The Phenomenon of Online Gaming

Online gaming, a cross-generational phenomenon, has been growing rampantly with every passing year.

An astonishing announcement came from Blizzard, Inc., stating the player base for its highly popular game “World of Warcraft” had reached 11 million plus players worldwide. Statistically this means 1 out of 545 people globally play this online game. This is not the only game influencing this group of consumers. These include games such as “Guild Wars,” “Everquest,” “City of Heroes,” “War Hammer Online,” “Star Wars,” and many more to numerous to mention. You may think, “Why would this matter to me as a youth worker or family life minister?” Taking all the Xbox 360 and Play Station 3 online games the number increases to 1 out of every 200 people are plugged in and playing.

Knowledge of or being able to identify the “gamer” community in your congregation or youth group can help make connections to these people. Knowing just a little about online games and their lingo can equip you to establish a conversation and a meaningful connection.

Acronyms and Definitions

Massive Multiplayer Online (MMO):  These games are huge! Thousands to millions of players interact in a social, economic, and battle filled society to gain power. These games can consume hours of a day. With social networks and communications, the game is not limited to anyone type of player.

Role Playing Game (RPG): These games take the player and allow them to become someone else, control that character and digitally explore and live another life. They are extremely fun and interactive.

Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game (MMORPG): Taking the previous definitions and combining them together results in a game which has its own digital world with its own rules, language, social norms, beliefs and subcultures within them.  Blizzard’s “World of Warcraft” is a good example of a MMORPG.

First Person Shooter (FPS):  These games are designed to let the player experience a combat oriented world through the characters eyes. The Bungie “Halo” series is a popular example of a FPS.

Real Time Strategy (RTS): These games operate in a continuous time oriented fashion. The enemy or other players are able to build, gather supplies, and make armies at the same pace as you the player. These games require strategic thinking and experience to play. Blizzard’s “Warcraft” and “Starcraft” series are examples.

Quick lingo to help identify a “gamer” includes:

  1. player vs. player (PVP)
  2. player vs. environment (PVE)
  3. role play (RP)
  4. level (ranging from 1 to 100 in most games, the higher this number the stronger the character/player)
  5. NOOB/N00B/NUB, etc.  (a new player or someone who lacks knowledge or experience of a game and reflects play style)
  6. Map (a battleground or area in which players can interact, mostly for FPS’s)
  7. Zone or Instance (a dungeon or large scale battle in which groups of players interact together to defeat an enemy or reach a common goal)
  8. Guild (a group of players who band together to complete certain objectives as a group)

Statistics show 1 out of every 200 people are playing some form of online games and 1 out of 545 play Blizzard’s “World of Warcraft.” To illustrate the commonality of “gamer” subculture, while on a home visit, I discovered the family played “World of Warcraft.”  This included Mother, Father, and Son who had not been connecting to the church or youth ministry for some time. When I learned they played, I sent youth group information through the in-game mail system of “World of Warcraft.” By connecting through the game, I was able to communicate more with them, and they reconnected with the youth group/congregation. Not limited to this one family, I also have encountered an elder of our congregation and his two sons, an offensive lineman, a long distance runner, a group of confirmation students, a girl, and the list goes on and on who are involved in gaming.

Jesus and later Paul in his journeys set a biblical model by understanding and meeting people in relationship to their personal circumstances. Likewise, empower your ministry by familiarizing yourself with gamers and their lingo, and then apply the gospel as Christ or Paul did.

Paul stated, “To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the Gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings” (1 Cor. 9:22,23). Since most people are dying to talk about what they love, communication can be established with the gamer by becoming interested in their activity. Building this relationship can now generate an avenue to share with gamers about the One who loved us so much He died for our sake.

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