I’m not sure if you’ve spent any time recently playing Mirror’s Edge, a recent release by Electronic Arts. Spoiler alert: the game might make you sick, and not for the reasons you’re thinking. Mirror’s Edge is not about violence or gore (although a recent study of video games states that those game characteristics are actually drawbacks for gamers), it’s about “hacking your proprioception” (tip of the hat to Clive Thompson for the quote). Read Clive’s review of the game, it’s absolutely fascinating – but why does it matter if you’re in children’s ministry?
I think many people in children’s ministry have given video games and anything on a digital screen a bad rap. Generally, things that are experienced on a screen are seen as entertainment only. Other authors (Marc Prensky, Steven Johnson) have worked tirelessly to show how video games in particular challenge the mind. What is so interesting about Mirror’s Edge is that it is not just about insanely awesome graphics, the game itself makes the player feel like they are in the game. It’s tapped into a realism (which Thompson describes) that is unmatched in other games on the market. Video games are not just about mindless entertainment anymore. Game developers are focusing on ways to engage the mind of the gamer like never before.
I think here is where the challenge lies for those in children’s and family ministry. What would our ministries be like if they were modeled after a video game? Non-linear musical and graphic landscapes that shift and arrive at the unexpected, challenging the mind and heart at every turn. I think often our ministries are like reading a book (though I have nothing against reading, I read 50 books last year and I’ve already started reading my 5th book in 2009). It’s linear. There’s no music, no motion. Games like Mirror’s Edge capture the mind and we can learn much from it’s approach.