“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!