If you do a google search on Christian video games you tend to find two types of games; teaching games directed at those who are already Christians, and games that try to be relevant in an effort to compete with secular games. I’ll touch on the first type, but it’s the second type of Christian video game I really want to get into. And then I will talk about a third type that I think Christian developers should embrace.
Teaching Christian video games are bought by parents and churches, not kids. Their primary goal is to teach about the Bible, God and Christ, and how to follow his will. The fun aspect of the game is secondary, and that is often noticeable in these games. Think Reader Rabbit, Math Blasters and Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing. Teaching Christian video games is a niche market, the bar does not have to be set very high and I think that might be a good thing.
The second type of Christian video games I call Relevant Christian video games, and this is where I want to spend my time. Relevant Christian video games attempt to use modern game mechanics in a game with a Christian world view. They are suppose to be fun without being Godless. These games are not directed at parents, but their kids. They attempt to compete with secular games… and most fail spectacularly.
Why do the developers fail? I believe has to do with a lack business management experience. The developers sink all of their (and other’s) money in to creating a big budget game without a full understanding of what the ROI (return on investment) will be. When the game doesn’t sell and the money doesn’t come in, they fold.
So, why do the games fail? Because they are too big for their britches. The games try to be grand with a big budget feel, but with the limited budgets and resources they fall short in game mechanics, game play and graphics. They try to compete on the same level as AAA games, but they can’t, they simply aren’t up to the task. They don’t appeal to secular and Christian gamers because of the game play. My guess is that most are purchased by parents.
Enter Indie Games
I think Christian game developers should embrace the Indie game development style. Indie games are developed by individuals or small companies with very low budgets. They often use 2D engines, basic pixel graphics and have a retro feel… and they are very popular. Their popularity is a combination of the retro feel, simplicity and most importantly unique and innovative game themes. Gamers will often overlook the shortcomings of an indie game, shortcomings that they would normally rage against if it appeared in a AAA game. Successful Indie games don’t try to emulate other games, they try to be distinctly unique. Being unique has it’s pitfalls, if you are too far out in left field your game might not be popular. But that’s okay because as an Indie Christian developer you have a very low (or non-existent) budget, you can just try again.
So light up those 2D game engines and SDKs, makes some pixelated sprites and start spreading the Word of God!