crush and find myself getting angry. There was little thought involved, just clicking and waiting. I also play a farming game that is kind of similar. There are no threats to mitigate, there is no strategy or thinking, it's just clicking a lot and repeating the same stuff over and over and over again.

    I think games, like anything, can become a problem for some people. Just like candy, alcohol, or even exercise are a problem for some people. It just depends on the person you have to be able to evaluate what effects it has on you and to stop and think if that is the best way to spend your time. I love my meditation and yoga, but I am by myself 8 hours a day in the winter, and I can't meditate and do yoga that much, lol. I do a lot of other things, but when it's cold and crappy, yep, I'll fire up a game. But then I won't play for months at a time, either.

    They are absolutely a distraction for me, and I know that. But they don't consume a significant amount of my time and when it's -40 out, I need a distraction otherwise I get sucked into my SAD. I can't run, which is what I'd always prefer to do, so I fill my time doing other things. But running can be a distraction as well. It all depends how you approach it and what happens to you as a result.

    JeffreyKerome
  • DakiniDakini Veteran

    Studies back in the 80's showed that when violent films were played in theaters, more vandalism of theater property took place than when other types of films played.

    It is, indeed, conditioning the mind.

  • yagryagr Veteran

    @Dakini said:
    Studies back in the 80's showed that when violent films were played in theaters, more vandalism of theater property took place than when other types of films played.

    It is, indeed, conditioning the mind.

    I tend to agree with you, but think that this is not a great argument. It would seem likely that those who were drawn to, or more likely to engage in violence were more likely to pay money to see a violent film.

    Captain_America
  • I play video games. I heard a TED talk speaker talk about how video games had helped her cope with an anxiety problem. The games have a small amount of stress that isn't terribly hard to overcome. That is the perfect situation because a situation with too much stress can lead to an overwhelm situation which then just reinforces the fear or anxiety. And a situation with zero stress is not a situation where you can practice with stress. I also enjoy the stories of some games and the exploration of the world which can be lore or beauty of graphics/world. And finally a lot of role playing games you use your creativity to rationally make a good 'build' which means that you make good choices on whatever is customizable: gear, relics, skills, attributes, star signs, perks, etc. I haven't really experienced anger in video games and I have been non-violent entirely for over 20 years not including physical play in sports.

  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Moderator
    edited April 2016

    Does that have to do with what the people saw in the movie? Or more so to do with the types of people who were attracted to that kind of movie? Movies and games have gotten more violent in the past 30 years, but we have much more current studies showing that neither video game nor movie violence increases the violent tendencies in any given person.

    I think a lot of it has to do with how pervasive it is in your overall life (violence in general). As the vast majority of people watch and play games and do not go out and do bad things, including more minor things like vandalism. Mild amounts of gaming haven't shown any negative affects, while large amounts (hours a day) they do. But then you have to wonder, is it the gaming that is causing the problems? Or is there something else going on with people who want to spend all that time playing games instead of doing other things? My kids play games, but as a last resort. They'd rather spend time with family, go outside, or even read a good book. But we also limit their time. My 19 year old played games as a younger kid (also with limits) and now as a college student doesn't play anything except for Kerbal space program.

    Quite a few more recent studies has shown that games and movies have no statistically significant effect on the behaviors of people in general. But that changes when you start looking at people with other issues (anger, aggression) and people who are young and do not have solid value systems but are still figuring out what theirs are. Vulnerable and sensitive people need others to protect them until they know how to do it themselves.

    On a Buddhist level, I'm certainly not saying that there is no effect. Everything we consume has an effect on us, including what we take into our brains via our senses. But what level that affects each person varies quite a lot, as well as how it affects them. Just like everything else we consume. We can choose to allow things to pass on their way or we can latch onto them with our emotions and our psyche. And we each have to pay attention and be honest with ourselves about how it affects us. If you aren't sure, then stop the behavior (playing games, drinking, whatever) and see what your reaction is.

    Keromeperson
  • JeffreyJeffrey Veteran
    edited April 2016

    (relating to the studies in the 80s Dakini mentioned):

    I think if males watch more violent movies than females that would already lead to significant data correlating violent movies with vandalism. But correlation isn't always causality. Females I am guessing do less vandalism than males and if they watch less action movies etc than males then that correlation is going to turn up in a study.

  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran
    edited April 2016

    I was aware that the effect of violence in games and movies does not carry over into more violent behaviour in real life. There has been a fair amount of research into that.

    But I think the link to the Buddhist path to enlightenment is more subtle. I think if you get addicted to World of Warcraft and spend 8 hours a day playing for three years, you end up conditioning yourself subtly to hit any entities that you see in that kind of space. Even if you detach yourself and drop playing for eight years, that leaves serious traces. When I started getting hypnagogic experiences there were some hints that it had carried over at a deep psychological level, some vivid dreams too.

