Social Games: The Newest Ministry Outlet

Brent Dusing | Crosswalk Contributor | Thursday, October 13, 2011

Social Games: The Newest Ministry Outlet

In today’s media-saturated world, churches must find creative ways to reach people with the Gospel message where they are. There is great opportunity to creatively share the message of Christ. But I believe there is a new outlet which can help propel the Gospel – social gaming.

Believe it or not, social gaming – web-based games that are played on social networks – has over 300 million people worldwide every week. Since the industry’s inception in 2007, it has rapidly become a $1.5 billion industry. A recent Nielsen study showed that more people are spending time online playing games than reading email, searching through news and reading about current events.

So chances are, whether you know it or not, there are people at your church or in your small group that are “gamers.”

I grew up as part of the “Nintendo generation." Some of my social interaction with friends involved playing video games together. In school, I was making my own board games to play with friends. Today, as a grown man, husband and father, I still enjoy playing games whether they involve a game board, cards, video console, computer or cell phone. And I am not alone. The Entertainment Software Association's 2011 Essential Facts About the Computer and Video Game Industry show that 72 percent of American households play computer and video games.

And contrary to stereotypes, gaming isn’t just for young men. Over 60 percent of Facebook gamers are female. Players come from all walks of life, from diverse nations around the world. The average social gamer is a 43-year-old woman.

Considering these aspects of this new, growing industry, the possibilities for outreach, spiritual growth and ministry through social gaming are endless.

A 2010 Information Services Group study revealed that 62 percent of those surveyed played social games with real-world friends, while 56 percent played with online friends. Over half of all social gamers started playing a game because a friend recommended it or they saw it in a news feed or other social stream.

A large reason why social games have taken off is the community aspect, because of their ability to have fun and interact with peers online. The games allow friends to cooperate, help and sometimes even compete with one another to reach player goals.

In fact, in most social games these days, progress is inhibited unless you have friends playing games with you. Through this interaction, relationships are built, conversation is generated and opportunity for discussion about spiritual matters is presented.

Gaming also presents an opportunity for parents to interact with their children or lead them toward positive and uplifting gaming experiences.

We have had many players of our game, Journey of Moses, comment that one of their favorite aspects of the game is that they can use the game to explain a Biblical story to their children. At Hexify, we have worked hard to make sure the Journey of Moses adheres to the biblical account, while adding details to the story in the game.

One of our biggest objectives with Journey of Moses is to help players “get inside the head” of Moses. We want to explore the very human emotions that Moses must have experienced in his life. We want players to appreciate Moses’ faith walk was very similar to that of others: full of ups, downs, obstacles and ultimately a maturity to trust in the Lord.

While all games should be built for fun, it is possible to make a game fun as well as provide opportunities for biblical learning.

Ultimately, games are a form of entertainment, and just like every other form of entertainment, it can be uplifting or destructive depending on the content and approach. And like many other forms of entertainment, social gaming and traditional gaming provides an opportunity for ministry in the 21st century.

Brent Dusing is the founder, chairman and CEO of Hexify. Dusing is a gamer at heart and enjoys his fair share of online, video and board games. Fueled by his passion for games, Dusing started Hexify in 2010, quickly building a name in the social gaming industry. Dusing has a bachelor’s degree in economics from Harvard University. He spent a year serving in Johannesburg, South Africa, working for Central Methodist Mission.

Publication date: October 13, 2011