It’s no secret that video games are one of my major interests. And if you’ve read my blog for any length of time it should be no secret that I’m a Christian. If you’ve been reading my last few posts, you should also be aware that I’m currently beginning to write a book about the way religion is depicted in games – although the total scope for that isn’t set in stone. These three things come together to form the topic that’s on my mind at the moment – Christian Video games.
I have long held that Christian Video Games would be a great thing for the Video Game industry as a whole. I’m not talking about the kind of educational games where you memorise scriptures and get in game rewards for it, but robust, entertaining games with either Christian values, or with Biblical events, at their core. I am, however, yet to see a wide variety of games that I would like to play coming out of the various Christian developers. As it stands, there have been two games that I have played and enjoyed, both of which were First-Person Shooters. There are a few games that are on my wish-list that also seem interesting, and that have a couple of different genres, but most of the games that are being produced by Christian developers are the disappointing educational games that no-one outside of a Christian environment will ever use.
The problem with the Christian Video industry at the moment, as I see it, is that the focus of the developers is wrong. As it is, they are not targeting people like me – that is, people who pick up a game to delve into a story, or to shoot things for a few hours. That demographic is one of the largest sources of income for the mainstream industry, and I’m almost certain that if a Christian company made an FPS or RPG that was based on Christian values/theology, or on biblical stories, without being in-your-face about it, the game would be supported by one of the big developers, and they would be able to make a world-wide impact. The world is searching for answers to questions of life, and they are searching almost everywhere for it. If the mainstream Games Industry can notice this, and respond by developing games about a biblical apocalypse, or about a variety of new age ideas, why can’t the Christian Developers? They don’t even have to violate their morals in order to make something like this – non-combat games are becoming more popular each day.
I guess the worst part about this is that Christians are the best friends, and worst enemies of this kind of advance in the industry. On one hand, we have groups like the Association of Christian Entertainment, who encourage their members to make games that don’t belong in the ‘educational genre’, and sponsor a yearly conference for Christians in the Games industry. I think that something like this – a group that supports both Christian development studios and Christians working for mainstream studios – will help the Christian sector produce the kinds of games that I (and hopefully many other people) would like to play, and distribute these games in such a way that anyone can get their hands on them. On the other hand, you have Christian gaming Magazines that promote the kind of senseless writing off of much of the medium that has the potential to cripple the industry irreversibly. I know there isn’t a middle ground between these two points, but it would be more helpful if Christians weren’t so two-minded on this sort of thing.
I believe that the Christian Games Industry has the potential to make a game that is more fun, and more engaging than many of the games that I have played so far in my life, and I believe that they can do that while exploring and wrestling with the diversity that I also desire in a game. I believe that this can be done with a range of different genres, styles and settings, and that the results will be awe-inspiring and thought-provoking. One of my dreams is to see this become a reality in my lifetime, and I sincerely hope that this will happen.