Of Games and God

A Christian Exploration of Video Games

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About

Video games are big business, generating billions of dollars annually. The long-held stereotype of the gamer as a solitary teen hunched in front of his computer screen for hours is inconsistent with the current makeup of a diverse and vibrant gaming community. The rise of this cultural phenomenon raises a host of questions: Are some games too violent? Do they hurt or help our learning? Do they encourage escapism? How do games portray gender? Such questions have generated lots of talk, but missing from much of the discussion has been a Christian perspective.

Kevin Schut, a communications expert and an enthusiastic gamer himself, offers a lively, balanced, and informed Christian evaluation of video games and video game culture. He expertly engages a variety of issues, encouraging readers to consider both the perils and the promise of this major cultural phenomenon. Readers engaged in contemporary Christian reflection on media, technology, and popular culture will value this work. It will also work well as a supplementary text in media, communication studies, and popular culture courses.
 
Contents
Foreword by Quentin J. Schultze
1. Finding Balance in an Unbalanced Discussion
2. How to Understand a Video Game
3. Making the Immaterial Playable: Games, Religion, and Spirituality
4. Games and the Culture of Destruction: Violence and Ethics in Video Games
5. Escape! The Peril of Addiction and the Promise of Fantasy
6. Real Men, Real Women, Unreal Games
7. The School of Mari The Brain, Education, and Video Games
8. Making a Different World: Christians Building Video Games
9. Plays Well with Others: The Social Side of Gaming
10. Do You Want to Continue Playing?
Glossary

Endorsements

"With solid research and intellectual curiosity, Kevin Schut dispels myths, debunks stereotypes, and offers an informed, levelheaded, and accessible analysis of a perplexing and contentious subject. Of Games and God is a valuable resource that invites players and skeptics alike into a critical discussion of the dark spots and bright lights of interactive video games."

William D. Romanowski, author of Reforming Hollywood: How American Protestants Fought for Freedom at the Movies and Eyes Wide Open: Looking for God in Popular Culture

"Kevin Schut's Of Games and God is an engaging introduction to the topic of video games written for Christians, particularly those who have never considered the value of video games or those who wish to defend them as a worthy pastime. Balanced in its perspective, broad in its scope, and written for a general audience, Of Games and God fills a niche that has long been waiting to be filled."

Mark J. P. Wolf, Concordia University Wisconsin; editor of The Medium of the Video Game

"Outstanding read! If you're a gamer, media junkie, teacher, parent, or student, you need to read this book. Christians and non-Christians alike will find gems of truth throughout the book. Reading it is only the beginning of the conversation!"

Kelly Zmak, Infinite Game Publishing

"Kevin Schut's Of Games and God provides a balanced, research-driven perspective on the hugely influential video game industry. A must read for anyone with questions on the compatibility of the Christian faith and interactive entertainment."

Joseph M. Tringali, general manager at 5TH Cell, developer for Scribblenauts and Drawn to Life

"Gaming is a notoriously difficult topic to analyze and the relationship between gamers and churchgoers is typically less than cozy. Nevertheless Kevin Schut explores the problems and promise of today's dominant cultural medium with insight and understanding of both gamer and church cultures. Like it or not, gaming is a powerful vehicle for teaching values and ethics, and churches that ignore how gaming is speaking to their teens and young adults do so at their own peril. But with this great book, every gaming noob can speak l33t and grasp the relevant social trends at the same time."

Chris Skaggs, Soma Games


The Author

  1. Kevin Schut

    Kevin Schut

    Kevin Schut (PhD, University of Iowa) is associate professor and chair of the department of media and communication at Trinity Western University in Langley, British Columbia. His research uses video games to investigate the intersection of communication,...

    Continue reading about Kevin Schut

Reviews

"Schut offers well-researched ground for fellow believers to begin critically engaging with an oft-derided medium. He deftly addresses typical arguments lobbed against video games by presenting anecdotes, scientific studies, and interviews to start a critical dialogue about faith and games. . . . Schut calls for a healthy Christian criticism that withholds absolute judgments, considers context, and synthesizes perspectives when it comes to games. . . . He makes an undeniably honest and heartfelt attempt to understand not only the relationship between Christianity and video games but also between faith and modern culture."

