GameShift: Winning Isn’t Everything Anymore

I just finished reading a Wired Article entitled “Why Aren’t Games About Winning Anymore?” by Jonathan Liu.  Liu uncovers a recent trend in video games where modern games are less about actually getting to the last level (a la Super Mario Brothers) and more about gaining achievements during the game. For instance, I have become addicted to the iPhone app Angry Birds. Angry Birds is a great game built on a ridiculous premise: catapult birds into fortresses made of wood, ice, and stone so you can destroy green pigs.  As I have played through the game, I noticed that every once in a while a message would flash across the lower part of the screen indicating that I had reached one of the game’s “Achievements.”  The game all of a sudden became less about defeating the green pigs (which is relatively easy) and more about the achievements. I’m wondering about how this applies to children’s ministry.  One of the most addictive things about a video game is the constant feedback and rewards.  Can that sort of feedback and reward be built into children’s ministry programming?  Would it be harmful to include “achievements” into children’s ministry programming? What do those look like? Our ministry context has been integrating some Bible Reading Schedules into most of our K-5th series.  The struggle has been finding the right reward for the kids completing the reading schedule.  Frankly our efforts have been lackluster.  But what if the reading schedules were web-based and as the kids read the passage, they received a little message (just like I did in Angry Birds), letting them know that...

Changing the World with Video Games

I am continuing the series of posts on kidmin and video games.  In my research, I came across Evoke.  According to Evoke’s blog, “Evoke is a ten-week crash course in changing the world. It is free to play and open to anyone, anywhere.  The goal of the social network game is to help empower young people all over the world to come up with creative solutions to our most urgent social problems.” Evoke is the kind of thing children’s and family ministry leaders need to pay attention to!  Imagine if we could engage kids in virtual projects aimed at faith formation (serving, evangelism, discipleship, prayer).  Expect to see more and more games like Evoke in days to come.  If you are a gamer or know any programmers, DM me on Twitter!  I’d love to explore this...

Learning from Video Games: Impatience

I just came across an article entitled, “I Want It Now! The Fierce Urgency of Videogaming’s Future.” The article identified a key characteristic of today’s video game consumer: impatience.  Ever heard of Farmville?  The insanely popular Facebook game’s chief game designer recently pinpointed that many gamers lose interest in a game because the game takes too long to load.  Take a guess about how long Farmville takes to load…. Six seconds. That’s it. Here’s a quote from the article by Stephen Wadsworth, Disney’s President of Interactive Media Group: “The 20th-century notion of waiting around to watch shows when they air on television, or saving up to buy CDs, is quickly becoming antiquated as technology makes it easy to consume movies, TV and music on demand. As game development and distribution methods evolve, the same trends are changing the way the videogame industry works.” Hang around a kid with Internet access and try explaining an old movie to them.  See how long it takes for them to tune you out and look up the movie on YouTube.  They want everything right now. Here are a couple other highlights from the article: Close to half of children’s television is either time-shifted (through the use of a DVR) or done on a mobile device. While kids are happy to come to (Disneyland) and spend hours in line for Space Mountain, they’ve got a very short threshold when it comes to interactive media. So kids are impatient, is this really a digital characteristic?  When they start getting impatient after waiting six seconds because they can find something (or anything) in three seconds online, then...

Informed by Gaming

Several years ago I stood in front of a group of children’s ministry volunteers and leaders at Elmbrook Church in Brookfield, Wisconsin.  For the very first time, I shared my thoughts on how digital kids learned and the challenges ahead for the field of children’s and family ministry.  One of the big questions from that presentation that has stayed with me over the past six years has been: What if children’s ministry became more like a video game than a book? Steven Johnson wrote in his must-read work, Everything Bad is Good for You: Video games are 3D landscapes and soundscapes.  They require complex muscular movements and the answers are almost never provided and there are multiple threads to constantly consider.  Games are often played in community, a global network of like-minded, diverse gamers.  The instruction manuals to many of these games are useless because the gamer is required to test the limits of the system.  Gamers are always asking, “What’s happening right now? What if children’s ministry became like a video game?  Not cheap fluff entertainment, but a visually and mentally stimulating immersion into Biblical community and fellowship with Christ? Because I am still wrestling with this question, this month I am going to highlight a few resources I have come across that relate children’s and family ministry to the practice of video games. I’ll point you first to Gaming in the Classroom. Lee Sheldon, a professor at Indiana University, created a course that was modeled after a video game.  According to the blog, “Every student has an avatar name, creates group project in their guilds, and earns...

Wii Fit Examined

Forbes just released an article discussing the merits of having Wii Fit around the house.  I’m not sure if you have a Wii or not (or if your ministry uses one), but I absolutely love it.  According to gaming blog Kotaku, having a Wii Fit is only useful for those who play it regularly. Ummmm…duh!  I guess you probably will lose weight and get in better shape if you use your fitness club membership too and that Bible you have sitting around might actually change part of your  life if you read it and obey it. All sarcasm aside, I was more interested in the article for two other reasons.  One – my family has a Wii Fit and I find it incredibly useful for keeping track of my fitness activities and weight.  In fact, my entire family just started a Biggest Loser contest!  Wii Fit (and our elliptical machine) will be getting regular if not daily use for the next several weeks. The second reason I was interested in the article is because it cited some start-up research being done on the obesity epidemic in America and its effect on the America family.  Scott Owens, a professor at the University of Mississippi, will be conducting some ongoing studies on Wii Fit in order to get a glimpse into how video games play a role in obesity.  Results are expected in...