The comment thread of a recent Kotaku article entitled Walmart Said to Broaden Christian Game Distribution Plans perfectly presents the uphill battle that any Christian game developer has in presenting any sort of Christian message in a videogame.

I found this comment to be particularly poignant:

For a society that seems to love tolerance, we sure seem to hate Christians a lot.

The Left Behind games obviously aren’t helping things.  I’ve never played one, but based on my research, they seem to be poorly crafted and a little mixed-up theologically.  This, of course, is based on the theology of the Left Behind books themselves, the first of which is dissected in incredible – though often over-the-top – detail at the Slacktivist blog.

If I were to unfairly distill Fred Clark’s analyses of the books down to a statement, it would be that the Left Behind series represents an anti-Anti-Christ perspective of the world which is not always pro-Christ.

I was having a recent conversation at my bible study lately involving the fire-and-brimstone preaching that you would hear on the street corner (or at the Des Moines Farmer’s Market).  To be clear, we didn’t agree with that behavior and concluded that neither would Deitrick Bonhoeffer, author of Life Together, which we’re currently studying.  I often wonder if this is what the Jewish authorities of Jesus’s day were like.  You know, the ones he had the most trouble with.  The ones that conspired to have him executed.  Not that what’s being preached on the corner is never true.  I think it can be, but so can swinging at a stranger’s head with a baseball bat in order to smash a fly that had landed there be technically “true.”

Nevertheless, I’m encouraged to see Walmart’s willingness to be open to more Christian games.

I still long for the day when I can play a game that is actually meaningful and says something about my faith.  Something real that actually represents the message of Jesus; “the last will be first,” “whatever you do to the least of these,” “love you neighbor as yourself,” and so on.  I guess that makes me just another game developer that is trying to make the kind of games I want to play.


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Comments ( 13 )

I don’t know if the premise of a game, much like the premise of Jesus’ statement, that centers around “the last will be first” will ever be popular. Unfortunately, it’s the reality of our culture.

A lot of people play games to be something they’re not, and they don’t want to be serving their neighbors or those in need. They want to kill people, break rules, be the extreme of things they can’t be in real life.

If only our fantasy of being what we’re not looked more like Jesus rather than the devil.

That being said, perhaps there is a place for a bigger-than-life adventure rooted in Truth. If you figure it out, I’ll definitely buy it.

Good thoughts, brother.

ChrisNo Gravatar added these pithy words on Apr 09 10 at 1:36 pm

Thanks Chris. :)

The good news is that the reality of our cultures are defined by things that we create. Therefore, by creating things, we get a chance to define future cultures! This news about Walmart provides more opportunity for that definition. It’s an open door, and we just need to be responsible about what we bring with us as we go through it.

I agree that a lot of people do play games for power fantasies. But I’m confident that there are plenty of people who would welcome a meaningful, thematic game about the Christian faith with open arms. Time has shown that it’s just really hard to do, I guess. But it’s so close I can taste it; God is on the move over here. My little sketchbook is filling up, and it’s only a matter of time.

godatplayNo Gravatar added these pithy words on Apr 09 10 at 2:19 pm

Maybe a good opportunity for a notgames approach? :)

I was thinking about this lately since seeing Facebook Indie Games’ recent post on the subject of religious games.

I would love to see (and play, and pay money for) an actually good, meaningful Christian game. I’d love to make one too, though I’m not sure that people would really take it seriously too since I’m not really Christian. Maybe if I collab with someone who’s a real Christian… 😉

Or I could start with Buddhist games. I’ve got some ideas for that…

axchoNo Gravatar added these pithy words on Apr 09 10 at 3:17 pm

Hey Alex, thanks for the comment! Yeah, I’m working on it. 😛

One of these days I’ll get a demo vid up of my project…

It’d be fun to collab with you, too. Maybe later in the year?

godatplayNo Gravatar added these pithy words on Apr 09 10 at 4:15 pm

This is something I mull over every now and then myself (http://dagda-mor.blogspot.com/2008/05/antiviolent-game.html being one product of this), though it usually leads to me trying to articulate the nature of my faith more than anything.

As far as I can see, the most effective use of games as a medium would be to demonstrate a given principle of the bible (preferably one that’s more radical from our society’s standpoint, i.e. “turn the other cheek”).

DagdaNo Gravatar added these pithy words on Apr 10 10 at 2:43 am

I love collabs. Yeah, let’s try one sometime. Let me know when you have some time and a good project to try, and maybe I’ll be ready by then too. :)

axchoNo Gravatar added these pithy words on Apr 11 10 at 1:02 am

A big corporation like Wal-Mart is never going to “get it.” In fact, I would be insulted that someone is attempting to market anything to my faith. That’s just crazy and cynical. Horrible really. I’m not a Christian but I’m well aware of the history of video games and Christian games have, unfortunately, been of generally poor quality. I suspect part of the problem is that, at best, the developers are not saying to themselves “how can I make a great game” but “how can I use this kooky thing these kids love to spread the word of God.” At worst they are simply trying to cash in on a potential market that they don’t fully appreciate or respect. I think aspiring Christian artists would best look to J.R.R. Tolkien and Rand Miller on how best to stay true to their beliefs AND make amazing art/games/music/whatever. What a person believes is important is there in the work. How could it not be? Who we are and what we hold as important shows up in everything we do and it’s all the more on display in our art. You don’t have to go out of your way to send a message, it will be there whether you’re aware of it or not. My 2 cents, for what they are worth.