    Even if you are a lay Buddhist, it does seem to matter. At some point we need to consider that there is some guidance on the subject of unskillful pleasurable activities. There is a precept against mind altering substances, and if the Buddha were now asked about games which can be addictive, are an engrossing sense pleasure, and violent to boot, I suspect the verdict would not be positive.

  • DakiniDakini Veteran
    edited April 2016

    I don't know, it makes sense that people with violent tendencies would be drawn to violent movies and might act out after the film. But that Norwegian mass shooter, Anders Breivik, who opened fire on kids at a summer camp full of kids some years ago spent most of his time playing video games. They say he was so obsessive about it that he lost track of the difference between reality and games. He saw himself as one of the video game characters. But maybe he was an exceptional case with prior psychological issues.

  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Moderator

    But was he a product of video games? Or did he have personality or mental problems that made him prone to obsessing already? I doubt anyone knows.

    @Kerome if you read TNH's mindfulness trainings are kind of his version of more modern precepts, and yes, all that we consume can have an impact on us. But as with anything it is going to vary by person and each person has to address it themselves, just like each of us deals with precepts ourselves as well as other factors in our practices.
    http://plumvillage.org/mindfulness-practice/the-5-mindfulness-trainings/

    But what level something becomes toxic is vary individual and each person has to work through that on their own. As you'll see if you ever search for topics of alcohol consumption here and how lively those discussions get, lol. An hour or 2 of game playing a week is much different than 8 hours a day, as is a glass of wine with anniversary dinner is not the same as 8 glasses a day. But for some, one glass of wine is too much, as is an hour of gaming.

    Kerome
  • Yeah for me video games are not that fun to me that I would spend most of my free time doing them. It's probably like alcohol where it can be beneficial but also a big risk of a destructive relationship to the games for many people. For myself my practice does not have to do with limiting my sense enjoyment. For example I cook flavorful enjoyable meals rather than eat brown rice and vegetables or other meals with subdued flavor. I don't recall my guru ever saying to stop watching movies or other sense pleasures. I guess if I were to the point where I was going to retreats all the time then I wouldn't be playing games or movies or tv at the retreat.

  • JeffreyJeffrey Veteran
    edited April 2016

    Dakini I would definitely say it was an exceptional case with other psychological issues as the cause.

  • There is a game that has just won an award I would love to play:
    Rapture

    Grand Theft Auto is the last violent game I played, my favourite activity was trying to jog and swim to the countryside ... not the point of the game. :3

    I accept that games can be cathartic. B)

    With the advent of VR and after that Augmented Reality, I keep scrutinising the games industry for how it will apply to mainstream devices.

    As the point of Tantra is to effect the being through role play, I see little reason to underestimate the effect of living in virtual hell realms ...

    Must admit have not played any games for a while. The adoption of VR this year with Oculus Rift and similar devices may change that.

    B)

    karastiVastmindKerome
  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Moderator

    I have looked at Rapture, and at Firewatch as well, I think in ways they are similar. It's interesting these kinds of games are getting so much attention and game play. The farming game I play is Stardew Valley. When I finish it I will probably pick up one of the others. Skyrim is the most violent one I play, and you have the complete choice to kill anything or not. I've played GTA but not since San Andreas and I guess I find Elder Scrolls games and GTA games to be quite different in intent and feel. In Skyrim if you choose you can play an ultimate bad guy or good guy. You don't have much choice but to be a thug criminal in GTA (if you are playing the storyline, of course).

  • Having seen real violence and it's consequences, I do not follow such pursuits.
    Video games, violent or otherwise, can be quite distracting. Board and card games can also be a serious distraction. That, I feel, is the reason they were discouraged. Violent games may imbue a like culture or may be no more than a release. I would like to see a serious, objective study of this subject by qualified researchers. The results would be interesting and may be a surprise (hopefully pleasant).

    Back to my coffee

    Peace to all

    Kerome
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    I always wonder what the point is.
    I mean, who cooks up, invents, programmes and creates these games?
    Why?
    (I'm not talking the commercial, marketable value, or its lucrative aspect.)
    I'm just wondering.... why?
    Why sit there meticulously planning and programming, devising and creating - destruction?

  • @Kerome said:

    • opportunity to be unskillful in sports also creates a greater opportunity to be skillful - this may be a general principle

    I feel our aggressive, animal, testosterone fueled, kick ass tendencies need outlets. Unless we have gone beyond such body based instincts. Some monks and dedicated practitioners have. I have not.

