GAMER. Just the mere mention of the word, conjures up images of lethargic teens glued to a couch while barking taunts into a headset. They are a curious sect to many; surviving on a diet of Cheetos and Mountain Dew while hibernating in the dark lair known as their parent’s basement. Then throw in a couple incidents where troubled-teens mention a video game because their not man enough to admit their responsible for their own actions, and you’ve got society labeling gamers as boys living ‘on the edge,’ who are one Red Bull away from marching into a high school with a handgun and re-enacting the exploits of their pixelated heroes. While this may seem a bit too cliché, unfortunately this is the ‘stereotype’ that mainstream America believes the life of a gamer is all about.
“Put down that silly controller, get outside, go play baseball, or hop on your bike and go out for a ride with your friends.” Yes, the argument could be made that these activities are not only a million times healthier, but also socially engaging as well. Likewise, video games today have become so realistic that their graphic images do seem to warrant parental guidance. However, this is not the premise for which this article is being written. As a gamer myself, I grew up with the introduction of the first video game ‘Pong’ and have seen the evolution of video game entertainment transform over the years. Looking back it still amazes me that gaming has evolved from a ball and two paddles, to now having the ability to control an entire universe of digitized soldiers while lounging on my couch in the confines of my home.
Stereotypes aside, today the video game industry is a multi-billion dollar business. Yet, while much of society believes that gamers are nothing more than a bunch of socially awkward teenage boys, statistically this could not be farther from the truth. As the Entertainment Software Association confirms, “As of 2011, the average age for a video game player is 37, a number slowly increasing as people who were children playing the first arcade, console, and home computer games continue playing now on current systems. The gender distribution of gamers is also reaching equilibrium, according to a 2011 study showing that 58% of gamers are male and 42% female” (The ESA). This being said, the stereotypical gamer really is not whom society determines them to be.
If you are a parent, I concede the point that video games have become far too violent. Violent behavior, vengeance, and aggression are often looked upon as a reward rather than a negative in today’s modern video games. And as a pastor I have struggled with the thought if I should be playing these types of games; so much that at one point about a year ago I was seriously contemplating getting rid of my game system all together. Then late one night while playing my favorite game series ‘Call of Duty’ an Xbox Live message popped up on my screen. To my surprise the message said, “Do you know Jesus?” Immediately I quit my game and contacted the sender of the message, Daniel Beck who goes by the gamertag BornAgain2001. Over the course of the next few months a camaraderie and mentorship began to take shape between us. Daniel began to share with me a calling that God had placed in his heart years ago.
“As men of God, we are identified by many titles: son, father, husband, Christ Follower. But identify yourself as a ‘gamer’ and instantly you’re looked upon as a ‘trouble maker’ or ‘unmotivated freethinker’ who is not truly following Christ,” Daniel said. “Yes, games can be negative. But turning away from evil does not mean that we are called to ignore that it exists in the world,” he concluded. As scripture asserts, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21). And this was the motivation behind Daniel taking a leap of faith and founding the Christian Gamer Community called “The 116 Boyz.”
Founded in June of 2012, The 116 Boyz fashioned there name after Romans 1:16, “For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ” (Romans 1:16). The group exists so that Christian male gamers of all ages can enjoy online gaming while incorporating biblical principles and fellowship within the gaming community. This ministry covers all game spectrums and all game consoles to include Xbox, PlayStation, Wii, and PC Gamers. While on the surface, it may appear that gaming is their reason for existence. When a member takes on the coveted role as a 116 Boyz Disciple, they affirm to be Salt and Light to an ever-dimming world. As Daniel says, “We exist to lead those who are lost to Christ; and also to pour our lives into believers who seek a place of community and fellowship with other Christian believers. While we love our gaming, at the end of the day when we lay our controllers down, it’s not about who is the best player; but who has made the most impact of ministering into the lives of online gamers for Jesus Christ!”