Publishers Weekly

"[Schut] deals with [the] issues as someone who knows what he is talking about. He's a gamer, and a video game academic. . . . Schut has put some heavy research into this book, including some interesting original survey studies of gamers and game designers. But unlike some academic books, this one is readable. One of Schut's strengths is his ability to unpack difficult and subtle concepts in a way that is approachable, using metaphors that are within anyone's grasp. His writing is clear and crisp and fun to read. Even his endnotes are worth reading; he cites so many good resources. Ordinary Christians who want an informed perspective on video games ought to read this book. . . . Concerned parents (or pastors, or youth leaders) will understand the dynamics of gaming better, so gamers will feel more understood. And gamers will have a better idea of some of the dangers and risks inherent in gaming that concern their parents (or pastors, or youth leaders). . . . Schut comes at these issues as an expert who knows the field well enough to see both sides. . . . He comes as a Christian scholar who makes his field accessible to his readers through his own faith-informed perspective. We need more of his kind. . . . What Of Games and God does is map out space for further Christian thinking about video games. And that in itself is a major achievement."

Ted Turnau,

Christianity Today

"Navigating the gaming culture is treacherous without a clear map. . . . Of Games and God is a welcomed addition to the field. . . . Schut's work is a solid introduction to video games, the gaming culture, and its intersection with Christianity. His descriptions are thoughtful, his knowledge of games and gaming culture is apparent, and the challenges of interacting with games and the gaming culture are realistically portrayed. This book would fit well as a supplemental text in a youth culture class or discussion piece in a graduate seminar. . . . Of Games and God is a thoughtful read that provides needed insight into video games and the gaming culture. Anyone training or working with teens and emerging adults will find Schut's work a helpful introduction and guide."

Darwin K. Glassford,

Journal of Youth Ministry

"The debate about the nature and validity of video games has been, for the most part, bungled by both sides. . . . Schut . . . deals seriously with criticisms . . . addressing not so much the overreaching language but the assumptions behind them. And he does so with a large measure of grace, humility, and nuance. . . . Schut interacts thoughtfully and extensively with . . . legitimate considerations, combining scientific research, experience, and biblical teaching to present a case resembling less of an argument and more of a methodical example of critical thinking. . . . Of Games and God [is] the only extensive and balanced consideration of the medium I've yet seen. Not only is the book broad and open-ended enough to remain relevant for years to come, but it is also informed and nuanced enough to be taken seriously by thoughtful fans and critics alike. Both sides will find plenty here to consider. . . . It's imperative . . . that interested Christians consider how they can appropriate God-given values like creativity and exploration in the most spiritually nourishing way. Of Games and God enables readers to wrestle robustly with this question."

Richard Clark,

The Gospel Coalition

"A tremendous resource to share with Christians to help them understand not only why they should care about video games, but also why they are worth engaging. Schut helps Christians understand what video games are and what they do best. He also wades faithfully and thoughtfully through the most common objections leveled against the medium by Christians. . . . Schut's book helps Christians move away from scoring games on their morality and toward a more Christocentric type of games criticism. . . . If we, as Christians, would learn how to thoughtfully engage video games, we might find ourselves poised to have some grace to impart to the millions of people across the globe who play them."

Drew Dixon,

Think Christian

"The book serves as an excellent examination of the intersection of gamer culture and Christianity, especially since a book of this nature hasn't been attempted in the past. . . . The author presents the reader with a reasoned defense of video games and gamers against those who might blindly castigate them without even attempting to understand the medium or participants. . . . The author effectively advocates for the gamer and video games in the context of how the Church has usually regarded the issue. He directly conveys his concerns regarding certain games, and that feeds into his broader appeal--this should be a discussion rooted in context, balance, and honest examination of the facts on the ground. . . . I applaud Kevin Schut for effectively crafting a well-reasoned discussion that achieves the necessary balance for what could be a very contentious situation."

