Christian Video Games

This week I’ve come across two “Christian Video Games” trying to raise funding via Kickstarter.

The first campaign is titled “Judeo-Christian Video Game – Moral & Fun – Call of Abraham.” Which describes itself as:

A spiritually-enriching, action-packed, FUN Judeo-Christian role-playing video game you can be proud to give to your loved ones!

The second is “Grow Your Congregation (Web Based Game),” and its description is:

We would like to see an addictive Faith inspired game that could be compared to Mrmine.com or Cookie Clickers.

Neither of these projects is going to reach their funding targets, without a bona fide miracle.

The interesting thing to me, reading these campaigns, is how open and transparent they are about the aspirations of a Christian Video Game developer. A Christian Video Game is made to feed the pride of Christians (i.e. American Evangelicals) in their sub-culture / ghetto.

Call of Abraham states it is a “game you can be proud to give to your loved ones.” Grow Your Congregation says “We have yet to see a faith inspired game that people with faith could be proud to play.”

American evangelical attitudes to video games are roughly where its attitude to popular music was in the 70s. And the subculture had a great money spinning success in its invention of “Contemporary Christian Music”, or CCM (for which I’d very much recommend this synchroblog from last week). CCM didn’t convince many people outside the ghetto, but it allowed Christians to have pride in their music.

I totally get that. When I became a Christian in my teens, I was deeply into CCM. I subscribed to the magazine, went to gigs, bought the records. That CCM was derided outside the ghetto didn’t bother me. The point was that it was just good enough to allow me to have pride in it.

Christian gamers know that Christian Video Games are terrible. There have been many of them, promoted in language just like these Kickstarters. They are mostly a joke even within the subculture. That’s why pride is such a heartfelt need: the promise of a game that won’t be embarrassing to own. Not one that can compete with secular games or bring the Christian message to the wider world (the blurb explicitly says these are for “people with faith”), but one that reaches the lofty bar of not being total crap.

Now is the right time for this in games, I think. The last few years has seen a fundamental shift in the economics of game development. Independent game developers now top the “Game of the Year” lists. For a budget roughly equivalent to recording an album and promoting a new CCM artist, you can bring an Independent Game to market. It wouldn’t surprise me to see someone make this breakthrough, and transform the Christian Video Game from a joke even within its own sub-culture, to something that makes money.

The two Kickstarters above are like case-studies for how to make bad games, however. If, by some miracle, either got funded, there are enough details in the Kickstarter campaigns to know the result will be more embarrassing crap. There’s something fundamentally wrong-headed about how Christian Video Games are conceived. It is as if the CCM pioneers of the 70s couldn’t get past the fact that Christian music had to consist of Hymns played on a Pipe Organ, with a few guitars and drums added for good measure. In the same way Christian Video Games are Sunday School Lessons with added graphics.

But someone will get it eventually. And American Evangelicals will have their dearest wish: pride in the produce of their ghetto.

Anyone want to show me I’m wrong and point me at a Christian Video Game that doesn’t suck?

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11 Comments

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11 responses to “Christian Video Games

  1. Ian: I think you should make a Christian video. Make it real. Then, only after players get to the very top level do they start to learn the trouble with their faith. But make it so only the smart ones can get there and make it subtle.

    Make a million of Christian gullibility and maybe wake up a few.

  2. Ian

    It had occurred to me. Professionally, I would be interested in trying to figure out ways to do better. But one characteristic of Christian Video Games is that they are made by well-meaning people who either have little experience of making games, or woefully overestimate their competence. So the chance of such a company hiring a competent contract professional to help is slim to none!

    As for doing it myself, one thing about evangelical culture is that it is very doctrinally policed. I remember this growing up with CCM. The fundamental questions asked of artists were to test their doctrinal orthodoxy. Artists who deviated or doubted this were very conspicuously outed (minor infractions were met with a kind of ‘pray for X’, more major disagreements ejected an artist from the pantheon). I think one has a cat in hells chance of flying a trojan horse under the radar without engaging in outright mistruths. And that’s a lot of investment to risk for the likelihood of being ‘outed’.

  3. LK

    Hello,
    I was most impressed with your comments here (about 2 years ago) on the limitations of Bayes’ theorem as applied to historical probability and as used by Richard Carrier.

    Do you have any good posts here on your blog about this issue?

    I ask because I too as an atheist (and historian actually) have an interest in the origins of Christianity. My blog on that subject is here:
    http://thoughtsphilosophyculture.blogspot.com/

    I also have an economics blog on which I have been concerned with the role of probability theory in modern mainstream economics and neoclassical decision-making theory, and Keynes’ contributions to probability theory:

    http://socialdemocracy21stcentury.blogspot.com/

    At any rate, some of my thoughts on probability theory are here:

    http://socialdemocracy21stcentury.blogspot.com/p/probability-theory-101.html
    ————————–
    Of course, these might not be of interest to you, but I would like to read more of your thoughts on probability theory as applied to history, if you have any writings on it.

