Wednesday, September 19, 2012

What if I could combine things I love

I hope it is obvious, but I love God.  My faith is vitally important to me, and something that I am very passionate about.  While not on the same level, I really liked to play games and I believe deeply in the educational value of games.  My entire approach to youth ministry is one that is based on using games as a form of experiential learning to connect the game with the scripture so that the student's experience in the game makes the scripture more applicable and understandable.

There are some ways that I really would like to explore faith with games.  While these ideas have ministry potential, these are things that I would  really, really love to do personally.  I will put up front that the biggest problem with both of these ideas is that they require finding the exactly right people to fulfill with them, and that really will be a great difficulty.  Ignoring that little detail, here are two projects that I greatly wish that I could undertake:

1.  Bible Study RPG:  I have mentioned in previous blog posts, how much I enjoy being a gamemaster in role playing games.  The creation of a story that is made by the interactions of the players (and some random chance) is great fun and the ultimate way to tell a story.  I think a role playing game can be an ideal way to explore the stories of the Bible.  I do not mean that players actually play the disciples or anything, but a game that takes the essence from stories of the Bible and puts characters in them could be a great way to better understand the story.  For example, what if characters encounter a good king that to cover up an adulterous indiscretion gives orders that will result in the death of the woman's husband?   Players putting themselves in this situation will have to determine what they do, and in doing so they may gain an unique perspective and understanding of the story of David and Bathsheba.  Another aspect of this idea is that through creating a character, the player's create a new personality to explore.  Thus, a faithful follower could create a player character who is a skeptic, and in playing this character the player could gain a deeper appreciation of why people might be a skeptic in faith.

The Bible is full of deep stories that are inherently powerful and inherently point towards a deeper knowing of God.  Using these stories as the basis for a RPG campaign guarantees the campaign will have great stories.  It will also mean the game can help bring the players closer to God, because the game will actually make it so that the players experience the stories from the scriptures.  I think that this kind of RPG would work well in a low fantasy type of setting.  I am not sure what system would work best, but I think that a dice-lite system would work best.  This can not be a game where a player is not safe from the lion den they have been thrown in because they fail their faith roll.  I know I have already stated this like three times, but role playing stories that are designed to capture the essence of biblical stories seems like such a great way to gain a better understanding of the scripture because it makes the stories something that is experienced.

2.  Create a Christian Game:  I am really fascinated with the idea of creating a real Christian board game.  By this I mean a game that will stand on it's own as a fun game, but that's mechanisms and thematic implementations actually teach Christian values, ethics, or praxis.  Most Christian games are terrible.  They are either trivia based games, or they are other games that have a Christian theme slapped over top of it.  This latter category tend to be actually worse games than the original (Apples to Apples: Bible Edition is a great example of this).  There are some games that attempt to use a Christian theme and do it well (Journeys of Paul and Solomon's Temple for example) but do not really teach through the process of playing the game.  

The problem with creating a Christian game is that many Christian values do not translate well to a competitive game.  For example, selflessness does not make for a good game mechanic.  If you are making choices to put someone else first, so that you can win. . .then you really are not putting others first.  I still think it is possible, and there are plenty of examples from Christian history that could make for a good game theme, and still have potential to teach.  One such theme off the top of my head is William Wilburforce's movement to abolish slavery in England.  There could be a good game there.

I also have a rough idea for a cooperative card game where about the cooperation of churches to meet the needs of social justice issues, while also meeting their own perceived needs as a local congregation.

The key part of this idea is that I would not want to do it on my own.  I love being creatively collaborative on something  I am passionate about doing.  The best part about making our silly Masked Banditz videos in college is that it was a collaborative process.  I would love to work with a small group of people to crack this nut.  Together, we could work to understand first how to make good games.  Once we experiment at game design,  then we can work to make a good game that stands on its own as a good game as well as being a game that can be instructive about how to live as a Christian.  

I know these are kind of pie in the sky ideas, but I think I am going to make it an official life goal to see one of these two ideas happen some day.


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