While Christian Gamers is not a new idea, The 116 Boyz do try and set themselves apart amongst other Christian gaming organizations. Like other gaming ministries, they conduct weekly Bible studies online and provide inspirational messages of hope and guidance on their website. However, Daniel was determined that The 116 Boyz was not to be just another gaming ministry. To be part of The 116 Boyz, members must adhere to a very strict code of conduct. A code that expects all members to reach out and minister to gamers each time they log-on to multiplayer type games. Additionally, “Followers of Christ come to us at many different points in their spiritual walk. Life sometimes deals us a hand we don’t know how to play. Therefore, I am thankful that we have an ordained on-call pastor available 24-hours a day for counseling and spiritual guidance. I believe this is what really sets our community of gamers apart,” Daniel said.
Since it’s inception, The 116 Boyz have multiplied to over 150 members in just 2-months! Needless to say, if you spend anytime on ‘Call of Duty’ multiplier games, you’re likely to come across a 116 Boy a time or two. With gamertags like Gods Gladiator, x iPastor x, and Jesus Possessed, it becomes a little easier to identify whom it’s members are. But the really standout attribute is found by those who are defeated during ‘Call of Duty’ multiplayer missions. When a person is slain in the game, the other opponent’s Call Sign Tag is displayed. 116 Boyz take advantage of this feature and use the clan tag option to display scriptures (seen below). With the current number of members playing ‘Call of Duty’ the Word of God is being flashed to Xbox live opponents at a staggering rate per hour. And as most people are aware, this can be a very powerful ministry tool as history has proven. During the 2009 College National Championship game, Tim Tebow wore John 3:16 on his eye black; the result, “John 3:16” was searched for on Google more than 90 million times.
One great thing about the 116 Boyz ministry is that it provides parents with a piece of mind about whom their children are friends with online. There’s no doubt that today’s online community can be a doorway that leads down a road of rejection, hostility, and impropriety. For normal youth this is bad enough, but for Christian gamers it can be detrimental to one’s spiritual walk. As 13-year old Kyler Moses, who goes by the gamertag KylerM1999 said, “Before the 116 Boyz, my parents disliked that I was involved with a Call of Duty Clan. The clan swore and verbally attacked other gamers. This is not what men of God are supposed to do. Now my parents love that I am involved with brothers who share my beliefs and make it a point to lift me up so that I remain faithful to what God calls me to do with my life.”
There are many critics that would argue that due to the nature of these games, Christians should not be playing them. Like anything, I believe the most important thing to ask yourself is why you are playing them and what’s the condition of your heart? I have personally witnessed 16-gamers in an online room about to start playing a ‘Modern Warfare 3’ match and hear, “Does anyone have any prayer requests?” And then there was the night when that simple casting of your nets question, “Do you know Jesus?” led a 28-year old man in London, England to Christ. So to say that all gamers, and games for that matter are inherently evil would be callous and unwarranted.
After reading this, maybe you’re still not convinced that gaming can be a real and authentic means of ministry. But as 1 Peter 2:5 says, “You are living stones that God is building into his spiritual temple.” Just because gaming or any other activity isn’t for you, doesn’t mean that those who choose to participate aren’t making a huge impact for God’s kingdom. In today’s society, it’s very easy to become a spectator for Christ’s ministry and not one of His disciples. How often do we spend time on the sidelines of life acting more like an armchair quarterback saying, “I would never do it like that.” Yet, no matter if it’s sports, dance, or yes gaming, we all should seek to find our niche and participate; for everyone of us is a stone for which God to use. I’d like to close with a quote from one of our great former Presidents, Theodore Roosevelt who once said: “It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out where the strong stumbled or how the doer could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is in the arena, his face marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and falls short again and again: There is no effort without error.” In the end, the one that claims the victory is the one who gets out there and does something. It’s the one who is determined to live by the motto, “leave no man behind.” And it is the one that when others are running away from conflict; is seen running intothe conflict. It is the Christian Gamer’s ‘Medal of Honor.’ A medal earned on the ‘Battlefield,’ and for members of the 116 Boyz, it is our ‘Call of Duty.’
Building HIS Kingdom One Soul at a Time…
“Essential Facts About the Video Game Industry.” The ESA. Web. August 24, 2012.