I just read a lovely piece that I thought I would share my thoughts on about Christians making video games. Our own Richard Clark and Drew Dixon got interviewed for that article, and I think they made some salient observations. Indeed, I enjoyed the entire thing. I hope you’ll take a moment to read it.
I’m going to start this by being a little bit pedantic. Technically, we cannot have a Christian video game because video games cannot be Christians. It’s kind of a “I’m joking but I’m kind of serious” thing I say when people ask me if I listen to “Christian” music or read “Christian” novels. I say that to encourage a conversation about what we mean when we dub some kind of vehicle for communication such as art, comic books, video games, music, etc as “Christian.”
Up front, I’m going to declare that we do not need something that we cannot have. That is, we cannot have Christian video games. But what we do need are Christians who make video games. These games do not need to preach the gospel. It is no shame for a Christian to make a video game that does not preach the gospel. Not everything has to preach the gospel! Everyone ought to know this, but apparently we don’t.
I’m a Christian. I have a wife and two children. I play the banjo. My kids love it. They love to sing “Go Tell It on the
Mountain”. They also love to sing “She’ll Be Coming Around the Mountain.” (My kids like songs about mountains, what can I say?) Is it sub-Christian to play and dance and sing to “She’ll Be Coming Around the Mountain”? No, it isn’t. As simple as that song is, it teaches us something about the excitement and even longing for a loved one’s return. It tells us that it is good and proper to party when a loved one visits. (Sorry, old red rooster.) If you think about it, “She’ll Be Coming Around the Mountain” explains why we sing “Go Tell It on the Mountain.” We are excited that Jesus has shown up and visited us. So let’s celebrate!
Now apply that to video games. There are millions and millions of people playing video games all over the world. They play them because they are fun, and they play them because many of them tell an exciting story that sucks you in and makes you feel like one of the characters. Why can’t Christians make games that deal with love, loss, mourning, courage, death, life, money, and such? Why can’t they make video games that ask questions without feeling compelled to instantly provide the answer? Jesus did that. He taught in parables and did not explain them. Often I hear people erroneously say that Jesus taught in parables because they were simple. No, Jesus explicitly said that he taught in parables because they were hard to understand. People followed him around because he was enigmatic. It was the power of Christ’s observations about life, and his questions to the crowd about their lives that drew the people in. Yes, he did provide answers, but he also provided questions, probing questions, about life, and his general observations turned people’s worlds upside down. Why can’t Christian video game makers do the same? I believe that they can, and they should.
Maybe you are reading this and you are thinking that video games are really just games. Like Risk or Monopoly or Uno. They aren’t like that at all. They are mass marketed stories that are engrossing billions of people. We simply cannot be good stewards of the gospel and ignore that. Indeed, we cannot be good followers of Christ and not encourage those of us who love that medium and want to tell stories through it. I hope they do, and I hope the questions they ask and the observations that they make turns the world on its ear. It would also be really awesome if they just made something great like Mario Brothers. Not every video game has to be all that deep.