The intersection between the church and video games is an interesting topic that has garnered attention recently. While there may not be a singular stance from the entire church community, discussions and conversations surrounding video games have slowly begun to emerge. Although in my experience most conversations from the church have been focusing on the negative sides of video games how Christians shouldn’t be wasting their time with that kind of evil activity. Very few conversations tend to talk about how video games may be used for ministry (outside the youth ministry world).
I want to start a dialogue asking the question are video games an uncharted mission field or a temptation the Church should encourage everone to avoid?
This blog post will just be part of a series of posts about the church and video games. We will look at the positive aspects of video games, the dangers of them, how the church can use video games to evangelize, the popularity of esports (electronic video games), and where I think the church should go in the future when it comes to video games.
Video games are no longer for the nerds (or the nerds took over) either way 70% of Americans play video games including mobile games, which is an all-time high. The COVID pandemic was like putting gasoline on the fire. In 2019 experts predicted that the 2020 video game market would reach around $90 Billon, which is quite a number in itself. But by the end of 2020 the video game market made $180 Billon, (that is three times the size of the movie industry). Here are some other notable statistics:
- 75% of teenagers in the USA play video games (including mobile)
- The average teenage gamer plays video games from 12-15 hours a week
- 46% of video gamers are female
- 1/4 of U.S. gamers participate or watch esports
Video games are not a passing fad and with the introduction of esports, their popularity only only projected to rise. There are many other statistics out there on the popularity of video games, but just because something is popular doesn’t mean the church should be involved. My point is if something is popular and a big influence on our culture shouldn’t the Church have a dialogue about it? Where and how is your church talking about this? Who are asking the questions and what are they asking?
There are some ministries and churches that have already try to utilize video games.
Some individuals and organizations have recognized the potential for video games to serve as a platform for connecting with people and spreading positive messages. For example, GameChurch is a non-profit organization dedicated to bridging the gap between the Gospel and video game culture. They aim to bring the message of Jesus’ love, hope, and acceptance into the gaming community.
You also have godsquardchurch which is a completely digital church experience just for gamers. They have Bible studies, weekly live streams, and even men’s and women’s groups all around the activity of reaching the gaming community. It has more ministries available than many churches.
But these two ministries are far from the overall Church body, where is the church in this new world?
Are all games redeemable?
Before we can continue this dialogue on video games it needs to be said that we can all agree that not all games should be played particularly with Christians. The video game world can be dark, dangerous, and inappropriate, but like most things in this world, it is not all just one-sided.
Simply telling everyone we should just avoid video games altogether seems naive and impractical just like if we would say avoid all movies or all books that we should read because there are some inappropriate movies or books.
There also have been instances where video games have been portrayed negatively in relation to Christianity. Games like Assassin’s Creed Valhalla have faced criticism for their portrayal of burning churches and monasteries. These instances have sparked debates about the depiction of religion in video games.
Like all things the simple answer is we must use wisdom and discernment, we can not fully trust a rating system (that rates video game’s appropriateness) and we need to start doing our own research on what is wise and what is not when it comes to video games. What we cannot do as a Church is simply dismiss this new extremely popular activity and think it will blow over. Video games have been around for 50 years now, and they are not going away anytime soon.
What if video games could be a tool to meet people where they are with the Gospel? What if playing video games is a way to get into a country that Christians can’t really go to? What if video games are a community bonding event that brings people into the Church that never would step foot into otherwise? What if video games were used to help disciple and teach kids God’s word better?
Join me on this journey.
To be continued…