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Breaking the Christian Game Curse

Titus 2:7-8, “In everything, show yourselves to be an example by doing good works. In your teaching show integrity, dignity, and wholesome speech that is above reproach, so that anyone who opposes us will be ashamed to have nothing bad to say about us.”

It’s not easy being a Christian gamer. It’s even harder to be a Christian game developer. There’s no law that says we are obligated to create games with obvious Biblical messages, but for some of us, we still thirst for that first exquisite faith-based game. Many have attempted. A few may have come close, but none of us have yet succeeded. It’s not from a lack of trying. Our hearts are in the right place too, but the fact of the matter is, we who seek to share Biblical truth through the gaming industry have one of the toughest uphill climbs. Thanks to a long string of failures, it’s commonly accepted as fact nowadays that Christian games stink. Creating high quality work is one thing. Fighting your chosen genre’s negative stigma at the same time is another.

I’m certain there are some people who consider creating a great faith-based videogame to be impossible. I, however, refuse to believe that. For one thing, that implies God is incapable of bringing an amazing Gospel-centric videogame into the world. Let’s not sell His power short. And for another, just as surely as He’s empowered us to create fantastic Christian music, books, and films, surely He can empower us to do so in videogame form too. So long as our game making goals are aimed to glorify Him, there is a way. The trick is, finding the right way. How do we beat the stigma and break this Christian game curse? Well, I think the ultimate answer becomes clearer if we ask a different yet similar question. How do we effectively share the Gospel in a world that hates Jesus? Sure, you might look at me funny for ‘changing’ the subject, but stay with me. How God wants us to live applies as much to this gaming riddle as it does to our day-to-day. We can discuss the nuts and bolts of good game design later, but today we’re identifying the heart of the issue.

So how are we supposed to evangelize in this era of faux tolerance? Most Christians are aware of evangelism as an active act. The Bible encourages us not to be passive about our faith. Thus, we raise charities, go on missions, and declare the Gospel to the hurt and lost. That’s all good, and we must keep doing them. However, there is another aspect of evangelism that we tend to not think about. It’s small, often goes unnoticed, and much more passive. Not passive in the sense that it lacks intention but passive in that it does not shout in one’s face. It declares God’s love without a boom mic and nibbles at the edges of the skeptic’s subconscious. What is this passive evangelism? It is a Christ-like life, lived quietly and lived well.

Consider this deeply. Working, playing, eating, resting; all these and more are also our means of evangelization. I’d even argue that it is the even more potent form than the loudest preaching at showcasing God’s character to a hurting sinner. If you could, I’d recommend reading passages like 1 Thessalonians 4:9-12, Colossians 4:5-6, 1 Peter 3:14-17, and 1 Corinthians 10:23-33 on your own. These verses (and more besides) gives us a stark reminder. Everyone is watching us. Everyone. Your neighbors may scoff at what you say. They may refuse to even listen. However, they can’t not notice what you do and how you do it. In fact, Paul beseeched the believers to live blameless, loving, and peaceful lives before the pagans as open displays of God’s character. You see, mere behavior that mimics Christ paints a picture for them - a picture that says, ‘This is what life lived Christ’s way is like.’ ‘This is desirable.’ ‘Don’t you want this?’ It’s a song the spiritually deaf can’t tune out, no matter how hard they try. It has driven the stubborn into irrational hate, but it also draws the broken closer to Jesus. Thus, we should all strive to both confess Christ with our mouths and reflect Him in our hands.

So how does this also solve the Christian game curse? Well, let’s remind ourselves of the uniqueness of videogames. Unlike movies and books, vidoegames aren’t passive activities. They require active participation and thus they deliver messages in a different format. Think of it this way. Films and books are like teachers in lecture hall. The seated student listens to the speaker from beginning to end. Videogames, on the other hand, are two-way conversations. Both sides are equal participants. What one (the program) does effects and invites the other (the player) to react and vice versa. Players don’t play the game to watch it. They play the game to . . well . . play it. It’s not about being sat in a seat and ‘taught’ something, which I feel most Christian games tended to do. It’s about experiencing a journey and learning through the journey. Perhaps, instead of dominating our players’ time educating them on matters they care little about, we should reach them the subtle way. Like movies, others hear our sermons, but it’s by our actions do they ‘experience’ us. So let’s try giving players space to have that experience. After all, if Biblical principle is interwoven throughout the game, they’ll notice. Only this time, they get to encounter this new, more desirable way of thinking freely for themselves. They might recognize its source yet still turn away. Or perhaps, they might be intrigued.

My fellow game designers and believers, I believe that in our fervor to preach the message, we’ve in many cases have shouted away our audience. This is not a call to stop active evangelism, mind you. Rather, it’s a call to equally apply the quieter evangelism more and more. It’s time we put down the bullhorns and considered. Are we active in reaching our neighbors with honorable behavior? Are we a ministry by default of the way we live because we’re living the way Christ would have us live? Ladies and gentlemen, we are letters that others read all the time. It doesn’t matter where or when you’re read. You’re going to be read. Your life speaks a message. So what message do you bear? And who’s sign and signature is etched across your heart?

2 Corinthians 3:2-3, “You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everybody. You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.”

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