Tag: Theology

Toward a Theology of Game Design


Design for Blueberry Garden on Gamestorm by Erik Svedäng

Sometimes you read a book that flips a light switch in your head. For me one such book was  A Theology of Children’s Ministry by Lawrence Richards. It changed the way I thought about teaching.

Richards looked at the way children learn best and concluded that heart-knowledge was more effective than head-knowledge. A lecture or a lesson plan can’t penetrate the heart the way friendship can. He believed that faith is best taught by modeling behavior in the moment.

It is in fact our emotional responses to situations that trigger our thoughts and shape our perceptions, rather than an analysis of a situation triggering our emotions. As long as our understanding of the Bible and its teachings is not linked to our emotions, it is unlikely that we will remember and apply appropriate Bible truths. (As cited in People in the Presence of God.)

Certainly this is the way Jesus taught. When he wanted his A-team to learn about trust he took them out in a small boat and into a big storm. And then he went to sleep.

If I had the energy, the patience and the grey matter to go to seminary I might attempt to scribble out a theology of game design. Youth workers can’t drag out a leaky boat every time they want to teach a lesson. But using a game youth leaders could capture the essential experience of fear that the disciples felt, and walk students through it.

There is a catch however. Experiences within a game are endogenous, which is a fancy way to say that what happens in the game, stays in the game.

The endogenous nature of gaming experiences is a good thing if you’re playing Grand Theft Auto. But it’s problematic if you’re trying to use a game as an experiential learning tool. For instance you could create a game where the recitation of Bible verses made it possible to overcome obstacles. Inside the game those verses would be valuable and powerful. Would they retain their power outside the game? Or would they become  just that much Monopoly money?

Important things to think about. And if you’re the thoughtful sort, by all means feel free to post a comment.