Ministry of Game is about games, but it’s also about more than that. It’s also a ministry of a church seeking to serve gamers, both as a community and as individuals. We’ve been able to accomplish a lot through this group – we’ve helped people in distress, given friendship and encouragement to people in difficult circumstances, supported families through troubles and grief, given food to people struggling to make ends meet, as well as seeking to do our bit to make a community where it’s safe to be who you are, and enjoy gaming with others who share a passion for games and fun.
The group also exists to build and strengthen bridges between the gaming community and the church, and between gamers and God. We don’t push our beliefs, and it’s never been a requirement that people be Christians in order to join the group and play or even run games. But we do make sure that people are aware that the church’s doors are open, and that the Christians who are at Ministry of Game are open to talk about issues of belief, faith, morality and spirituality.
Because we are seeking to build a gaming space that is welcoming, open and safe, we have a number of guidelines that we expect all of our GMs to follow. These can be found at this link: ministry-of-game-gm-expectations-2016
As of 2016, in an effort to foster communication between players and their GMs, we have also introduced a Player Feedback Form. This is just a simple form that allows players to give their GMs feedback about the game in a non-confrontational way. There is one that is for simple general feedback (found here: mog-feedback-general) and another that has more guidance in case you’d like some help knowing what to say (found here: mog-feedback-general mog-feedback-guided).
Jesus and Gaming
At one of our annual weekends away together as a group, one of us gave a talk entitled Jesus and Gaming. We thought it would be worthwhile including the text of it here.
“So I have between five and seven minutes, and in that time I want to cover why there is any link between Jesus and Gaming whatsoever, and why those who care about one (gaming) are not somehow by definition excluded from caring about the other (Jesus) and vice versa.
And I think what I need to do is start off with an apology. I know a lot of people who are gamers have had bad experiences with churches and Christians. Sometimes it’s because of gaming – I’ve met people who were told they were going to hell by their grandma because they played D&D; and I’ve met someone who got pigeonholed as some sort of devil-worshipper for reading a Warhammer 40k rulebook on the bus. Sometimes it’s not because of gaming – you went to Catholic school and got treated badly by Christians; or you’re gay or transgender and get treated badly by Christians; or there are Christians and churches on TV who disagree with things you think (which is allowed), but who do it in an unfair and hurtful way (which makes them jerks). It hurts because getting picked on by someone who is ignorant about what you’re doing is frustrating and idiotic; because being labelled and mistreated is nasty and painful; and because it’s just plain hypocritical for people who harp on about love and grace and mercy to go around being mean. So I want to apologise for all of that on behalf of every Christian who has said something stupid – including me. And I’d ask that if you have ever said anything stupid yourself, that you might forgive them.
I could spend my time defending the reasons why people may have had good intentions for doing or saying stupid things about gaming. But I don’t think it would be a good use of time. The whole situation can be boiled down to the fact that here we are, on a weekend away organised by a bunch of Christians, supported by a church that wants to do stuff to help people play games which have included D&D, Warhammer, Call of Cthulhu, Vampire and all sorts of dark and spooky things. There are Christians and churches who love gaming and gamers.
Instead I’d rather do two things with what’s left of my time. Firstly, I’d like to talk about why Jesus says and does a lot that supports gaming, why Jesus would say to Christians that they should be supportive of gamers. Secondly, I’d like to do it the other way around, and talk about why gamers should be supportive of Jesus. I should state straight out that my accounts of Jesus assume the bible is the most reliable and authoritative source of info on Jesus, who he is and what he said. You might have questions about that, which is fine – ask them at question time – but for the moment I’d ask you to assume it for the sake of my talk.
Jesus doesn’t have anything to say about gaming specifically in the bible, which isn’t hugely surprising. People did play games back then, but it wasn’t on the top of the list of things to address in terms of what the world needs to hear. But our discussion doesn’t just end there, because I think there’s a lot you can say about gaming without talking about specific games.
