Of Games & God: A Christian Exploration of Video Games – Book Review

“Video game… professor?” My video game journalist friend asked incredulously. “That’s… a thing?”

“Yeah, I’m helping edit his book right now. It’s on video games… and Christianity.”

I laughed as his eyes went wide, as I could tell what was going on behind them: The thought that he could have potentially spent his four years in uni studying video games, his passion. The realization that there were probably people in the world doing just that at this moment, and he was missing out. And possibly even the surprise that academics from a Christian university – for that is where I had studied, and where the professor in question teaches – could have anything worthwhile to say about video games at all.

This conversation happened a couple of years ago now, and I am excited to say the book we were discussing was just released in its final form: Of Games & God: A Christian Exploration of Video Games, by Trinity Western University professor Kevin Schut. I got my shiny, fresh-off-the-press copy in the mail last Friday, and it is the most ecstatic I have ever been about a book being published, and probably ever will be, unless I publish my own book someday.

The reason I am so excited about the release of this book – asides from the obvious of having been involved in its development and seeing my name in print (AND spelt correctly) – is that it begins a conversation that needs to be had by Christians about video games. And this is not the simplistic conversation some might expect, conversations that have been had up until this point: “Are video games good or bad?” or even “Which video games are good or bad?” Instead, recognizing that video games are an unavoidable and growing part of our culture, Schut invites us on a journey towards a critical understanding of the relationship between faith and games. He offers us the tools to think intelligently about games, to ask for ourselves the question, “How should we then live?”

Of Games & God is both academic and accessible. It’s for the uninitiated, concerned parent as well as the seasoned gamer and everyone in between. While Schut openly admits to being a game enthusiast at heart, he gives voice to both proponents and critics of games, and attempts to navigate a balanced route through it all. He discusses some of the usual suspects: violence, addiction and spirituality; but also addresses issues of gender, education, social aspects of online gaming, and Christians in the video game industry. He does all this while recognizing that there is no one right way to think about an issue, and admitting he doesn’t have it all figured out either, but maintaining the important thing is to think through and talk about it.

Sometimes I feel like my role amongst my peers – a Japan-based community of primarily English-teaching expats from a variety of nationalities and religious (or non-religious) perspectives – is simply to demonstrate to them that Christians aren’t necessarily all closed-minded, unthinking haters-of-all-things-fun with a moral superiority complex. Video games are one of those areas where Christians have not – in general – had much worthwhile to say in the public sphere, and thus there is an assumed stereotype about what Christians – in general – think about games, or don’t. So let’s start the conversation.

“Of Games & God: A Christian Exploration of Video Games” can be purchased as a paperback or an e-book from Amazon here. Like it on Facebook here. Buy two copies for yourself and one for all your friends! And don’t miss the essay “Growing Up (Girl) Gamer” by yours truly on page 101!

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9 thoughts on “Of Games & God: A Christian Exploration of Video Games – Book Review

  1. Pingback: The Weekly Hit List: February 8, 2013

  2. Congrats on the publication. I don’t quite understand though what Christian perspective brings into video games? I know there is quite a strong debate about various moral issues in gaming especially bloody games etc but what besides that is there to fill pages of a whole book? I admit the title intrigued me and I’d appreciate some guidance on that subject.

    • Hey thanks for your interest! As an unofficial editor for the book I can assure you that there is WAY MORE than enough to talk about in terms of Christian perspectives and video games (a large part of my role at times was figuring out what we could cut), haha (>_<). I've no doubt that the author could go on to write an entire book on any one of the myriad issues he discusses in each chapter. In general it is largely a discussion of culture, video games being one aspect of culture, and how faith intersects with that. It's much like how a particular individual from any number of worldviews has a different perspective to bring to the table; for example, as girl gamers you and I can bring different perspectives than your average guy gamer, etc.

      Personally I think a big part of this book is a challenge to Christians, particularly Christians interested in games (or critical of them), to think through the issues beyond the black and white. To use violence in games as an example, the typical approach of a critic, whether Christian or otherwise, would boil down to: Violence is bad, video games have violence, therefore video games are bad. So should I, a girl who has grown up loving video games, and God, suddenly feel guilty or like I should only be playing Nintendogs? What about all the violence in movies, in books, in the Bible for that matter? No issue is that simple and Schut addresses this by bringing many different angles on issues into each chapter, from academic research such as media effects research (in the case of violence) and so on, to using lots of examples from a huge variety of games in an attempt to think through the issues.

      Sorry for the long response, I could go on but I'll stop, I hope this answers your question a little bit. Feel free to respond with more questions or comments if you like. After browsing your site I think you would particularly appreciate the chapter on gender and video games! Cheers!

      • Thanks for the answer it’s exactly what I was hoping for. I love reading all the video game research and materials since what I do in my studies is mostly doing research on it myself and the multiplicity of perspectives is always welcome. I think it is a position that comes across as strange enough to attract some serious interest. My biggest worry was that christian perspective (at least in where I come from which is Poland) is such a big part of mainstream nowadays that I do not fully understand how can more general perspectives differ from that of a christian one. Violence discourse – we all agree violence is bad, time wasting is immoral or just horrible etc. But yeah, then I remembered – Poland, everything is hardcore Christian Catholic. Will definitely try to find it somewhere near me though I do not know if it’ll be so easy to grab it in Sweden (Not living in my own country right now either 😛 ). Once again thanks ^_^ Oh and also thanks for feedback on my own blog, greatly appreciated 🙂

        • Great, I hope you find it interesting, in any case I’d be interested to hear your thoughts after reading it! I’m not sure if you’ll be able to find it in a shop over there, Amazon.com would probably be your best bet. Take care! 🙂

  3. Congratulations on the publication! Having a voice in todays electronic age is very important. Thank you for sharing your story, gamer-girl.
    Patrice

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