So, over the past week or so there have been several posts in the youth ministry blogosphere that deal with using Halo in youth ministry settings. I decided that I would go ahead and chime in. Before I do however, a few disclaimers – I have yet to play the Halo 3. To be completely honest, I don’t have time. I have played through the campaign for the original Halo, and I’ve spend plenty of hours playing multiplayer. I’ve also played, on occasion, Halo 2 multiplayer. I’m also an avid video game fan.
So, to start, we need to acknowledge that someone’s theology is ultimately going to be a huge deciding factor in playing Halo, or other FPS video games at a church youth event. If one is a committed pacifist than I imagine Halo will be less likely to show up at a youth ministry event. On the other hand if one is not quite that committed to pacifism Halo may be more likely to show up. Theology impacting youth ministry is a good thing. We do need to be consistent, overall, between our theology and our practice.
Moving on from theology specifically, I think Tim (linked above) hits the nail on the head when he says that we need to be consistent across our practices. Playing paintball, laser tag, or T rated FPS games and then bemoaning Halo as “violent” (or worse, something crazy like saying it “teaches people to kill”) and saying that it is not a good game to play at youth seems to me a bit inconsistent – but each person will have to sort that out on their own. Tim goes 2 for 2 when he says that Christian video games are really no alternative.
However, I think Brian, over at Rethinking Youth Ministry, brings up an excellent point. If we are using Halo, or other video games, to attract students we need to be careful. If our youth ministries are going to be cut in half if we stop playing Halo, we have done something wrong. I’ve used video games in the past, and I have used them attractionally. In my present ministry we play Guitar Hero and DDR regularly, and may very well begin playing the first Halo, or one of the worms’ games, at some point in the future. These games aren’t used to attract students so much as they are things we do together, as a community. Some students play, others watch, we talk and have fun together. Some might become nervous with the idea that a game console is helping us form community – but I would make that argument. It’s obviously not the only thing that helps us form a community, and it certainly doesn’t define our community.
So, I would agree with Tim that it’s a gray area. I’d agree with Brian that there’s a problem if students are going to drop out of our ministries if we don’t play Halo. In my own ministry I deal with games like this: if they help bring us together, laughing, having fun, talking, being together that’s great, we’ll use them. If instead they destroy conversation, shut people down, and lead to arguing and bickering, then we won’t use them. Case-in-point: Guitar Hero can sometimes, in our ministry, lead to two people playing who aren’t talking to each other and aren’t interacting with those watching. That needs to change or GH may be coming off our repertoire of normal video games. This is also one of the reasons I’d love to get a Wii for the youth ministry. Mario Strikers Charged, Super Smash Brothers Brawl, Wii Sports, these are the kind of games I can see us playing together, laughing with, and talking about afterwards.
Video games used to get students to come = bad idea (IMO)
Video games used to build community = good idea (IMO)