Thursday, November 11, 2010

video game engagement

Me playing Operation 7
(and doing quite well actually)
earlier this year
I like video games.  Currently the games I'm playing most are Bejeweled Blitz on Facebook and a shooter game called Operation 7.  Wahoo!  I've spent countless hours of my life in video games. Most of the time I prefer it to television.

Okay, so what?  Well, I know I'm not alone, I read an article last month that said that people spend 927 million hours a MONTH on Facebook games.  Ya, that was staggering, even to me.  Activision's newest game Call of Duty: Black Ops sold 5.6 million copies in the first 24 hour period, about $360 million dollars US worth.  Note that Black Ops is a game rated M and is for adult gamers.  That's some serious numbers about games.

Now some would argue that all this gaming is not a good sign.  I was challenged today listening to a TED video: Tom Chatfield: 7 ways games reward the brain.  He cited the intense passion that many people have towards video games and noted 7 things that contribute to our collective obsession with them.  Essentially he was asking how does video games elicit such a strong engagement of it's players?

So my big question is this: 
Can we as a church learn something about how to get people engaged in growing as a Christian in a way that is similar, or at least informed by how games engage people?

Without trying to explain everything he spoke about, here's the seven points:

1. experience bars measuring progress
2. multiple long and short-term aims
3. rewards for effort (every effort no matter how small)
Me playing Runescape August 29, 2006
4. rapid, frequent, clear feedback
5. an element of uncertainty
6. windows of enhanced attention
7. other people

Gamers will often do repetitive and boring tasks over and over again in a game.  How does the game get people to do boring virtual things over and over again?  How does a game get dozens of people to spend a month building a virtual ship?  It appears (I've never played this game) that in EVE Online the Titan class of Capital ship takes that kind of work.

Can I as a pastor learn from any of this?  I was listening to another TED video: R.A. Mashelkar: Breakthrough designs for ultra-low-cost products, he gave this quote:

When you wish to achieve results that have not been achieved before, it is an unwise fancy to think that they can be achieved by using methods that have been used before.
-Sir Francis Bacon

So how do I engage people?  Are there things that we can do that will engage people more effectively in Christian devotion?  Or are video games and the spiritual disciplines too disimiliar for there to be any crossover?  What can I do differently in a church that would engage people in a way that is more encompassing?

What do you say?


Tarasview said...

interesting... not sure what to do with it though. It seems so hard to think of new ways of doing church!

RAH said...

Interesting. I was struck by the quote where it says "When you wish to achieve results that have not been achieved before". But of course the church would like to reproduce results that have been achieved in the past. Like so many things in life, video games are actually parodies rather than metaphors.
In my own experience of the faith and when I look at others I know or read about, it seems that there are no shortcuts. It's irritating how countercultural our faith is. For many years they used the business world as a model for the church and it hasn't worked out well. I fear it comes down to taking up our cross and following Christ for spiritual development.
That's not to say we can't look at some of his points and see useful tips: other people are imperative to our faith; an element of uncertainty is a bit of an understatement for our faith; rapid, frequent and clear feedback would be great but I've heard God referred to as "the three mile an hour God", or it would be nice but rarely reality.
This is now longer than your posting. I'm sorry about that but it was obviously provocative for me.

Sweet Mummy said...

My sweetie and I are both gamers (though we've pulled back quite a bit lately) having played everything from Bejeweled to Star Craft to Evony online... And we built significant relationships especially out of the hours of Evony play. So, that kind of thing is impactful in other ways as well.

As far as your post goes, we're always about getting people's attention for "church stuff". It seems like stringing some of these things together would take some serious brainstorming, and it would really only be relevant for one segment of the population (though, maybe a growing one...). In essence, this line of thinking could possible from the core of a discipleship course or series of courses. Could be very engaging for young adults, and as a creative person I see all kinds of possibilities (multi-media, etc.). It would take a lot of tweaking, and someone would have to decide if it was worth the time investment.

In our current situation anything that goes too far outside of 'traditional' would not be supported from within the church even if the potential reach beyond the church walls was significant.

As RAH said, my comment is now longer than your post! LOL! OOPS! Anyway, something to think on!