    To pretend I have no need for such outlets without further training is hypocrisy, suppression and disingenuous. I am not a pretend Buddha or a holy-than-thou-Buddhist. o:)
    I eat meat - I iz murderer. I buy cheap goods from exploitative, unethical manufacturers. I am practically an anti-Buddha [lobster hangs head in karmic shame].

    I even have friends in the Hell Realms: >:)

    Lucifer: You again Lobster?
    Lobster: Just come to visit the dungeons ... How are the Catholic priests and Amidha Pureland residents doing?
    Lucifer-Mara: [manic cackle] We keep them in our deepest dungeons ... are they in for a shock one day ...
    Lobster: Still just below the politicians, lawyers, heretics and Mahayanists?
    Mara-Lucifer: You know the way ...

    from my latest role playing fantasy game :3

    KeromeWalkerCaptain_America
  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    @federica said:
    I'm just wondering.... why?
    Why sit there meticulously planning and programming, devising and creating - destruction?

    I can shed some light on that, in the past I had some connections with people in the games industry. A lot of them are very passionate about it, having come from a games playing background, and they now want to do something for their favourite hobby.

    As to why the games end up being violent, well, it is down to what is popular. Ever since Doom and Quake came along in the 1990's, shooter games have proved immensely popular with the public. Call of Duty sells 10-12 million copies per instalment, that's $600-720 million in revenue for a product that costs $100 million to make, that kind of margin spawns a lot of imitators. On products which don't feature combat, 500,000 copies is considered selling a lot, and the margins are much smaller.

    From there they do a lot of analysis, what does that audience like? Some games in the genre have been called "gun porn". Explosions usually feature heavily. Macho elements like gory "finishing moves". It is largely driven by marketing research. Sadly a lot of men just seem to like this stuff (yes this audience is predominantly male).

    But the creators of these games often don't care - they were the adrenaline-fuelled consumers of five years ago, who have gone to University and acquired skills. Although it has to be said many of them have kids in their thirties and mellow out a lot.

  • JeffreyJeffrey Veteran
    edited April 2016

    Violence is like a genre in video games. Or rather it is found in many genres: rpg, action, shooter.

    I would think the designers want to make a fun and cool product. And of course get paid.

  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Moderator

    People create games for the same reason most things are created and sold-because people are asking for them.

    The question is, why is demand so high? I think the US in particular is still searching for it place, especially spiritually. We come from puritanical roots, and have been flailing for a long time at what to hold on to, and what to let go of. Our society is at war with itself, and it has been basically since it's founding. And that is just the macrocosm of what is going on in each person.

    Video games, tv, sports, music-all those high entertainment things we put SO much value on are a means to distract ourselves from the emptiness in our lives. We fill our lives with rich fantasy, and each type of game allows us to do so in different ways, pandering to the different ways each of us wishes our lives were different but we don't feel we have any control over.

    Games now allow a large amount of customization, so you can build a character down to exactly what you prefer, down to the shape of the eye brows and the tip of the nose and scars and attributes and all sorts of other things. We can create the person we wish we were, and we can act out a life we wish we were living. A lot of the reason games like Skyrim and such are so popular is because our lives are so fucking complicated. A lot of people are looking for a way to go back to simpler times, and games with castles and armor and swords (and tv shows and movies too) remind people of those times (depite the fact that life was really rather difficult then.) Life really is just really really complicated and difficult for the average person just to maintain stability. Insurance, education, loans, retirements, investments, home care, taxes...everything in our lives that we have to deal with has reams and reams of rules and paperwork and difficulty attached to it. When you truly sit down and think about all that it takes to keep a person stable and alive, especially a family, it really is a lot. And I think people enjoy losing themselves in fantasy characters and worlds as a result.

    I think we'll come to a balance. We always do. But before we do, we always swing way wide.

    But, what about everything else? What about people who quilt obsessively? Run? Lift weights? I think if you look at a lot of hobbies, you'll find they are really a distraction. Where is the line? And how do we find it? When does a hobby go too far? And I think that for most, the "too far" line comes before the point where it affects your marriage, your job, etc.

    The question becomes: What is your life if you remove all the distractions? I think in the US you would be hard-pressed to find answers. I think to most people, their lives ARE their distractions.

    KeromeFosdicklobstersilver
  • lobsterlobster Veteran
    edited April 2016

    I think to most people, their lives ARE their distractions.

    Pretty much. One of the reasons we try and develop some peace and equanimity aside from life's distractions.
    Do we need distractions within distractions? Perhaps.

    Maybe we have skilful and not so skilful ways to attain equanimity ...