Adam P. Newton,

Englewood Review of Books

"Schut's book is a must read for those struggling with the returning question of just what good are games and what are games good for. The author, a gamer himself, takes us through many of the logical pitfalls of the gaming community. . . . A particular noticeable highlight for me was the inclusion of so many games and terms I have come to love over the years. There are even images included in the book. . . . For the non-gamer, though, Schut does include a helpful glossary of gamer terms. . . . He urges us to play on, but to be mindful of the issues he has presented. This book should be a staple for youth pastors and parents alike who are fearful of what video games may be or may not be doing to or for their children. There are positive benefits of the gaming world and they should not be overlooked; likewise, there are negative aspects as well. This is Schut's drama, then, to walk the line and to play on."

Joel Watts,

Unsettled Christianity blog

"A one of a kind, top-notch, must-have for any geeks or gamers. . . . Without a doubt the best (just about the only) book on the subject. . . . This one gets it just right. . . . If you know any gamers, they will be impressed to see a thoughtful integration of their passion with the Christian faith."

Byron Borger,

Hearts & Minds Books blog

"[Schut] does an excellent job of conveying thoughts and research from both sides of the video game discussion. He notes that this book is an introduction to the topic, which is true, but it also has very good information for those who don't really understand video games as well as those who play them a lot. He has some very important things to say to gamers. . . . Schut has given us all, gamers and non-gamers alike, tools to look critically and thoughtfully at what video games are communicating, how we interact with them, and what that means for our Christian spirituality."

Mitch Toler,

The Center for Youth Ministry Training

"[Schut] approaches the subject from a balanced Christian perspective. He desires to 'work out the relationship between Christian faith and games,' rather than take sides on any one of numerous specific points of debate, and in this endeavor he is quite successful. . . . In each chapter he does his best to offer both sides of the argument to the reader, letting the reader gain some perspective on where the debate currently stands. It is only then, at the end of a chapter, that Schut offers his own opinions and views, and when he does it is always in a spirit of humility. . . . In a field of study dominated by knee-jerk reactions and strong emotions, Schut's approach is a wonderful breath of fresh air. . . . Schut doesn't try to give us the final word on the morality of video games; instead, he walks the journey with the reader, attempting to apply what the Bible has to say and helping the reader build a healthy critical framework from which to approach important issues in the gaming world. Of Games and God is a great book for the inquisitive Christian, whether a parent, pastor, or 'gamer.'"

Andrew Morris,

Artistic Theologian

"To date, this is the most important book written for anyone who is interested in the intersection between Christianity and videogames, or for any Christian wanting to know more about the videogame medium and the challenges/dangers it poses. . . . Of Games and God is extremely well researched, and Dr. Schut makes some new contributions to the discussion through his expertise in media studies. The chapter on violence in particular is some of the most balanced and well-researched work I've read on this important issue. Throughout the whole book, it is evident that Dr. Schut tries hard to be balanced and respectful, yet is underpinned by strong biblical convictions. In particular, his humble and non-defensive attitude when discussing these issues is worth emulating by the Christian gaming community. . . . I agreed with the vast majority of Dr. Schut's observations, and greatly benefited from his research and insight. The Christian gaming community owes a great debt to Dr. Schut for writing this excellent book."

Yann Wong,

Redeemed Gamer blog

"Schut skillfully avoids the traps of immediate condemnation and naive optimism that new technologies seem to set. Instead he recognizes that life in God's good but fallen creation demands that we celebrate the good while always keeping our eyes and ears open for how sin will distort. Schut gives Christians a great guide to the terrain, pointing out often overlooked benefits. . . . Most importantly, he argues that to understand video games we must engage them. Not from God's omniscient point of view--a perspective we can never attain--but rather with our hands on the controllers and with a discerning spirit, helping others spot both the good and the bad that we see and hear as we play, just as we do all other things, for the glory of God."

Greg Veltman,

The Banner


Resources


Media

Introducing "Of Games & God: A Christian Exploration of Video Games" - Kevin Schut "Of Games & God: A Christian Exploration of Video Games" - Kevin Schut - Why This Book? "Of Games & God: A Christian Exploration of Video Games" - Kevin Schut - What Is the Book About? "Of Games & God: A Christian Exploration of Video Games" - Kevin Schut - Dangerous or Wonderful?