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God and Gaming: The Invasion of Christian Video Games
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The Christian Broadcasting Network

Christian video games... a conflict of interest? In today’s age of guts, gore, and explicit graphics, many are clambering for a more wholesome approach to video games, and Christian developers are answering the call.

The controversy behind the uncovered sex scenes in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas is only one example of immoral game content making headlines. Rather than complaining about what’s out there, many Christian developers have risen to the challenge and are producing Christian games to counter the secular market.

Thomas Bean, CEO of Digital Praise, states, “It is difficult to find games that are appropriate. And even those that are rated E for everyone may not really be appropriate for children.”

In contrast to their counterparts, Christian games promote Christian values, leaving parents worry-free about questionable content. Ralph Bagley, another Christian developer and CEO of N-Lightning Software, states, “The secular industry is trying to be more shocking... and we want to show that games can be inspired by more than just violence and lust.”

What motivates these soldiers in their quest? Reminiscent of Matthew 5:14-16, Bagley declares, “We’re going to hold the word of God up and illuminate the place. We’re taking the land back from Satan.”

The Challenge
Christian developers face a number of challenges, the main one being: Will their games be fun? Gamers do not want to be preached at; quite the opposite, they only want to have fun. Mackenzie Ponech, developer and co founder of XruciX, hit it dead on when he said, “It’s not about taking a Bible, rolling it up, and shoving it down the person’s throat who’s playing the game.”

The current market for Christian video games is small. A lack of money, investors, and retailer exposure remains an obstacle for Christian developers while mainstream game developers have all the resources they need. So far, Christian games have mostly been on PC. However, developers are eyeing a shot at the big time: making games for a console such as Xbox, Playstation, or GameCube.

Some wonder of the place violence has in Christian games. Scott Wong of Brethren Entertainment puts it this way: “The actual act of pulling a trigger and hunting something-–somebody might have a problem with that. I always tell people that if you want good drama, you have to have conflict--without that, you can’t make your point.”

Despite being called “Christian” games, some may question whether they reflect Biblical values. In reality, the division among developers is not whether they are Biblical, but just how much of “the message” should be presented in their games. Mike Salmond, teacher of digital media at Elon University, believes that if games are not entertaining and if the message becomes the point, it will be a tough sell.

The market for Christian video games is growing similar to the Christian music genre several years ago. What was once a small niche genre is now a powerhouse in the music industry. Could the same thing happen with Christian video games? Only time will tell.