Kevin Schut is a lifelong gamer. He grew up on Sid Meier’s Pirates! and Centipede. He still enjoys at least an hour of Civilization (an empire-building game for non-gamer readers) or one of the Monkey Island games (comedy-adventure games set in fictional 18th century-like Caribbean Islands), or something similar, most days.
As a professor of media and communication at Trinity Western University in Langley, B.C., he had heard much of the conversation surrounding video games, a good deal of it negative. “Since I was a teenager, I’ve had to struggle with reconciling this big part of my life—my love of games—with the biggest part of my life: my Christian faith,” he writes.
Calvin communication arts and sciences professor Quentin Schultze recognized that the Christian perspective had been missing from the discussion of video gaming. He encouraged Schut, his former student, to fill that gap.
Of Games & God is an attempt to do just that: get the conversation started, Schut said. “What we really need is a way to think about God, faith, video game and gaming culture. … Video games are a major catalyst for changes in the way we think and relate to one another. We need to talk about them seriously and think about them carefully.”
In the book, Schut looks at the predominant critiques of video games, evaluating them from a Christian viewpoint. Each chapter reflects on an assertion about games, including a connection with the occult, violence and its effect on gamers, the peril of addiction, the role of sex and gender, the “dumbing down” of today’s youth, and the antisocial nature of gaming.
“The key to talking about these things is putting them in perspective,” said Schut. “Are you going to say video games are bad? Then you might as well say books are bad. Some books are bad; some video games are bad. Better questions are what are video games good at doing? And what are they not so good at doing? I’d like to stop the automatic assumption that gaming is an inherently negative thing.”
In fact, there are very positive ways to use nontraditional media like video and video games, he said. “To show a live video of a cell in operation is very powerful and something you can’t replicate in print,” he said. “And just like video, video games can exercise our minds—not in the same way as a book—but in some effective ways.”
Schut believes his Calvin education informs his perspective on gaming. “I have a firm belief that all of creation belongs to God,” he said. “Obviously, video games are human creations but from the capacity that God has put in us. Game makers are very creative, like painters. And if that is the case, it’s up to us to cultivate and critique them the way He wants us to discern all of life.”
Schut’s book also includes a chapter on Christians in the video game industry. “Religion and faith have a space in video games,” Schut said. “Most video game makers don’t understand religion; I would love to see video games that deal with religion in a nuanced way—that really get at the experience of faith as opposed to religion as power. I would love to see more Christians making video games; just out there being salt and light would be a good start.”
The book, though, is intended for both gamers and non-games alike, he added. “Christians who play games need to be a part of the conversation, but for others who have gamers in their life but don’t play, this can help allay and inform some of their fears.”
And it’s only the start of the discussion, he asserted: “This was very much not intended to be the last word. … Christian commentary on video games is really just starting to get going in earnest.
“As in all areas of life, when we play and when we critique video games, our Savior calls us to combat that which makes us less human, less whole and less healthy and cultivate that which brings healing, creativity and shalom.”