    'All meditation and no play makes Jack an enlightened being.'
    http://opcoa.st/0Xml6

  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    On revisiting this thread I find it a useful discussion, worth reading again, but still a largely unresolved topic. The question of inner purity is something that I still puzzle over. TNH says in his mindfulness trainings that whatever 'nutrients' we absorb, that feeds the seeds within us. That makes sense to me, and I feel that in a way games do have something to contribute.

    Games as a medium can be experiential, focussed on the experience, or they can be mechanistic, focussed on the mechanics, or a mixture of both. Experience I feel can be valuable, while the mechanics of games are something the Buddha seems to have warned against. Look at something like Flower or Journey on PS3, those are very experiential and enjoyable to play.

    I like games as a medium, but I find most of the topics totally disconnected from reality. Reality doesn't present you with many gun battles, and I don't think many of us would engage in that in the real world. Even a game like Catherine which is an odd kind of romance doesn't seem to have much life-positive contribution.

    @lobster said:
    As the point of Tantra is to effect the being through role play, I see little reason to underestimate the effect of living in virtual hell realms ...

    This I think is a very key point. Games could be a kind of experiential Tantra for the masses which focusses on role-play. But I think visits to virtual hell realms are not very useful, and honestly many of them are exactly that - not places that many sane people would choose to visit. Games like Dark Souls come to mind.

    Similarly a lot of them have a lot of mechanics around desire for gear and sexual attractiveness built in, if you look at something like Blade & Soul. Far from encouraging you to let go of these things, they 'water the seeds of lust' in TNHs way of looking at things. And that's intentional, because lust for things keeps you playing.

    With the advent of VR and after that Augmented Reality, I keep scrutinising the games industry for how it will apply to mainstream devices.

    I'd suspect this will intensify the experiences, as it will place you more immediately within the game world. It's a step closer to full immersion virtual reality.

  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Moderator

    I guess for me the conclusion I come to is, I enjoy some games. But games are a distraction, and that is pretty much the only service they offer in my life. I play when I am bored, I play when it's icky outside. I can hardly pretend I am playing to develop some random mechanical skill or critical thinking or logical puzzles, or whatever. That might happen, but that isn't why I play. I don't play to become better at anything other than playing the game. Then I finish a game, and Yay! It was fun for 2 minutes, and then I'm waiting on the next great game I want to play. They are a way for me to distract myself from doing or feeling other things. Most hobbies are like that, though. What on earth would we do if we weren't busy doing all these things? :scream:

    I think often about what I get out of playing games because they don't truly add anything of value to my life. But what thing do add value? And why don't I do more of them instead? Just where I'm at. My husband's computer crapped out and we were balking at having to buy another at the same time the kids are going back to school and we have to do another college loan, etc. I told him "let's just sell all our game systems to pay for the computer." I don't think he believed me, but I was totally serious. For how much we've spent on them, the value they add is pretty minimal. I'd rather save for family trips than pay for more games.

    Sorry to ramble, just thinking aloud. @Kerome I really like the mindfulness trainings of TNH, too. Sometimes it's hard to be honest about what seeds I might really be planting because that pleasure hold is so strong. I often wonder what life would be like, how I'd see the world, if I hadn't spent so much time when I was growing up playing games and watching violent movies. I'm not a violent person, far from it. But I have no doubt there has been some sort of an effect.

    Kerome
  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    @karasti said:
    I often wonder what life would be like, how I'd see the world, if I hadn't spent so much time when I was growing up playing games and watching violent movies. I'm not a violent person, far from it. But I have no doubt there has been some sort of an effect.

    It's something that has come up in my meditations and dreams... I basically ended up concluding that my mind had grown wild, that on one hand years of technical and game playing problem solving had made a part of my mind come to view problem solving as an automatism, everything had become problems to be solved, and this stood in the way of my achieving meditative states.

    On the other hand I also found a lot of underlying anger. My nature as a child was actually pretty sweet and innocent, but game playing and life had fed instincts of desire, impatience and anger, and I found these things in my meditative space. It makes me wonder, perhaps violent video games don't make you violent, but might they not pollute one's karmic space since you are in a way experiencing these things and taking an active role?

    @Jayantha I'm not surprised the mind wants distractions, anything to get away from mindfully looking at itself and perhaps finding emptiness?

    Swaroopperson
  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Moderator
    edited August 2016

    I think the idea of games and movies causing violence in someone has been studied and proven untrue statistically. But, that doesn't mean individuals can't be differently impacted depending on their state of mind and other factors. I would never claim someone else shouldn't do this or that. For me, I have found through my practice that games and movies mostly don't fulfill anything for me. They don't seem to cause me particular harm, I don't get caught up in them and find myself angry later or anything. They are just a way that I waste time when nothing else is going on. But I've found through meditation and life that I prefer to do more quiet activities. Reading, writing, puzzles, just sitting and watching my kids, taking care of pets. There is always something more productive I can be doing that games and movies and for me, despite a lifetime of playing them, they are falling out of favor for the most part.

