[a picture of David and Emily with Ann and myself on their wedding day last October]
(This post is written by my son, David, who is an avid gamer and knows a good deal more about this issue than I do. He promises another post in the near future).
You might be interested in digging in the forums of Christian gamers, who do indeed ask themselves hard questions about the compatibility of gaming with the Christian faith:
I’m 31. I’ve been playing video games since I was around 5, and following the game industry closely for about 20 years. I don’t see myself stopping in the next decade, although my tastes have and probably will change. More statistics – the average gamer age is 30-37 depending on what media you read, and the male/female demographic is quickly trending toward 50/50. According to the ESA, 58% of all Americans are gamers: http://www.theesa.com/facts/ …
I’m throwing those numbers in just to show how prevalent gaming is for my generation and the next – it stopped being a subculture by the end of the 90’s.
1) Is Christian gaming any different from regular gaming?
I see Christian gaming groups as not necessarily different in terms of the games played, but who want a space that matches a youth-group atmosphere, where they can be comfortable and not have to deal with (probably too young) individuals with less mature mouths or minds, where they can chat about the Bible and not be criticized for it (as they may in a more public group). It could also be a shelter for Christians who might feel criticized by their own churches for playing games. Shared interests and a positive atmosphere are the important parts of maintaining any social circle–gaming and other entertainment just provides a big couch.
2) What is the value in gaming? What values or skills or socializing skills does it help a person gain?
It’s a shared experience, even if it’s only virtual. It allows friends no longer close enough to meet together to maintain a social group beyond talking on the phone. In my earlier PC gaming days online, I met several people in the UK and Europe, which was a new experience for me, and led to some fun conversations across the pond. I can easily play up the positive elements of gaming Online specifically to meet people. I can also attest to the immaturity of some who should have parental supervision. There’s plenty of bad eggs out there–which leads us back to one of the reasons for creating Christian-specific circles.
Right now, tabletop games – physical and video versions – are making a big comeback. More traditional ones like Scrabble are huge on mobile devices, and at least for the digital kind, they are very easy to pick up and play with others–online included, a huge convenience factor versus the time needed to organize and setup a physical game. Depending on the demographic you look at, ‘board’ games are alive and well, but they are overshadowed by the multi-million-dollar franchises like Call of Duty, Madden NFL, World of Warcraft, and such. The millions playing shooters and fantasy games is a huge topic by itself, so I’l address the other question–Are they more popular than sports now? I’m not so sure–I think just as many athletes are now ALSO gamers (see: Madden, Pros play them and practice very realistic strategies). I think the audience has expanded significantly to appeal to more people. I’d have to research further to see if video gaming is replacing other forms of activity altogether, or just becoming a bigger presence in society overall. Keep in mind, there’s nothing that compares to the money and viewership of the Superbowl in gaming–yet.
4) Would you reckon that gaming is more or less expensive to the average young people than the activities just listed in 1) and 2)?
There’s a good amount of budget-gaming options. There’s less-expensive mobile systems and titles, free Facebook games, and a lot of PC games can be had for 10 dollars or less, as long as you own a PC…but keeping up with the Big Three consoles (or a powerful gaming PC) is a serious financial investment. The new xbox is $500, the new Playstation is $400, and individual games can go over $60 each. I’ll take that with a grain of salt, though–the prices of games and systems have stayed more or less the same over the past decades even with inflation.