Issues of diversity are a hot button topic these days, both within the church and in broader society. The internet gives people from all walks of life a platform from which to voice their opinions and shape the surrounding culture in ways that weren’t imaginable just a few decades ago. Racial tensions in the U.S. have exploded following multiple controversial police shootings, as well as increased activity from white supremacist groups. On top of that, concerns surrounding the equality and treatment of women in the workplace came to the forefront of public consciousness following the fall of Harvey Weinstein and the rise of the #MeToo movement.
Within Christianity, churches grapple with how to make sure that they are welcoming to as many different people as possible. New ministries spring up to connect with unreached people groups; worship styles change to accommodate those with varying music preferences; congregations debate what roles women can fill in contributing to the life of the church.
And then there’s gaming. Do questions of diversity play any part in gaming culture? And if so, do Christians involved in gaming circles have any role to play in this discussion?
The answer to both questions is a resounding “yes!” Diversity is just as much a hotly debated topic in gaming culture as it is elsewhere. Many, if not most, video games are made by largely male development teams and aimed at fellow males. At the same time, there is a strong desire for more diversity in gaming, including amongst game developers; according to a recent study by the International Game Developers Association (IGDA), 81% of game developers consider diversity in the workplace to be important, and 85% consider diversity within game content to be important as well. In addition, 44% perceived inequity towards themselves and 56% perceived inequity towards others based on gender, age, ethnicity, ability, or sexual orientation.
This desire for more diversity provides an opportunity for us to step into gaming culture with the Gospel. As Christians, we believe that all people reflect the glory of God; Genesis 1:27, declares that “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” And at the end of the Bible, the apostle John describes the vision he sees of the whole church worshipping God at the end of days:
After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”
For Christians involved in gaming, we should seek to make gaming culture reflect those pictures from the Bible. All people involved in gaming—men and women from every background—should feel welcomed and loved by God and his followers. We want aspiring game creators to share themselves with others through the games they create, so that everyone can benefit from the knowledge and perspectives they bring to the table. People should feel that gaming culture is a place where they can challenge other’s assumptions, and be challenged in turn; that here, too, they find a place where “iron sharpens iron” (Proverbs 27:17).
Over the coming weeks, we’ll be taking a closer look at diversity in the game industry and in gaming content itself, focusing specifically on how women and those of different races and ethnicities are treated and represented in gaming culture. We’ll examine historical trends within the game industry, find areas of needed improvement, and also spot some encouraging ways that gaming culture embraces diversity. I hope this study proves helpful to those who seek to bring Christ’s love to the world.
This piece was originally published on Michael’s personal blog, The Heartland Gamer, and has been republished here with his permission and a few minor addendums as requested by the editor.