    The games I enjoy most are when my husband and I play old school Mario games together, and other things like that. Then it's more about the time together and less about the game.

    KeromelobsterSwaroop
  • @Jayantha said:

    That being said at the deepest, most subtle level, ANY type of entertainment and distraction affects your practice, and your mind. So if you are becoming a monk or dealing with very advanced practices, you really start to see how everything and anything sets up conditions for future arising of mind-states.

    There are advanced practices? Nobody, tells me Nothing! O.o

    I was once, before any real insight, showing a war game to a Pratyekabuddha, without being aware of their inner development at the time. It was disconcerting how uninterested they were in this exciting mindless game, frequently crashing vehicles, not firing missiles appropriately etc.

    I was unaware how I was being taught important lessons through the nature of the interaction. The means, a game, was completely irrelevant. :mrgreen:

    Most of us are intoxicated by baubles, toys, games, bling ... Fortunately not everyone is beguiled by Trump, Chopra, Sonic the Hedgehog, shopping Chanel, or other snorts of distraction ... o:)

    Swaroop
  • Being relatively new to Buddhisim I find this to be an interesting topic. I was an avid game player (online, table top, stratgey etc.) before I started to study. I loved playing games for a myriad of reasons. With that being said, one of the very first things I changed in my life was to stop playing games with any form of violence. It seemed like a no brainier to me and I haven't looked back since.

    silver
  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran

    Samsara is the only serious virtual reality game "I" play and it's all about dodging Dukkha bullets... All the other video games "I" found, are for amateurs :wink:

  • BhikkhuJayasaraBhikkhuJayasara Bhikkhu Veteran

    @lobster said:

    @Jayantha said:

    That being said at the deepest, most subtle level, ANY type of entertainment and distraction affects your practice, and your mind. So if you are becoming a monk or dealing with very advanced practices, you really start to see how everything and anything sets up conditions for future arising of mind-states.

    There are advanced practices? Nobody, tells me Nothing! O.o

    hah, I meant Jhanas and the like, not anything secret or esoteric.

  • lobsterlobster Veteran
    edited August 2016

    ^^. Ah yes Jhanas, the robes monks wear in their lowly beds ... ? Sort of holy monk pyjamas?

    ... I think I got it wrong again ... :3

    WalkerKeromeSwaroopperson
  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    @Jayantha said:

    @lobster said:

    @Jayantha said:

    That being said at the deepest, most subtle level, ANY type of entertainment and distraction affects your practice, and your mind. So if you are becoming a monk or dealing with very advanced practices, you really start to see how everything and anything sets up conditions for future arising of mind-states.

    There are advanced practices? Nobody, tells me Nothing! O.o

    hah, I meant Jhanas and the like, not anything secret or esoteric.

    Well if it was secret you presumably couldn't talk about it o:) The area that I'd be interested in hearing more about would be whether games and their content are absorbed karmically - whether an action in a game would carry all or part of the weight of an action in the real world.

    You could argue that intent to kill is there, the action is there, that a real human (player) is the target, the only thing is the result is split: visually and audibly the result is represented, a kill happens. But in reality the player does not die.

    @Richdawson said:
    Being relatively new to Buddhisim I find this to be an interesting topic. I was an avid game player (online, table top, strategy etc.) before I started to study. I loved playing games for a myriad of reasons. With that being said, one of the very first things I changed in my life was to stop playing games with any form of violence. It seemed like a no brainier to me and I haven't looked back since.

    It does seem like a sensible path if you are serious about your practice. And if you find you can't, it's a good signal of a high level of attachment.

  • BhikkhuJayasaraBhikkhuJayasara Bhikkhu Veteran
    edited August 2016

    @lobster said:
    ^^. Ah yes Jhanas, the robes monks wear in their lowly beds ... ? Sort of holy monk pyjamas?

    ... I think I got it wrong again ... :3

    You mean my pajhanas? They are quite comfortable

    @Kerome said:

    The area that I'd be interested in hearing more about would be whether games and their content are absorbed karmically - whether an action in a game would carry all or part of the weight of an action in the real world.

    You could argue that intent to kill is there, the action is there, that a real human (player) is the target, the only thing is the result is split: visually and audibly the result is represented, a kill happens. But in reality the player does not die.

    In the sense that Kamma is action, any volitional action you make with your mind will bear some kind of fruit later on, not really in something external happening, but in the tendencies of your mind and thoughts.

