Gaming for God – An introduction to video-gaming for parents

Video games are a large part of the lives of children, but as parents we can feel on the back foot. It can be hard to know how to use them positively. By knowing more about gaming we can make informed choices about how best to guide our children in this area.

What are video games?

While video games vary greatly in the content they offer and the challenges they present, they all have one thing in common: they create a virtual world and then invite us to enter it and play a particular role.

This might be an exciting Fortnite battle or a beautiful underwater exploration, like Abzu, that encourages us to praise the creator. But how can you find games that offer more than entertainment?

Finding good video games

All games are not the same; there’s a difference between time spent alone in a room, shooting people on a screen and a creative, story-based game which is played with a friend.

A good place to start discovering games is in your church community. You probably know people who play games in different ways. Talking to other families about the games they recommend is really useful, and a shared interest in gaming can help your child form relationships with other adults in your church.

Beyond your community there are some great online resources designed for parents, to help you find positive games.

Family Video Game Database is a large library of game descriptions. You can search for any game you want to know more about (Roblox, Fortnite, Call of Duty Vanguard etc.)

The database also helps you find games with unusual themes:

?–? Games that offer calm

?–? Games where you walk in someone else’s shoes

?–? Games where you can find God

Some less-well-known games that Christian parents have enjoyed finding in the database include:

?–? Alba A Wildlife Adventure

?–? Flower

?–? Conduct Together

?–? Wilmot’s Warehouse

Other useful resources are:

?–? AskAboutGames which helps you set appropriate limits on the games your children play.

?–? Internet Matters which offers wider advice on healthy technology use.

Get involved

The most important thing you can do as a Christian parent of a child who loves video games is to get involved and play with them. Ask questions so that you understand what they are doing and can make informed choices about how they need guidance. Why not find a game you enjoy and play on your own, to enter into the gaming world and understand what your child loves about gaming?

Practical hints and tips

Think about where in the house you put a games console – ideally in a shared family space. Look for games that the family can play together. When buying a new console, take the time to set it up beforehand, without the children around, so you can think about the limits you want to put in place. How long can they play for? Can they spend money in the game? If so, how much?

You can find detailed instructions on setting up consoles and smartphones for your children at AskAboutGames.

Gaming and mental health

Some parents worry that excessive gaming leads to poor mental health, but gaming could be the way a child is dealing with bullying, anxiety, identity issues or other difficulties. Perhaps the game offers a supportive community, or is a place where they feel stronger and more productive than in real life. By talking to the child about their reasons for playing you can help them to use games in a healthy way as one of their coping mechanisms.

A good way to engage with a child playing games too much is to spend time with them while they play. Ask permission, and commit to staying for 20 or 30 minutes. Most parents are surprised how keen a child is for this (and that they don’t see it as an intrusion). This time not only lets you see how they play, but also offers material for lots of ongoing conversations.

This enables you to ask more open and interested questions about the games your child is playing. “What are you working on at the moment?” “Have you had any big achievements recently?” “Tell me about your character in the game?” “Do you play with your friends? How do you work together?”

The Taming Gaming website includes lists of games that can aid mental health e.g. by providing calm, hope or space for grief.

Yes, gaming can sometimes be an obsession, a headache and a cause of arguments, but it can also be a positive part of life that contributes to the wider family and even the faith of your child. So, get involved! Join your child in their gaming world and explore together.

Andy Robertson is a freelance journalist for The Guardian and BBC and wrote the Taming Gaming book for parents.

Click here to listen to Andy Robertson, Ed Drew and Andy Geers talking about video gaming on the Faith in Parents podcast.