There are a number of unspoken assumptions in the burgeoning sphere of Christian gaming and most of them are both harmful (to the effort) and inaccurate.
One of them is that the only way games and Christ could be in the same room would be in didactic and preachy games, a kind of specialized edutainment where the only appropriate goals are things like scripture memorization and efficiently stacking Noah’s animals. The harm done by this assumption is the tendency to sharply limit our game-making efforts and then we find ourselves in a kind of self-imposed ghetto where our work enriches no one, entertains no one (because who wants to play a didactic, preachy video game?) and only sells to Little Jimmy’s concerned grandma (pronounced ‘Yimmy’ in case that wasn’t clear). So the fruit of this assumption is Irrelevance. Now on the bright side of the last 10 years I’ve seen that canard mostly give way to a far more mature and thoughtful approach to gaming that recognizes the scope of the industry and the breadth of intent amongst sincere practitioners. So good progress there.
I think the next misconception that needs to be dismantled is that any faith-influenced game must be strictly made for kids, or more specifically that the content must be “safe” for young children. This assumption has essentially the same risks as the ‘teaching’ assumption but sets the emotional hook deeper by appealing to our deep desire to protect our own kids from the worst offenders in tawdry, violent video games.
But the easiest way to show the error of this assumption is to ask the obvious question: Is the Bible family-friendly? With its stories of rape, murder, genocide and war – of course not!
To be fair, gaming is only following in the footsteps of other Christian mediums in this regard, mediums where many believers are specifically looking for a kind of spiritual safe-room away from a rather messy world. And, lest I be misunderstood, I see the genuine value in having those ways to retreat and rest, so I’m not judging anyone for wanting a refuge. That said, if Christian gaming is unwilling to address grown up and adult conversations then we again confine ourselves to a very limited market and self-imposed irrelevance.
This question is particularly in my view right now as my own children start to play games. Of course I watch over what they play! Of course I’m sensitive to maters of content like violence and sex! But that’s not what I’m talking about here.
Christian game makers have mistaken the need and the market for safe content as a limiting boundary.
We’ve seen a hole in the market, but climbed in and made it into a cage.
For my part, I long to see more and more faith-influenced gamed that can speak to difficult, complex, and nuanced issues with honesty and depth of faith. If we hope to see gaming grow in its cultural influence and blossom as an art form, I’m hoping the Christian community can contribute more than just VBS material.