The Seven Deadly Sins of Gaming

Where is the Jesus of gaming? Why don’t we have spiritual guides, telling us which games to play and how to play them? I don’t mean some moral, bible-beating bastard (in the literal sense) who runs around, telling us all that we suck because we game. I mean someone who knows the potentials of gaming, and is there to save us all. I have several candidates that could be our very own pixel-pushing prophets, but I’ll wait and see if they reveal themselves over the next few years.

I mean, the last thing that I want to be is the John the Baptist of gaming, outing the chosen one.

Actually, that’d be badass.

Anywho, the Seven Deadly Sins have been around for a long time in some form or another. In fact, you can easily trace the history all the way back to Greek times (where there were eight). The most famous and readily used version comes from Dante, who used the standard-at-the-time version.

While I don’t personally believe that these “deadly” sins will kill you, I do think that they will kill your enjoyment of games, as any one of them can get in the way of a pleasant experience. It is with that thought in mind that I offer my opinions of the Seven Deadly Sins of Gaming (note: all definitions were taken from the Oxford Online Dictionary).

Lust: [in singular] a passionate desire for something

Be it the new system, the new game, or the shiniest accessory, we are constantly fighting off the temptation for that-which-is-sexy. Now lust is usually talked about in regards to physical and sexual desire, but the word originally meant pleasure and desire. We’ve all been there. I can think of several times when my desire for a new game trumped most other things in my life. I just had to have it. Nothing else was going to get in my way.

Conversely, lust is often used in boob-jiggling physics and high-heeled heroines with short skirts and looooong jackets. It seems that many developers still think that gamers are made up of horny teenage boys who need to see boobs or cleavage every 3.4 seconds.

I would argue that bloodlust falls into this as well. When Bulletstorm was first announced, I remember thinking, “Oh shit, here come the ‘family-protection’ watchdogs.” And yes, they did get a Fox News article called, “Is Bulletstorm the Worst Video Game in the World?” But come on. Whoever wrote that article never played E.T. for the Atari 2600. Somewhat seriously, though, the blood and gore in that game was hypersensational to the point where it could be considered sexy.

The point is that the desire for the thing in the world or the thing in the game, when left uncontrolled, leads to immorality (either in actions or outlook). Passionate gamers, practicing their skills against others is one thing, reveling in destruction for the sake of destruction is probably another thing entirely.


Gluttony: habitual greed or excess

This is me. Right here and right now, all cards on the table, I’m a gluttonous S.O.B. I found myself the other day getting a chubby at all the specials on Steam. And yeah, I finally for the first time in my 35 years on this planet have a pc that can actually play games on something other than Ultra Low settings. Maybe that’s part of the problem, but damn, Steam can make even a shitty game seem like a good idea.

If I just bought some games, though, that wouldn’t be a problem. The complication comes from the fact that I have 48 Steam games, 37 games on my PS3 hard drive, 16 on my 360, and about 23 Gbytes of apps backed up on my old Mac. Not listed are all of the discs that I have for the various systems. How many of those games do I regularly play?

Three. And one of them is a game I only play while pooping.

But I keep buying them, slowing down my hard drives, taking up space, making me hate myself for not playing, but if I do play, I usually get caught up, managing to look at the clock four hours later, and stressing out because I need to get to sleep. And the best cure for stress? Gaming.

It’s a vicious cycle.

Pavlovian stool softener

Greed: intense and selfish desire for something, especially wealth, power, or food

Ever met a ninja-looter? Ever been a ninja-looter? Even accidentally?

I remember grouping for an instance and having a two-handed axe drop that I had been grinding for over the weeks prior. What happened? The goddamn tank out-rolled me for it. When pressed on the issue of why a tank would roll for the two-handed axe (okay, if you don’t know what I’m talking about, bear with me), he said, “Tanks should get whatever we want.” And with that, he disbanded the group, basically flipping us off.

I get it. He’s assigned a value to a sword of ones and zeros, but I got super-pissed. I wanted it! I needed it! I mean, come on!

Hey, wait a second. I hated him for being greedy, but maybe I was projecting my own greed onto him and then judging it.

Nah, he was an asshole.

Sloth: [mass noun] reluctance to work or make an effort; laziness:

I once collected enough ashes to fill an Absolut bottle. Yes, I had help. My old roommate and I did nothing but game during our third year of college. Well, game and smoke cigarettes.