    “Bhikkhus, whatever a bhikkhu frequently thinks and ponders upon, that will become the inclination of his mind. - mn 19

    I would say the intent to kill pixels is quite different then the intent to kill a living breathing being though. And even if it is multi-player, it's much more like a sporting event, almost a throwback to us as kids running around shooting each other with hands or later nerf guns etc. The implications and consequences of each action is quite different.

    In the end I'm not necessarily saying I feel combat or violent games are skillful/wholesome, while on the other hand I don't think they are extremely unskillful/unwholesome either.

    lobsterKeromekarasti
  • In the sense that Kamma is action, any volitional action you make with your mind will bear some kind of fruit later on, not really in something external happening, but in the tendencies of your mind and thoughts.

    Exactly so.
    'Wherever you lay your head that's your home,' as the popular song almost says ...

    It is why sangha practice a wholesome exemplary lifestyle ideally. o:)

    There is a huge difference between what one thinks, imagines or plays in video games and real murder, mayhem and infidel decapitation.

    As I always say to the hell dwellers, tantric deities and other imagined/visualised distractions, 'Emptiness is firm, Firm is emptying' or words to that effect ... :glasses:

  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    @Jayantha said:

    @Kerome said:
    The area that I'd be interested in hearing more about would be whether games and their content are absorbed karmically - whether an action in a game would carry all or part of the weight of an action in the real world.

    You could argue that intent to kill is there, the action is there, that a real human (player) is the target, the only thing is the result is split: visually and audibly the result is represented, a kill happens. But in reality the player does not die.

    In the sense that Kamma is action, any volitional action you make with your mind will bear some kind of fruit later on, not really in something external happening, but in the tendencies of your mind and thoughts.

    That makes sense, although my understanding was that karmic energies accumulate and are separate from just the tendencies of the mind towards certain things. I thought it was possible for a 99% good person to make one terrible mistake, kill 4 people while driving carelessly and carry the karmic load for that while in essence not acting badly or tending towards evil actions?

    “Bhikkhus, whatever a bhikkhu frequently thinks and ponders upon, that will become the inclination of his mind." - mn 19

    I would say the intent to kill pixels is quite different then the intent to kill a living breathing being though. And even if it is multi-player, it's much more like a sporting event, almost a throwback to us as kids running around shooting each other with hands or later nerf guns etc. The implications and consequences of each action is quite different.

    This too makes sense, but I wonder how many people have the sophistication to say, "it's just pixels", especially as games become more and more realistic in their visuals. There is a big difference between 2004's Half Life 2 and 2015's Call of Duty: Black Ops III. I suspect the tendency becomes more "I want to kill that guy" instead of "I want to neutralise those pixels".

    Of course it depends to what extent you have been sucked into the game - if you are still wholly aware it feels a lot less real than when you are totally engaged and feel really "in the game" when playing. I've experienced both states while playing... The most exciting video game moments of my life are probably topped only by winning awards with work products and bungee jumps.

    In the end I'm not necessarily saying I feel combat or violent games are skillful/wholesome, while on the other hand I don't think they are extremely unskillful/unwholesome either.

    Thanks for taking the time to say something on the topic :)

    lobster
  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Moderator

    There are different types of karma, and the type you are talking about @Kerome, is blurring the lines a bit. When your line of thinking is that the person on the screen is a real person and you are killing them, you are creating a different type of karma because of how it is changing your thinking. It is, it seems, that kind of thinking that leads particularly sensitive people to blur the lines between game and reality. But there is no action that takes place that causes actual harm unless the player on the other end chooses to see it as such but I don't think that is quite how karma works. I've played games most of my life and I've never, ever thought of game characters, whether NPC or other online players, as real people. Perhaps your intention is what is causing you more problems. If you believe you are killing a character and causing harm to another real person in doing so, and your intent is to do so, I've look awfully carefully at continuing to play such games. That's like hitting a mannequin with your car and thinking you caused karmic to build (outside of in your own thoughts which then affect your actions of course).

    Intent is a huge player in Buddhism in my understanding.

    My husband and I play WoW together, and I play the Elder Scroll games, but having more fun with Pokemon Go and No Man's Sky these days, lol. You can also play such games (as WoW and Skyrim) making it a goal to go through the game without killing anyone. It makes for a new challenge.

  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    I have played very few games the last few years and don't intend to return to playing, and the effect in my meditations seems to have cleared, so it isn't exactly causing me problems. I'm more concerned from a what-is-it-doing-to-the-general-public point of view.

    Like you @karasti, I've never really regarded game characters as real people, and have always steered clear of competitive multiplayer even in the times when I used to play WoW intensively. So I was a bit surprised that it seemed to have had an effect.

