Looking back at old news, and a rant about “projects” May 23, 2006Posted by joshg in Christianity, Islam.
Since it feels like this site hasn't dealt with a faith other than Christianity yet, I thought I'd link to an old post from Water Cooler Games on a group making Islam-themed games. The Islamgames site seems to have disappeared, and I didn't get to play the games, so I can't offer any new opinion on them other than to refer to Ian Bogost's take on things.
It's interesting that one commenter felt that the Islamic theme was superficially added after the game was made – it had no real relevance to the gameplay itself. It sounds similar to the phenomenon I've seen before in some Christian games.
(Big dump of personal opinion on how this comes about after the break.)
It's a phenomenon that I think I can relate to, in some degree, looking back on my upbringing as a Christian and my friends at the time. It's not uncommon for a young Christian kid to at some point feel convicted (or perhaps just pressured) to get rid of media such as music, books, movies, or games which are seen as a bad influence. I won't suggest that this is either good or bad, as it can go either way and it's pretty relative to one's personal situation.
So what do you do if you've listened to a certain style of music, or played a certain type of game, for months or years and really love it, but suddenly are trying to clean out bad influences? For many, the answer is to find an alternative which is stylistically similar but with a positive message. But if that alternative can't be found, the next step for those who are ambitious enough can be to create your own alternative. Unfortunately, what this often means is that the person trail-blazing new ground in Christian media isn't deeply interested in creating art for art's sake, or even for the sake of exploring how to express their beliefs and thoughts sincerely, but rather how to get a "safe" version of what they used to enjoy. The result of this is a carbon-copy of the original influence, but with only the superficial elements changed.
It's sort of the artistic equivalent of knowing that someone is being your friend only because they want you to "get saved". The result, even if they're a really nice person, is that you feel like a project. And Christian music and book stores have seen a lot of missionary "projects" pass through their doors.
This is why I often find myself battling cynicism when I look at the current state of Christian gaming. I know there are good people out there making these games, people who I view as brothers and sisters through a shared faith, and I want them to do well and continue creating and exploring new ground even if their methods aren't mine. But as a gamer, as a music lover, as a bookworm, I don't want to feel like a "project". Make something because you love making it, because you believe that it's something worth making even if it never leads to a single person converting to your belief. Make something because it's in you and you know that it's meant to come out. I know I've seen the results of this in the work of my favorite Christian musicians and writers, because it shows. I want that same creative integrity to show itself when I play a faith-based game.