We had great games, though. Resident Evil, one of the first games to actually scare us was augmented with heavy doses of Tekken. During that process, we resorted to an extreme laziness (my GPA dropping instantly from a 3.67 to a 1.00) that could only be characterized by the word sloth. I mean, not only was our dorm co-ed, but our floors were co-ed. There were women (well, girls at the time probably) literally right across the hall! Seriously.

Not many of us actually play slothly, though. Our packs are organized, we have a map with little guide points on it, and we usually don’t turn on the game and have our avatars sit there, drooling. We get them working, making them do stuff or kill things or whatever. Sloth seeps out of our interaction with the game, and if we let it, we give our energy over to the game, leaving us a stinky pile of Mountain Dew and Twizzlers (and maybe ashes).

too easy

Wrath: extreme anger

I used to think that this was just me and my brother. When I got a little older, though, and started playing games with friends at their homes, I noticed that everyone got angry. Throwing controllers was a thing, and I remember standing up to step on my SNES, stopping just before my foot went through the sexy light grey and purple happiness machine.

Last month, when my mom was out visiting her grandson (seriously, if you want your mom to not give a shit about you, have kids.), and she asked if she should get an iPad because she had played Bejeweled on one of her friends’ iPads. I told her that it would be one expensive game if she did that. I downloaded a similar jewel game on her Android phone (seriously, Google. Where the hell is Bejeweled Blitz?). Five minutes later, there she was, cussing at her phone (granted, she’s a Sunday school teacher who thinks that “shit” is the F-word, but still).

Maybe wrath is universal, but if you compete when you play, the quickest way to lose focus is to get angry. Someone knife you from behind and then teabag you? The last thing you want to do is to get obsessed with vengeance on that person. That’s the way you get sniped.

Envy: [mass noun] a feeling of discontented or resentful longing aroused by someone else’s possessions, qualities, or luck

A buddy of mine had the Gamecube, Xbox, and PS2 at the same time. I wanted them. I had a PS2, as I was still from the generation that believed that you picked a console and stuck with it. Years later, that same friend and I met up in an MMO, and he had this sick sword. All I could think was that I must have it. As I grinded for that sword, I remember going to bed exhausted one night, not because I had worked really hard at something difficult, but that I had gone in and run the same dungeon four times in one night.

It never dropped for me.

We’ve all had friends like that who seem to always get the best stuff. It doesn’t have to be the newest sword or anything—many times it’s just the new thing-that-you-don’t-have. It could be whatever—the new avatar shirt, the new pinball table, the new iPhone, the new Alienware pc, the new new new version of the same old old old system.

It drives us toward some stupid, pseudo-happiness where our stuff is the best—again, missing the point of why we game. Or at least, why some of us game.

Pride: a feeling of deep pleasure or satisfaction derived from one’s own achievements, the achievements of one’s close associates, or from qualities or possessions that are widely admired

Okay, the funny thing is that the above definition actually hints at what can enable pride: achievements. We aren’t playing a game with scores a lot of the time. But scores are still there, they’ve just transformed into achievements.

As our achievements and gamer-scores go up, we get that constant pat on the back, letting us know that we are special little flowers of awesomeness. I’ve bitten on the fruit of pride before, as many of you have, and it tastes like chicken. A chicken sandwich where the bread is made of chicken and the meat is bacon and cheese.

It’s easy to justify our ego if we call it a sense of accomplishment or something, but many times, we do it because it makes us feel inherently better to have that thing that sets us apart from all the losers. It can be anything, from the new set of armor to the mythical 1000/1000 (mythical for some games, not these).

The thing is that while I’m guilty from time to time of all of these, it’s not the occasional dip into these sins that have been the center of attention for people like Dante. It was the obsession, the consuming nature of these sins that caused the problems.

For me, I sit down to play a game for a myriad of reasons. But any of these Deadly Sins can get in the way. I am a gamer glutton, and my shopping for games prevents me from playing. Lusting over blood-porn makes me overlook stale and shit gameplay, ignoring my desire for a challenge. Pride makes me think that I am somehow better than other gamers, clouding my cooperative nature. These obstacles in our path to gaming nirvana and peace are easily destroyed, but only if we take the time to be mindful about our gaming.

No more shitty games. No more support for tig-bittied warriors wearing barely anything while hacking ogres. No more mindless acceptance that games are only games. They can be so much more, but first, we need to wake up. And to do that, we must figure out how we allow ourselves to be manipulated by these emotional and mind-clouding “sins.” Then plug back in and see how awesome games can really be.


[originally posted here]


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