  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Moderator

    I don't do PvP in WoW at all, just quests and achievements. I've never gotten into PvP stuff in any game, I just do not enjoy playing games with people online. Their chatter and their behavior is just gross to me, it's not something I wish to do. So many of them are just incredibly rude. There are, no doubt, people who are immersed on an unhealthy level in all sorts of games. It is too bad, and I hope they find some balance. When gaming is so serious that people are angry and cursing each other out for making a mistake in a dungeon, they really need to re-evalauate things, lol. Where's the fun if everyone is just mad?

  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    I found this discussion quite relevant for this, it at least attempts to frame some answers around karma.

  • IchLiebteIchLiebte US Veteran
    edited August 2016

    I prefer violence in video games much like I prefer violence in comic books. My favorite consol game is God of War -- I even have a God of War T-shirt. I like the violent aspect. I remember talking to my therapist about this a while ago, and he said that it had something to do with my PTSD and it was fine for me to inflict my own pain back at something.

    Really, what's the difference between playing violent games and hitting a pillow? Or when I go to the gym and beat up dummies?

    I play STO and I do the "ethical thing" when I can, weirdly enough. I guess because MMOs are so immersive. I can't kill someone in cold blood in that game. Like when I get hostages, I go out of my way to accommodate them on my ship instead of just killing them. If the game encourages me to kill someone and I'm not okay with it, I get anxious and start whining at the screen, "Nooo, what did they do?? They don't deserve to die." Even those traitors. O.o

  • BeejBeej Human Being Veteran

    Harra-----> Japanese term that describes the listless wandering of the Samurai after the Shogun fell. These men would wander the countryside in hopes of finding another wandering Samurai so that they might have a chance to fight, as this is the culture and purpose of the Samurai: Warriors who were trained to live a warrior life. They could not assimilate to modern times. Their ways were too deeply engrained in their behavoir.

    If you have learned a competitive lifestyle, it's hard to overcome that competitive behavoir. Video games provide a safe outlet for behavoir that might otherwise become competitive in the 3rd dimension, and ultimately harmful to the community if not properly vented. As far as violence goes in video games----> it's not violence. It's pictures of violence. You know the difference, if you've ever experienced real vioelence..... So, if I suffer from harra, and i need an opponent to help me vent my pent up aggressions, isn't a video game the best place we have to do this right now?

    Violent crime is descending in most places in the world. Funny how that correlates to the rise of Techhology, and video game usage, no?

    IchLiebte
  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Moderator

    There are many, many healthy competitive options. I'm not saying games can't be one of them for some people. But they are hardly the only option or the one everyone should take. Sports, chess, math club, speech, politics (on a local level), board games, random challenges between friends/family members.

    Also, I would say that "pent up aggressions" needing an outlet is a perception we choose to hold. If we are choosing to feed and hold aggressions, we can chose otherwise. We can recognize them and let them dissipate without acting out with them, whether we are running, boxing, or killing pixels on a screen. If they become pent up, that is likewise a choice and a case of us ignoring smaller problems until they well up and become bigger problems. Yet something else we can work on rather than let them explode. I actually prefer to sit with my riled up emotions, note them, let them pass. When I need to let them out in a more physical fashion, I have noticed that is almost always a case of me holding onto them for so long. I try to refrain from doing harsh actions on behalf of my emotions. I play games, but they are just for fun. They aren't an outlet. Because to me, it is just feeding them rather than accepting they are impermanent and letting them pass.

    lobsterKeromenakazcid
  • BeejBeej Human Being Veteran

    What's the difference between all those options? I'd say nothing significant. The second paragraph is right on, but i'm not sure it applies to the non-buddhist gamer demographic, as their focus isn't slanted this way. I'm talking about the average gamer dude or chick, raised in the competitive shadow of the carrot and stick society, unable to completely shake that need to assert themselves over another as a behavoiral norm. While the Buddhist might be aware of this unskillful behavoir it doesn't remove it based on that association. And for the unaware... well, better to have them duke it out on the flat screen than in real life.

    Basically, what i am saying is---> it's another vehicle to facilitate working out a problem. If it takess you 84,000 Virtual Uppercut punches to realize that you don't want to harm a single thing, then isn't it a valid tool?

