ATLANTA — Grand Theft Auto" has been impounded in the Gardner household. So have 1,000 other video games filled with debauchery, decadence and carnage.
Today this family’s interactive entertainment is far more divine.
Electronic Bible games loaded with tests and trivia. Digital duels between David and Goliath. Adventures and challenges with pious themes where any violence appears virtuous.
Hallelujah! At last!
"It wasn’t easy, but [my children] realize the violence and the things they saw wouldn’t help them in life," said Janice Gardner, mother of three boys and two girls ranging in age from 25 to 11. "We’re down to Christian games. They’re a lot of fun to play."
Video games, long berated for explicit content and nihilistic themes, are gaining popularity in an unexpected arena: the Christian marketplace. A whole new genre of Christian-themed video games are converting many who once viewed such entertainment as corrupting.
Now? It’s a cash cow.
While claiming only 1 percent of the video game marketplace, that equates to a $200 million-a-year industry, according to Ralph Bagley , spokesman for the Oregon-based Christian Game Developers Foundation. Slowly, Christian game titles are appearing at retailers such as Circuit City, Best Buy and CompUSA, in addition to the aisles of Christian bookstores, such as the Family Christian Store chain.
"They’re selling pretty well," said Larry Finch, manager of Family Christian Stores in Kennesaw, Ga.
And the conversion has only begun.
Video games are just the latest form of media in which Christian themes are stirring interest — and income.
…"Word of mouth was instrumental in spreading Christianity and is driving Christians to the cash register in mass quantities," said Pete Snyder , CEO of Arlington, Va.-based New Media Strategies, an online intelligence company that tracks message board and forum response online.
Snyder cited the "Left Behind" books, "The Passion of the Christ" movie and the Christian music scene as successful examples.
I can almost imagine a Left Behind video game. Whey your player disappears, unlike other video games, it means you won. You increase in righteousness by reading crappy Christian fiction.
Let those who believe that Christian games are as dull as a staid Sunday sermon grab a copy of N’Lightning’s "Catechumen."
The game works like a traditional first-person shooter, but instead of firing lead and lasers into soldiers or aliens, players use a variety of spiritual weapons, such as balls of holy energy, to slay Satan’s minions and free possessed members of a Christian flock in ancient Rome. Instead of "fragging" — video game lexicon for a kill — a player basically smites. [Source]
The game’s Web site offers the challenge: "Show them nothing can overcome the power of the Holy Spirit."
I guess a game where you visit the sick, those in prison, and praying for the conversion of others won’t get much traction. Not much chance of a First Person prayer coming out any time soon. Or one where we we treat other players badly an image of Jesus weeps. Whatever you do to the least you do to him.