    Kind Regards.

  4. Ian

    If you look in the popular posts section on the right, there are a few, I did three I think, in the end.

    I’ve largely stopped blogging, as I’ve got involved in some other things in my real life. So there’s probably not going to be much else. I’ll read Richard’s new book. And I’ll definitely have a look at your site, but I can’t promise I’ll join in the discussion because I’m just not spending the time blogging that I was.

  5. Karl

    not sure how to contact this blog owner but, I like your blogs and wonder what your thoughts are on the mythicist position video and links?:
    [snip links]

  6. Ian

    I’ve posted on mythicism at other points. It is a fringe position almost entirely promoted by non-scholars that is popular among a certain tranche of internet atheists. It is much like other fringe internet positions, promoted by a group of non-specialists who self publish, one or two credentialled folks without a publishing record in the field, and legions of fanatic true believers. As such, I’m not impressed. But my lack of being impressed isn’t going to stop the true believers believing, of course.

    You might want to figure out how to search the previous post on a blog before spamming it with links.

  7. GratedTopping

    I think “Eternal War: SHADOWS OF LIGHT” is pretty decent

  8. There are a lot more Christian-developed games than we are aware of. Five Nights At Freddy’s and Citizens Of Earth come to mind. Now, when you talk about Christian video games that are marketed as such AND have the Biblical truths in there, now our selection is far less. You’re absolutely right: most are offensive, throw-away “hack jobs”, or mere edutainment titles.

    There are a few that break the mold. The first is one everyone has heard about due to the controversy and all the feels involved: That Dragon, Cancer. It can be argued that this is more of an experience than a game but the production value is there and it’s certainly a high-concept project.

    Heroes Of Issachar is another interesting project. It started off focusing heavily on the Christian messaging but now they’re focusing more on the hybrid core experience of base-building and dungeon-crawling. They had some failed funding rounds and now they’re on Steam early access. The game reminds me of Diablo or Torchlight. Lots of potential there!

    http://bluemanentertainment.com

    Last but not least is a game called ReElise. I’m particularly attached to this project because I’ve gotten to know Justin Fox. He’s very transparent and authentic. It’s clear he is passionate about this project and it’s the game he always wanted to play.

    ReElise combines retro, JRPG, hip-hop, anime, storytelling.. Lots of stuff that you normally would never see together in one package. The game is FUN and it tells a good story, which is rare in itself.. But then there are Christian themes subtly communicated there. Definitely check it out. With enough funding, this game can get the features and polish it needs to reach a wider market and give some credibility to Christian video games!

    http://reelise.com

    …So, it’s not all crap out there. Really, if you look at the gaming industry as a whole, the only difference with big studio releases is that they have higher production value. When you take away the shiny wrapper, you’re often left with turds.. Especially with games that are too concerned with the story or “lesson”, forgetting that a video game, first and foremost, should be FUN!

    But I digress.. There’s still hope! Any way you look at it, indie video games will help keep game developers honest. The more people try out crazy things, the more variety and innovation we’ll see. Surely, a lot of things will miss but, eventually, some things will hit! 8)

  9. Ian

    Five nights at Freddy’s: I didn’t realise Scott Cawthon was a Christian. That really reminded me of my teenage years, with endless discussions about whether such and such a mainstream artist was Christian or not: whether we could claim them as ‘ours’.

    That Dragon Cancer is a really good example. Thanks. It clearly has theological content, but isn’t marketed as being for Christians.

    I haven’t looked at Heroes of Isaachar.

    As for Re-Elise. I know you have a personal investment in it, but it does seem to me it really fits the mould of what I talked about in this post. Ugh. I hate to be negative when you’ve taken the time to comment here. But I can’t imagine that game being the CCM moment for video games. I can’t see it making much of a splash, personally.

    But you’re right there is still hope. And I think it’s only a matter of time before someone cracks the market. Distribution platforms like Steam, Desura and GoG, are like an open goal. May the thousand flowers bloom.

  10. Stan Faryna

    Things to think and pray together on.

  11. At religiousgames.org, I have compiled a list of almost 1400 religious video games, and there are several gems in there. Well designed Christian games include “Spiritual Warfare,” “Timothy and Titus,” and “Super 3D Noah’s Ark.” Also “Pop 613” and “The Philistine Ploy” are good Jewish games. Of course, be sure to judge games according to their contemporary technology, as those games were released across several decades.

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