Many of us ‘older’ people are totally unaware of the most powerful, the most widespread and the most wealthy religion in the world today. It is a religion that attracts as its devotees virtually all the young people on our globe.
They spend more time deep into the night on it than on any other single activity--and often more than everything else combined. They spend hundreds of billions on a religion that has its own language, its own skills, its own High Priests, its own currency and its own magazines. It holds massive conventions, all around the world, of communal worship and devotion. It puts all other religions combined totally in the shade. Its devotees are to be found in the richest and in the most privileged, and in the poorest and most deprived corners of our globe. It transcends culture, language, faith and politics. It could be Coca-Cola or McDonald’s, but that’s not what I’m referring to. I a! m, in case you haven’t realized it yet, referring to computer gaming.
It started with the brilliant little Nintendo pocket games that you could play 'donkey kong' anywhere. Then we had primitive ping pong with white ‘bats’ hitting a white ‘ball’ on a dark screen. Originally you could only play it on large desk-like machines to be found in games arcades, then bars, and finally student common rooms. The machines got more sophisticated and along came the Game Boys, and who of my generation did not waste more time than at all justifiable on Tetris or Pacman? Now we have game boxes, modern game machines with greater power than most computers and they can link to the internet so that an American, an Indian, and a Japanese (a rabbi, a priest and a guru) can compete with each other in real time and grown up adults spend hours flicking or pumping the controls of super sophisticated remote game players. What incredible human resources have gone into this. Games are pervasive--as pervasiv! e as pornography and as accessible, through computers, the internet, and corner shops. Even some films imitate games. They are the culture of our age and we do not yet know their full impact.
Some people think they are benevolent. They teach hand eye coordination, mental agility and alertness. A huge new section of the business is developing with games for older people to prevent deterioration of mind and body, to help aged drivers respond more quickly to emergencies, and some claim to arrest Alzheimer’s. But there is an equally strong body of opinion that is worried about the excessive violence of most games, the emphasis on killing other human beings, terminating them, wiping them out, smoking them and other euphemisms for releasing the most destructive and dangerous of our subliminal urges. We may be producing a generation of kids trained to deal with problems and opponents simply by zapping them like the Columbine murderers. Life has become one great game of simulation!
There once was a game called ‘Sim City’ that I thought was really educational, building cities, developing infrastructure, accommodating populations and providing utilities and services. But slowly it has ‘morphed’ into a game of battling empires where the whole aim is to acquire power and destroy your enemies. Now you might say that I’m being very silly and it’s no different than the way previous generations used to play with toy soldiers or chess pieces or ‘Go’ counters which all set out to do the same thing. And boys will be boys and they’ll grow out of it. But I think it is much more pervasive. So much that is wrong in our world is precisely because so many sweet little boys have NOT grown out of it, and way too many men still think that zapping is the way to go, instead of self-control or desperately searching for non-violent solutions..
I have just seen a copy of ‘Computer Gaming’ and the first thing that struck me was that on virtually every page there is a gun, a tank, a jet, and some one being killed. In August’s edition there is a ‘must read’ but scary article called ‘Islamogaming’. It seems that there is a multi-billion dollar business producing computer games that depict killing Israelis, Zionists and Jews as the aim, the goal, the dream and the ultimate good. Islamic religious organisations are pumping billions into producing computer games that rewrite history, preach hatred of Jews (not to mention Crusaders, Americans, Non-Believers, and other Muslims who disagree with the particular ideology), and aim at the destruction of the West, and indeed of anyone who is not a true follower of their particular definition of ‘Allah’.
It is argued that these games are only relaxing, therapeutic games. Besides, the beauty of the internet and its allied technology is that now we can combat indoctrination, or faked Reuters photographs or Washington Post depictions of ‘living dead corpses’ in Lebanon precisely because of the universal availability of this kind of technology. Kids can see through the hate message. But I’m not entirely convinced. Otherwise there’d be much less money flowing into these ‘political’ games.
Of course, this is not confined to only one religion or people or nation. We have entered into a war of civilizations and the enemy is a mindset that brooks no disagreement, that preaches universal hatred, that often speaks the language and uses the imagery of computer games to educate a whole new generation of billions of children to lust after blood and destruction, to dehumanize anyone not of their sect. No wonder computer gamers in High Wycombe want to blow up jetliners with hundreds of innocents aboard in the name of their violent creed.
Too many Western politicians are in ‘hibernate’ mode. They do not understand religious fanaticism, of any kind. They have yet to wake up to what happens when fanaticism and technology merge. Simulation, mastering a vast amount of game technology, knowing how to eavesdrop, adapt telephony and adopt a mind set that focuses on zapping your enemies is the way warring is going. It is not just the danger of atomic weapons in the hands of sick minds. It is the technological advance of ‘real’, ’grassroots’, education that millions of young kids are hooked on, that combines fun with indoctrination. 'Real' education has long left the schoolroom and is now embedded in a computer chip.
Visit Rabbi Jeremy Rosen on the web: www.JeremyRosen.com