ShaneNo Gravatar added these pithy words on May 08 10 at 1:33 pm

They are worth a lot, thank you for giving them! I totally see what you’re saying. I guess I see it as a baby step. If I can make a meaningful game about my faith, and then have several opportunities for getting the game out there to people, I see it as a good thing. It’s also encouraging to me that this is an indirect sign that there are people who want these kinds of experiences.

I don’t really like Wal Mart, but I’m trying to remain positive in an area that I’m generally pretty cynical about. 😛

godatplayNo Gravatar added these pithy words on May 08 10 at 2:16 pm

The root of the problem is the great divide between what it is to know Christ and what it is to be lost, and Christian game developers seem to love making that divide larger than it already is.

One such mistake is equating Christ with ancient Middle-Eastern culture instead of doing the hard-work of taking those biblical principles and applying them to Western culture.

Another mistake is capitalizing on special revelation (the bible) in games and almost completely neglecting general revelation (nature and creation).

Very very few games sport realistic and beautiful terrain that honors the real physical Earth. I think this is extremely important because it was the love of nature and the words “I love you” in a sunset, in crashing waves, in a majestic peak, or in viewing Saturn through a telescope that saved me from Atheism. Video games have the capacity to honor God’s creation yet so very few actually do.

I am surprised not all Christian game developers are also geophysicists. There’s a whole new world of potential there.

JonnyNo Gravatar added these pithy words on Jan 06 11 at 10:52 pm

Regarding the preaching you have listened to at the Market, what specific un-Christian or un-biblical behavior is of concern to you? Thanks.

PaulNo Gravatar added these pithy words on Jul 02 11 at 9:04 pm

Jesus and His disciples were all about preaching the gospel on the hiways and byways.

Jesus said this is the very purpose for which he came to preach (Mark 1:38)

Jesus sent word back to John the Baptist that the poor have the gospel preached to them. (Luke 7:22)

Jesus sends His disciples out to preach in the towns and villages (Matt 10, Mark 6, Luke 10) and asks His followers to specifically pray for the Lord of the harvest to send laborers into the His Harvest (John 4:35).

Jesus comissions His disciples in Acts 1:7:8 to go and be witnesses, which according to the historical record of Acts and the testimonies of the epistles included open air evangelism which included preaching. Peter preaches open air in Acts 2 and 3, Stephen in 6 and his criticizers stone him, and Paul many times preaches (acts 14,15, and16) in the marketplace all over asia with his criticizers stoning, beating and jailing him, and in Athens Acts 17 where he is criticized for being a babbler.

Jesus never criticized anyone for preaching the gospelbut did criticize the pharisee’s and scribes for shutting up the kingdom of heaven against men, and that they did not allow those who are entering to go in. (Matthew 23:13)

It was the pharisee’s and scribes who continued throughout Jesus ministry and later the same who criticized and persecuted the apostles for preaching the gospel of salvation.

Proverbs 1:20,21 Wisdom cries aloud outside; he raises her voice in the open squares. She cries out in the chief concourses, at the openings of the gates in the city… 24:11Deliver those who are drawn toward death, and hold back those stumbling to the slaughter.

How will they hear without a preacher and how willl they preach unless they are sent (Romans 10)?

Brother I challenge you to pray for all those who go onto the streets to compael men to hear the gospel. These same people in the market are not likely to go to a church to hear the message any time soon nor to hear the gospel of the salvation of our Lord any other way.

Love, Jim

Jim BagbeyNo Gravatar added these pithy words on Jul 03 11 at 5:05 pm

I think the difference between street-preaching in ancient Rome and street-preaching in the modern West is that it was all new to people back then. It had to be; Christ’s incarnation, ministry, death, and resurrection had only just happened! Nowadays, first world people already know the story–or at least think they do. Probably many of them know less than they think, but I would not trust a shouting stranger to inspire them to take a deeper look. Of course, I don’t want to discourage you if you’ve seen that tactic actually work.

–A & C

KatzNo Gravatar added these pithy words on May 23 16 at 9:51 pm

I like Jonny’s point about nature. It always grabs my attention when a game developer has put in some effort to mirror the breathtaking world our Creator built for us…but it usually just turns out to be a hollow backdrop for mindlessly shooting other characters in the face. It feels like even if they’ve gotten it right, they still don’t care. The impression gets even stronger when there are enemies based on real-world animals. My reaction often falls on a continnuum between, “Would it have been so hard to verify what it really looks like? You missed every nuance of what you’re caricaturing,” and “Hey, that’s a masterpiece of engineering! It wasn’t invented simply to be blown to smithereens for our amusement! Please make it stop compulsively eating my face.”

–C

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=muFYAF0M46I
The personal side of the problem is: The engine in that demo costs a thousand and a half dollars per developer, and I’m pretty sure that’s a normal price! I’d have to neglect my student loans or sell half my organs to afford tech like that!

–N.

KatzNo Gravatar added these pithy words on May 30 16 at 7:03 pm

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