A Feature Review of
Of Games and God: A Christian Exploration of Video Games
Reviewed by Adam P. Newton.
Before we get into the meat of this review, I must confess to you that I love a good video game. Granted, I would never call myself a “gamer,” mostly because I like a specific subset of video games (Japanese-style fantasy role-playing games), and I’ve never voraciously engaged the wider community of gamers (mostly because I’m acutely aware that my “appreciator” status makes me an outsider). Nevertheless, I’ve received my fair share of odd looks and occasional rebuffs from church leaders and pastors whenever I mentioned that I play video games, especially the older I’ve become. Thus, it’s important that I’m upfront with my intrinsic bias towards the idea that the playing of video games is quite the OK practice for a Christian.
Kevin Schut makes this same confession in order to provide context and clarity to the discussion in which he engages throughout Of Games and God (though he’s a much more diverse and experienced gamer than I could claim to be). The book serves as an excellent examination of the intersection of gamer culture and Christianity, especially since a book of this nature hasn’t been attempted in the past. Schut confesses to his frustrations regarding the substance of the Church’s traditional critiques of video games – namely, they’re either a waste of time or they’re filled with content antithetical to the Christianity.
The author presents the reader with a reasoned defense of video games and gamers against those who might blindly castigate them without even attempting to understand the medium or participants. Schut approaches the situation as an opportunity to make connections, provide context, and strive towards a mutual understanding. Instead of getting aggressive, defense, or angry about the unfair treatment he feels video games have received from the Church, each chapter addresses a direct concern that Christians and media critics have levied against video games, with specific attention made towards education and forthright elucidation.
With chapters 1 and 2, we’ve given an outline of gaming as an institution, complete with the beginnings of a glossary (completed and collated at the end of the book). The idea is that, without any sort of common language or vocabulary, it’s difficult to have any sort of conversation that doesn’t quickly devolve into each side lambasting the other through the use of cliches and stereotypes. Specific attention is given to presenting the fact that, thanks to the immense popularity of programs like Angry Birds, Farmville, and Words with Friends, there has been a dramatic rise in recent years to the people who could be called gamers. These people might not play regular console video games, but they are very frequent game players, whether or not they actually think of themselves in that matter.