Let’s think briefly about gaming. Why do we play games? I came up with this list: to enjoy ourselves – ie, fun; to hang out with friends; sometimes to enjoy our own company in solitude; to be creative or enjoy creativity; to enjoy and participate in stories; and to relax and even to escape the difficulties of reality. There might be more. I’d like to think I at least hit some big ones.
And these are things that Jesus does talk about. Some things he only touches on – for instance, when we talk about creativity, it is only mentioned in passing that Jesus, as God, is the creator of everything. That’s kind of a big deal. Not only did Jesus create games (I think they fit into the idea of everything), but it means that he, as God, endorses creativity. Jesus also tells stories, in which unbelievable things happen to make them more exciting and poignant. It’s true that he tells those stories to teach people about things, but he also wants them to be gripping, enjoyable, worth listening to. I don’t know about you, but I find the best games – whether RPG, computer or board game – are the best because of their good backstory: and a good story isn’t just one that’s entertaining, but that is also meaningful, that speaks to us, that tells us something.
Jesus knew it is important to hang out with people close to you, friends who you can share life with, and he also knew the value of getting some time to yourself. And he recognised the value of rest and relaxation. This is a guy who, in the bible’s account, had the most important job in the world – but he still took time out to chill by himself, and to relax with his mates.
But maybe the two things that Jesus had the most to talk about when it comes to what makes gaming important to us are what he has to say about enjoyment, and what he has to say about escaping the hard times in life. And this is where I turn the tables, and say that we as gamers should be getting behind Jesus, because he’s both very much in line with gaming philosophy, and offers us what we’re looking for, but on a much bigger scale than the games we play ever could provide.
Enjoyment and escape are two sides of the same coin. We use gaming to create good times that we can enjoy, and we can use the enjoyment of gaming to help us escape the bad times that other things in life might serve up. And you know what? Jesus gets that. He knows that this life can serve up some pretty crappy times. Sickness, poverty, injustice, hypocritical assholes, death – Jesus faced all that and more. And he calls on us to try and bring people comfort in the face of those crappy things. That’s what MoG is about: being a place to escape the world and enjoy good things – friendship, stories, creativity – through gaming.
But Jesus didn’t just face these hard things in life. We all do that. What Jesus did was promise to end these bad things. He’s got them tagged for destruction. He showed that in his life: sick people came to him and he healed them; poor people, and he fed them; oppressed people, and he defended them; hypocritical people, and he stood up to them; dead people (okay, the dead people didn’t come to him), but he raised them. And he said that all this is just a taste of what’s to come. Because his plan is to take all that bad stuff down. It’s all destined for the garbage compactor on the detention level. He can do that because he’s God. And he proved it by going up against the most powerfully bad thing we know – death – and winning by being resurrected.
It would be great if the story just ended there. But there’s a problem. None of us is perfect. Just think of all those times when you have been the jerk someone else has wanted to escape from; the one who was a bad loser, or a bad winner; or the attention magnet; the rules lawyer; the disrespectful one; the selfish one; the annoying one, the hypocritical one. And that’s just in gaming! When Jesus says he’s chucking all the garbage out, why wouldn’t that include us?
And the answer is: he says it doesn’t have to. Ever let someone sit at your gaming table even though they can be frustrating, and yet wished you could also fix what’s wrong with them? That is the offer Jesus makes. He wants to give us a seat at his gaming table forever, starting now, and also make us the perfect player – one who can deal with the things in life we all want to escape, and who can help others too. And what does he ask? You might think that he asks you to play by the rules of his game. But not even. You should play by the rules because the game is better that way. But that’s not his focus.
No, what Jesus asks is that you let him run the game, and trust that he’ll do it right. Which is harder than it sounds, especially when we’ve all got opinions about how the game should be run! But that’s what he wants. He doesn’t want rules lawyers, he doesn’t want one-shot players, he wants genuine friends to come and join him at his table for the whole campaign. And he’ll take care of the rest – he’ll transform you into the person he wants you to be, and he’ll transform life into what it should be – something we can always enjoy, and never need to escape, because of him. He will even bring the snacks.
That’s Jesus’s promise: you trust him to run the game that is existence, and he’ll make you a better player of that game now, and he’ll change the world to be the way it should be forever.”