Video games are highly successful in today’s media market, but Christian-themed video games haven’t been as commercially viable as more mainstream titles.
People of all ages and from all walks of life play video games in some form in this current age. Video games are not only available in the home market through consoles; they can be found on smartphones and tablet devices. Several publishing and development companies are entrusted with creating the type of video game content that will be heralded commercially and financially.
The most popular video games that exist in today’s market include more mature content and realistic visuals. Franchises such as "Call of Duty," "Gears of War," and "Mortal Kombat" fit into that category of content.
Safer and more family-oriented video games can also be found. "Mario Kart," "Dance Central," and "Virtua Tennis" all present safer alternatives to more violent video game-themed material.
However, one field of video games that seems to get less attention from gamers is Christian-themed video games. Some feel that is due to their low quality, preachy content, small availability etc.
When asked why Christian-themed video games aren't as successful as today's more popular video games, the responses presented different viewpoints. Facebook user Jason Howard said, "I think it's because Christian video games are mostly trivia based. The market for trivia games is not that big to begin with."
"There ARE no good Christian based video games," said Facebook user Rich Knight. "What? Left Behind? "Joshua" for the NES? "Super Noah's Ark 3D?" (Look this game up if you don't know what it is). If there was like, a super violent, God of War style Christian-themed game, I'D buy it."
Christian video games were first marketed successfully by developer BibleBytes in the early 1980s on several different microcomputer platforms. During the late 1980s, BibleBytes ported these games to the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) by Wisdom Tree. One of the first Christian Video Games ever released were the "Bible Computer Games" series, which was written and published by BibleBytes for the TRS-80 Color Computer in 1982.
The first Atari 2600 Christian video game "Music Machine," which was created by Sparrow Records. Sparrow Records is a popular Christian music record label.
During the late 1980s, unlicensed game developer Color Dreams went under the name of Wisdom Tree. They proceeded to develop the first Christian video game for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), called "Bible Adventures." In 1991, it was released and sold in Christian bookstores.
In recent years, Christian video game developers have gathered together to form an organization. This group, which is committed to enhancing today's Christian media, is known as the Association of Christian Entertainment.
Gamers can now play Christian video games online. In 2011, Christgaming.com became public for this very idea.
A new crop of video game companies have delivered Christian video games to the masses. Some of the more noteworthy video game companies that produce Christian titles are Left Behind Games Inc. (Inspired Media Entertainment), Digital Praise and Hexify (Lightside Games).
Brent Dusing, CEO of Hexify, gave his thoughts on why Christian video games may not attract as much attention as video games in other genres. "To understand Christian Video Games and their success, it’s important to note that Christian games did not succeed on the consoles (Nintendo, PlayStation, etc)," he said. "This is primarily because the console market caters to people who are expecting a more action-oriented (Shooting, Racing, Fighting) gaming experience. The type of experience hard core gamers are looking for is often not met in the Christian Genre."
"However, in the last 4+ years, Facebook has become a very large active gaming community. Also, there are many more middle age players and females," he continued. "Also, many people use Facebook as a way to pursue their personal interests, which makes the audience ripe for Christian games. We've seen a lot of success with Journey of Moses on the Facebook platform, because we produce the style of games our demographic is looking to play on Facebook."
Hexify runs the video game development studio, Lightside Games. They are said to be today’s leading maker in Christian video games.
Dusing believes Christian video games can be a success if they’re presented in a more genuine way. "Christian games have to be authentic and high quality," he stated. “Christians want to know that their beliefs are being treated with respect and that God's Word is the bedrock for the game and not being distorted. Also, gamers want to play a great game."
"If people are taking their time to play a game, they want to have a great time and expect to see a high level of quality," he continued. "Lightside Games’ core mission is to create fun, high quality Christian games. Our games resonate with world-class graphics, strong music and fun gameplay. Authenticity is core to what we do at Lightside. We draw stories and themes from the Holy Bible that are the foundation of our games."
Hexify and Lightside Games currently have a successful Christian video game out called "Journey of Moses." Dusing said that, "Journey of Moses is a very successful Facebook game. We had well over a million people play Journey of Moses all over the world (and counting!). Our performance and reviews have been very good." The title can be found at apps.facebook.com/journeyofmoses.
Christian video game companies and development studios are currently looking to produce more titles for today's gamers.
With more organizations and developers looking to create genuine Christian video games for the current market, the success of these titles may even reach the level of its more mature-rated counterparts.