Book Review: Of Games and God

Review by John Kupitz

In Kevin Schut’s book, he does far more than explore video games. He explores gaming, media and technology, and relates them to issues of violence, gender roles, education and community—all under the heading, “What is Christian?” Each chapter covers topics that themselves could be made into books.

I’m a youth pastor, a life-long gamer and about the same age as the author, so I found myself blissfully reminiscing as I read his story. Schut does a fantastic job of backing up his statements with cutting-edge research, interviews and statistics. More importantly, Schut has a profound understanding of the nature of games that added to my understanding.

As I encountered issues covered by the book, I relayed my thoughts to the guys in my youth group (all of them avid gamers). It was the first time I had had such deep spiritual conversations with some of them. The fruit of such discussion has already led me to recommend the book to every pastor, parent and gaming student I encounter. This is a discussion we must have with young people.

I must admit, however, that I had hoped to read how gaming relates to Sabbath rest, how it might pertain to the Great Commission, and what other Scriptures might relate to gaming. I’m sorry to say that there is scarcely a Bible verse in the whole book. While I would still recommend the book, I would add that if you’re looking for scriptural advice on gaming, you’ll have to look elsewhere.

John Kupitz is youth pastor at United EFC in Klamath Falls, Ore., and the father of three future gamers. He can often be overheard telling teenagers that Jesus, like Mario, is all about saving His princess, the church.

Review by Bob Manuel

Parents of gamers, or those who simply want to better understand gamers and their culture, are well served by this book. (According to the author, gamers are those who play video games at least two hours per day.) Being a nongamer, I never quite understood the attraction gaming had for my kids, and the book helped me with that.

Weaknesses? Schut’s heavy use of sociological research, personal observations and experience, while helpful, would have been bolstered by employing the supra-cultural perspective of Scripture in matters of discernment.

Strengths? While he admits to being pro-gaming, Schut does offer informed critique throughout. His discussion of the role of fantasy in human experience was fascinating and may go far to help dispel knee-jerk critiques of gamers who “escape” into fantasy worlds.

Don’t read this book if you are looking for easy once-and-for-all answers to whether games and gamers are good or bad. He didn’t write to settle those questions. Instead, read it to better understand the gamer in your life.

Bob Manuel is co-pastor of CrossWay Community Church (EFCA) in Grand Rapids, Mich., and admits to playing Angry Birds on his iPhone.

Review by Joey Woestman

An unapologetic fan of the video-game medium, Schut brings a perspective that forces thoughtful Christians to confront common polarized positions in favor of a more discerning perspective—a perspective grounded in a theology of play, fantasy and cultural engagement. Schut challenges us to exegete video-game culture for what it can tell us about faith, humanity and spirituality.

Of Games and God is part of a growing body of literature encouraging Christians to think critically about our relationship to technology. I also recommend From the Garden to the City: The redeeming and corrupting power of technology, by John Dyer, and Flickering Pixels: How technology shapes your faith, by Shane Hipps.

For the pastor wanting to understand the child playing Elmo Loves ABCs, the teenager playing Call of Duty, the young professional playing World of Warcraft or the mom playing Candy Crush, Of Games and God helps us think about God, faith, video games and gaming culture from a distinctly Christian perspective.

Joey Woestman is a self-proclaimed techie geek and pastor of student ministry at Faith Church (EFCA) in Indianapolis, Ind.

Review by Penny Unruh

I picked up this book for my son, whose college major is digital arts and entertainment—in other words, video game design. I wanted him to get a biblical framework for his studies and chosen career field. As a complete novice and skeptic when it comes to video games (I can’t even keep Mario on the track), I found it helpful to read the book before passing it on.

The author sketches the context of the video game world, including its relationship to other forms of media; its reputation of encouraging violence, addiction and antisocial behavior; and how following Christ might affect a gamer’s decisions regarding which games to play and how to play.

Reading the book has opened up a discussion with my son and has given me a window into his world. His comment, “It’s cool that you know that,” made the book worth reading. The book does not claim to have all the answers but aims to get the conversation started.

Penny Unruh has served since 1999 with EFCA ReachGlobal in Belgium and is the mother of three boys. She works as a discipler and mentor with young adults in the Flemish city of Ghent.

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