  • IchLiebteIchLiebte US Veteran

    @karasti said:
    Also, I would say that "pent up aggressions" needing an outlet is a perception we choose to hold. If we are choosing to feed and hold aggressions, we can chose otherwise. We can recognize them and let them dissipate without acting out with them, whether we are running, boxing, or killing pixels on a screen. If they become pent up, that is likewise a choice and a case of us ignoring smaller problems until they well up and become bigger problems. Yet something else we can work on rather than let them explode. I actually prefer to sit with my riled up emotions, note them, let them pass. When I need to let them out in a more physical fashion, I have noticed that is almost always a case of me holding onto them for so long. I try to refrain from doing harsh actions on behalf of my emotions. I play games, but they are just for fun. They aren't an outlet. Because to me, it is just feeding them rather than accepting they are impermanent and letting them pass.

    At some point, you have to face your pent-up aggression. I think "letting it pass" is honestly not healthy with the case of anger. Maybe you don't have an anger problem? I do and trying to "let it pass" never helps, just makes me angrier. I can think that it passes, feel it pass, even, but it actually comes back later at a random time. I think there really does need to be an outlet.

    lobsterBeej
  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    I think @karasti has it right, participating in an aggressive competitive environment is likely to feed such feelings rather than allow them to dissipate. Buddhist advice says that if you have a problem with anger, then work on your metta (here), as a better way of countering the influence of anger than continuing the cycle but with a pillow as victim.

    I think you can see the overall effect of feeding the cycle very clearly in some gaming communities, such as the tendency to 'trash talk', the strong negative reactions of some gamers, especially in competitive environments like Call of Duty multiplayer.

    personsilver
  • BeejBeej Human Being Veteran

    How do we excuse Martial Arts, then?

  • @TheBeejAbides said:
    How do we excuse Martial Arts, then?

    Kicking and punching people mindfully is OK, apparently. :p

    BeejWalkerIchLiebte
  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Moderator
    edited August 2016

    Well, in martial arts I suppose the other person has signed up for it as well, lol.

    @TheBeejAbides I'm not saying games can't be an outlet. But I do think there can be a danger in using it as your only outlet if you have issues you are not otherwise dealing with. If you have anger issues, you need more than video games. I know too many people who claim to use games to deal with stress and so on who play for hours and hours a day. Even kids. Our neighbor kid is 13 and rarely leaves his house because he plays games all day and all night. His mom says it's because he's an introvert. I also know too many people who claim things are various forms of stress relief that are simply unhealthy. They aren't actually dealing with their stress. They are distracting themselves from it and covering it up so they don't feel it, and it never actually goes away. If the person is going to make the choice to pummel someone in real life or in a game, sure pick the game, please. But the need to do so at all is a question for me. Because distractions are not dealing with our emotions. It's just hiding them even more.

    @IchLiebte if you cannot experience feelings and allow them to pass, then you are attaching to them and adding a story to them and choosing to carry it forward. Even if you don't think yet that that is what you are doing. The actual physical effects of emotions are very brief, and if it is lasting hours, days, or longer for you and you cannot gain control then you need to be getting some assistance with dealing with emotions.

    When I was young, I had "anger issues." I didn't know how to deal with anger when it came up, so I pushed it down and it inevitably exploded. But it wasn't any healthier to find a distraction from it in video games than it was to go around punching things (which I also did). Both kept me from actually learning how to recognize and deal with the feelings rather than distract myself from them.
    http://www.elephantjournal.com/2015/10/the-life-changing-90-second-secret/

    lobsterKerome
  • personperson Don't believe everything you think the void Veteran

    The first home video games came out when I was around 10 and I played games pretty regularly most of my life, often for hours if not all day. When I'd do that there is this kind of gamer haze that sets in, several years ago I finally decided that as much as I like to play the games I didn't like the effect they had on my mood or how much of my time they took up. Now I only play a couple freemium tablet games, the kind where you can only play for maybe 20 or 30 minutes unless you pay money to get more energy or reset timers, etc., that way I don't get sucked in for hours at a time. I do still have some older games that I could play forever and whenever I do feel like playing them after an hour or so I just start to feel my mood go down and naturally want to stop.

  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Moderator

    @person, yes, it has been much the same for me. When i was 8 back in 1984, we got a C64 computer, and that's where my gaming life began, lol. But I'd get irate when I couldn't figure things out and I'd stay mad all day long even once I stopped playing. I'd get so frustrated playing some games that I'd actually cry, lol. I'm thankful I've learned better! My husband and I will have an old school game night sometimes and play the old Marios and so on. Those are the most fun to me. The realistic shooting games these days aren't much value to me. Give me Zork any day. I did get No Man's Sky and am quite enjoying that. It's simply exploring planets and collecting resources to make things to get you further into space. No killing really necessary (except for an odd animal that attacks you but it's not very often). I quite like it.

    Anyhow, at some point several years ago, I did a time inventory. Similar to how you track every dollar you spend for a time period. I did it with my time. It was pretty eye opening.

    Kerome
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