Today I am pleased to have a guest blogger, Jacob Price. Jacob is a gamer, Pastor, Seminary student, husband and Dad. We’ve all got gamers in our neighbourhoods, so I’ve asked Jacob to introduce us to the gaming world and how we might join God’s work in that pocket of our neighbourhoods.
Gamer = someone that plays video games, in particular on-line, role play computer games.

This blog today will not only help you understand God’s working in the gaming world, but it will also help you think about how to intentionally build connections with any pocket of society.

So here is an interview with Jacob.

R – Why is gaming so popular today?

J – To quote Galadriel from the Lord of the Rings trilogy: “The world is changing…” The world that exists now is a technologically advanced society. People can communicate with other people on the other side of the planet in an instant. The ease of this is like nothing humans have seen before. Most of the modern North American society (and many others) spend a large portion of their time online via Facebook, Twitter, online gaming, or simply surfing the web. People look online for many different answers in life, and are always searching for some sort of community. Online gaming has crept its way to being one of the top mediums providing a strong sense of community. I think this is why it is so popular, gaming is its own community online.

It goes without saying that the video game industry has been around for a very long time and is not going away anytime soon. Gaming has become embedded into our culture. It has become a norm to play video games on occasion, and there are many who devote the majority of their free time immersed in the gaming world. Unlike our old-school local co-op games (which are unfortunately not as common anymore), most gaming is done online, allowing players to connect with their friends and other people from all over the world. The majority of these online games put the player in control of their avatar (a playable virtual character, often customizable) where they can then explore a whole new world, enter into dungeons, fly space ships, or go on a mission of sorts with their friends. The internet has now become a hub for the people of the world to get connected with each other. Gaming does not just include children and teens, but primarily young adults. The average age of a gamer is someone in their 30’s.

So why isn’t the church doing much about this? Does Jesus’ command in Matthew 28:19 to “…go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.” apply to the online world? How do we even think about doing this?

R – Yes, community and belonging are huge. We all need places to belong. And God is at work in these communities, these pockets of society. You ask such a great question, for these pockets of society we are already a part of (for you, the gaming world) how do we be God’s presence there? And how do we continue to connect with different pockets of society, in genuine ways? May this challenge all of us to think about the connections God has given us.

R – For us that are not part of the gaming world – what is it like? How does it work? What do you do?

J – Gaming can be a very fun and freeing time. Gaming can take you on different adventures each time you sit down to play. You can solve puzzles, slay a dragon, shoot some aliens, and the list goes on. There is a type of game for everyone. But most importantly, online gaming involves a very real community to interact with and to be a part of. These games consist of millions upon millions (dare I say, billions…?) of gamers all interacting with each other in various virtual worlds.

R – What do you enjoy most about the gaming world? Why is it so appealing to so many teens and young adults?

J – I love playing games where I can work together with my team to achieve a common goal. This often involves training (leveling up and gaining experience) and a lot of legitimate hard work (reaction time, mental acuity, dexterity, and surprisingly fitness).
Gaming is popular among teens and young adults because it is fun, colorful, and often games are designed to give us a sense of accomplishment while simultaneously telling a story. Some of the best stories I have ever seen/read have come from video games (e.g. Metal Gear Solid 4 for the PlayStation 3). A large portion of video games allow people the freedom to do as they wish and as well as being able to express themselves creatively (such as the ever popular Minecraft). The majority of human beings are constantly searching for something – be it love, acceptance, or community. All of these things can be found within the gaming world and culture, which is what makes it so appealing.

R – Should Christian parents be concerned about anything in the gaming world for their kids/teens?

J – To a degree I would say that parents should be concerned about their kids/teens in regards to gaming. Many video games can be needlessly violent, have very course language, and even contain some nudity and sexual content. Mind you, this is definitely not always the case. I would never put gaming on a pedestal saying that it is all evil or wrong. The only caution I would give to parents is to pay attention to what your kids are playing, just as you would with TV shows and movies. Just keep in mind, online games cannot be paused. The people your kids are playing with are real people too. The relationships they develop with people in the online world can be just as close and personal as their local friendship. These relationships can last a life time and can be a very large open door to share the Gospel message of love through Jesus Christ.

R – How have you seen God use your presence in the gaming world?

J – The best example I can think of took place when I was playing World of Warcraft (WoW for short). In WoW I was a part of a guild (online organized group/community) that focused on raiding (gathering 10-25 people together to explore a dungeon/area and defeat the bosses and enemies within). I was in this guild for a long time and built several relationships. One time when we were raiding, I was on a voice chat with my guild mates. Somehow the topic of faith and God came up. I began sharing my faith with another player and speaking into their life. This was a very great experience; however I was shut down by some other people who were also on the same voice chat.

R – What challenges are there to being God’s presence in the gaming world?

J – People are not afraid to speak their mind, insult you, or shut down your attempts to share your faith online. This is humanity without borders. Because of these things, we need to be very intentional on how we live and love in the online world. Just be yourself and let God’s love flow out of you onto the other gamers (real people!) you encounter. Just like in the physical world, we need to be intentional about our conversations and how we interact with other people. It is one thing to make nice with people and make friends. God has called us to so much more than this. We are Christ’s ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20). We need to intentionally remember to represent Christ online and to share his message of grace, hope and love to those we meet online. We need to be bold in our faith and stand firm on the solid rock.

R – What opportunities are there to be God’s presence in the gaming world?

J – The opportunities to reach people in the online gaming communities are endless. One of the great benefits of being God’s salt and light online is that we have the opportunity reach shut-ins, people with social anxieties, physical disabilities, young, old, various ethnicities, backgrounds, big, small, etc. without any worry or second thought of a social status or physical appearance. This is such a unique type of mission field, it is hard to put into words, but God has called us to it! Is God calling you to be more intentional about how you spend your time online? Are you being called to be Christ’s ambassador online?

R – What can we be praying for those involved in the gaming world?

J – Gamers need prayer for boldness in their faith. It can be intimidating sharing our faith online, or in person for that matter. Gamers need the love of Jesus just as much as everyone else. Knowing that gamers who share their faith online can get persecuted and put down, we need to pray for courage. Pray for strength and compassion for our mission field, prayer for a sense of direction, and prayer for wisdom to be the light in these online worlds.

R – Thanks so much Jacob!
We are so thankful that you are joining God’s work in the neighbourhood where you play, the gaming world.

May it inspire each of us to join God in the neighbourhoods where we live, study, work and play.

Jacob and I invite you to leave comments or questions below.

-Renée @r_embree