“You shouldn’t have left our school” I heard a Year 6 boy say on the weekend to another member of his indoor hockey team. And then followed it up with “We are doing a chapel series on gaming!”
I work at an all boys school in the affluent western suburbs of Perth. Gaming is something that almost all are interested in. After mentioning Minecraft a couple of times in chapel and realising the sudden interest there, I decided to do a chapel series using gaming as the theme. ‘Gaming Meets God’ was born. The services followed a fairly standard APBA based liturgy but the homilies were built around a particular game each week and how it intersected with an important Christian idea. This is how it was structured:
Week 1 – Minecraft. Explanation: Minecraft is regarded as one of the greatest video games in the history of the world. It has enormous, expansive worlds to explore but is also full of the opportunity to create. We explored the idea of God the creator, how humans are his most treasured creation and how we have a calling to be creative in our lives too.
Week 2 – Fortnite and Halo. Explanation: These games are primarily about fighting ‘the other’. You win by killing others and surviving, at all costs. It is terribly fitting illustration of human evil and sin – where we fight for ourselves at the expense of others. If Halo or Fortnite were real, most of us would have horrifyingly sad lives.
Week 3- The Legend of Zelda. Explanation: this hugely popularly game series drives a fantasy narrative where the protagonist Link has to save the world from an ancient evil. It is a story about self-sacrifice for the good of the world and the hope of peace. It echoes the story of Jesus, his sacrifice to bring peace to all things.
Week 4 – Mario Kart. Explanation: have you ever noticed how in Mario Kart, no matter how hard you try, you can’t die? You can get struck by lightning, drive into bridges, get run over, drive off a cliff and you’ll always be back racing in a few moments. Everyone seems to be friends in some way, having a lot of fun in a beautiful, interesting and colourful worlds. Christians hope for a new heavens and new earth where death will be no more, where humanity will be at peace and where the beautiful of God will shine through all things.
The series was a real success in engaging the students with something they knew well and teaching some important Christian ideas.
In the final week of chapel, the school’s Chapel Captains run everything. The chaplain gets to sit back and relax. Here is the sermon script for our last week (Mario Kart)
Dhruva: Well Josh we have looked at some pretty great games this term at chapel
Joshua: I know, there was Minecraft, then Halo and Fortnite, then The Legend of Zelda.
Dhruva: But there’s one game I think we really need to talk about. It’s such a classic, and quite different from those. See if you can guess what it is. It’s colourful. You go really fast. You get hit will shells but you can never hurt yourself. You can be a princess one day, and a dinosaur the next.
Joshua: Oh! Oh! Oh! I’ve got it… is it Roblox?
Dhuva: um…. no.
Joshua: oh! Oh! I know I know! Pokemon Legends! That must be hit
Dhruva (facepalm): No Josh, it is of course…Mario Kart!
Joshua: Oh I love that game. Put your hand up if you have played it before. (hands). It’s great, you get to be a Mario character and race a little go cart round. You race in ice-worlds, rainbow worlds, regular worlds. You pick up shells and banana peels and stars, you do jumps and take shortcuts. It’s fantastic!
Dhruva: Absolutely. Let’s have at a video of some of the play
VIDEO 1 – (A Mario Kart video from YouTube)
Joshua: That. Was. Awesome! He did jumps and then a parachute popped out. He went into super fast mode. He was even throwing stars at people! They were all like picking up gold coins as they drove along.
Dhruva: I know. It’s cool huh. Did you see the guy with the banana peels ready to throw in front of his friends?
Joshua: yeah, that was amazing. But you know there’s one thing I don’t get.
Dhruva: what’s that?
Joshua: no matter how much he tried, he couldn’t die. He couldn’t even get hurt. Like he got hit with mushrooms, he drove into people, he drove into walls and bridges and it never hurt him at all. There wasn’t even a health bar. The guy got struck by lightning and sure it slowed him down for a second, he didn’t even fall of his bike – he just kept driving!
Dhruva: yeah but that’s not the worst. At one point he drove off a cliff. Like literally drove off the cliff. And then he was back on the track in the next moment. How fun would that be in real life? You’d race around on a motorbike, knowing that you can crash, you can get hit by lightning, you can drive off cliffs and in the end, you’ll be completely fine – not a scratch. That would be amazing!
Joshua: It be would heaven.
Joshua: it would be heaven. You know it’s a figure of speech
Dhruva: but I think you’re right. What Christians call heaven has some similarities. Our Bible reading today talked about a time when there wouldn’t be any pain, any sadness, there wouldn’t be any tears, or crying and no one would ever die.
Joshua: are you saying that heaven is going to be racing around on motorbikes throwing shells at each other?
Dhruva: I don’t think so Josh but the game does remind me on God’s promises for the world. In Mario Kart everyone seems to be friends and no one seems to get hurt. That’s the kind of world I think God is talking about.
Joshua: So we’ve looked at God the creator in Minecraft. We’ve looked at human evil and sin in Halo and Fortnite. We’ve looked at Jesus saving the world in Zelda. And now we’ve found God’s promise for the future in Mario Kart. How good are video games?
Dhruva: Very good. I would even say they are spiritual.
Joshua: Ooooooooo. Can we watch another video? Please please please please please?
Dhruva: O……K. This is one of my favourites. In his final lap, Koopa Trooper begins in 6th place, and then does the best lap ever to come through in first.
VIDEO – (Another Mario Kart video from YouTube)
Joshua: Well we look forward to a new heaven and a new earth where ‘there will be no more death, sadness, crying, or pain’.