Christian "Grand Theft Auto?"
Children are exposed to violence, coarse language and other mature concepts every day through the media of modern society. Many parents feel the effects of such exposure are negative. For example, “Yes, Christian children are being exposed to negative influences from standard gaming, if they play games like “Grand Theft Auto”,” said Joshua Watson, a Christian father and OCU professor. In recent medical studies, media violence is one of six key warning signs in child-bullying triggers, and is the one considered most stoppable, by some medical professionals.
From a student’s standpoint, what options are available when designing a game around a Christian moral framework? “Our obligations as Christian game designers are to make sure we include our morality inside any game we make. We need to do more than just modeling,” said Cari Brady, a current OC gaming student.
She went on to express a desire for OCU to offer more in-depth classes on game morality, not simply basic techniques. “Our teachers should be encouraging us to grow spiritually, not just economically. We make around one game and take several classes – like photography – that we don’t use in real life,” stated Brady.
Lack of genre innovation in relation to how Christian games are played and presented has affected the games’ acceptance even inside the religious community. "As a long-time gamer, I would be interested in Bible-based games since I am also a Christian,” said Kirk Gatlin, a health care professional and avid gamer. “They would need to be challenging, well-developed and have some type of an adventure, fighting, or similar theme just like any other game. Something that would capture my interest beyond just presenting Bible stories."
Matt Raines, a minister with the Chula Vista, Ca Church of Christ, agreed. “I absolutely believe there is a place for Christian games, provided the right platform can be found. The recent “Grand Theft Auto 5” –where they spent something like $80 million – the most expensive or close to most expensive amount ever spent on a single game, could be done because they had the right platform and knew they would get their investment back. [They] packaged it with the right approach, right look and feel and marketing. [I am] not certain how to make something like that and still keep it sacred, so to speak, but it should be doable with the right thought process."
From a strictly business standpoint, Christian games belong to a small niche. When asked why Christian games are not big-ticket items today, “They’re actually doing well, for what they target. They’re targeting younger children, churches, etc., but that discourages adults and older kids – teenagers – from buying them,” said Christopher Parker, an OC gaming alumnus.
Parker believes changing the music commonly associated with Christianity would be a start to broadening the receptive audience. “Yes, there is a market for Christian games, for all ages,” said Parker. “Yes, there is a need for them, with all the hyper-violent games – like GTA – portraying prostitution and theft as the life. Change the formula, play some Red, some rock, not just Jesus Loves Me.”
Oklahoma Christian University promotes a Christian lifestyle and encourages students of every major to reflect their belief systems in their future jobs. Yet the Christian college may be missing the mark in one big field of study; their gaming students have an opportunity to change a whole industry for the better.