Relevant Gaming is a Christian based website run by Jerry Brown. They write reviews, devotionals, and articles on video games in a way that Christians will feel comfortable with. I discovered Relevant Gaming and sent a request to interview it’s founder, Jerry Brown. He graciously gave up some of his time to reply to my questions below.
Gaming and God: Tell me a little about yourself. How did you get into gaming, and what’s your testimony on how you became a believer in Christ?
JB: I started gaming as a kid in an unconventional way. My dad had picked up a Vic-20 from a flea market. There wasn’t really much you could do with the outdated CPU, but I began to experiment with a programming language called BASIC. I soon realized I could write some simple code, and I could play games much like Pong, or Missile Command. I would save my games on a cassette tape (the old version of a hard drive) and when it was time to play a new game I would erase and start again. I soon moved to the various systems throughout the years, Atari 2600, Sega, NES, N64, PlayStation, Xbox, Xbox 360, PS2, PS3, and PC. I currently play on a PC because I can edit content and upload to the various outlets Relevant Gaming incorporates from one machine.
I have lived in south Mississippi all my life, and in south Mississippi when I was a kid you’re raised in church, you go to church on Sunday and if you’re asked about your faith the quick answer is always “I’m Christian”. As a teenager I had a very shallow relationship with Christ. I was a Christian in name only.
I married at a young age. My wife even then was a solid rock, and she began to plant a seed that would bloom years later.
In the meantime because of my shallow relationship with Christ we didn’t stay in church long, and justified our absence by telling ourselves that we didn’t need church to be saved, which is true, but we were using it as an excuse to live our lives in opposition to Christ.
As young families do, we began to have children and I wanted my children to be raised in church. I wanted someone else to take responsibility for being the priest in my family’s life. There is a saying where I live “Fake it until you make it.” and that’s exactly what I was doing.
As I listened to the Word Sunday after Sunday, and began to read my Bible the seed my wife had planted years before began to bloom and I begin to truly experience a relationship with Christ and soon accepted him as my King and my Savior.
GG: So how did you start your website? What made you want to create a place where Christians could read gaming reviews or articles?
JB: I have always been a gamer and like most gamers I would browse the web to get the latest news about upcoming games, or to get advice about games. It doesn’t take long to realize that most of the bigger gaming sites are very secular and some of the writers at these sites are borderline anti-Christian. I didn’t feel like the stuff I was reading came from my perspective, a Christian perspective. I did a quick google search and found a few Christian gaming sites and communities and while reading through some of the stuff on these sites God began to move in my spirit and He began to cultivate a desire in me to fill a hole in a secular industry.
GG: What are some specific testimonies or positive feedback that you’ve received about your site from viewers? How have you seen God work through Relevant Gaming to reach out to those that don’t believe in Christ?
JB: The one article I can think of that had the most impact on the site along with a few readers was an article I wrote soon after starting the site called Hanging Out With Jesus Christ. http://relevant-gaming.com/hanging-out-with-jesus-christ/ I was just learning to write coherently, and was still developing my writing style. I had recruited some young guys, and they were helping me produce content for the site. After this article I soon received an e-mail from one of the guys explaining that after reading the article he had realized that he wasn’t putting Christ first in his life, and he had made an idol (a false god) out of gaming. He went on to explain that he was going to take a break from gaming and from writing so that he could focus on Jesus. I lost a good writer, but I’m glad something I wrote had an impact on someone and caused them to re-focus on what’s important.
I have received countless private messages from atheist gamers either hating the site, and thinking that I am terrorizing the gaming community with my views, or congratulating me for being willing to put myself out there. I can only hope that something I said in one of these conversations will be the seed that leads one of these souls to Christ.
GG: So how do you choose which games to review? What standards do they need to meet so they are deemed as a good choice for your readers?
JB: Relevant Gaming isn’t in the business of choosing which games are good choices for our readers, we let them decide. We give in-depth and honest reviews. We discuss everything from storyline to graphics. We discuss gameplay and mechanics. We discuss the things a developer did right and the things they should have put more effort into. If a game has content issues like cursing, gore, or nudity then you will find that near the bottom of the review so that when you finish reading you know exactly what kind of content you will be exposing yourself to.
I know that some people think that by reviewing questionable games you’re actually promoting the game that you’re reviewing. I’m a parent and happen to be in touch with gaming culture, but there are a lot of parents that don’t have a clue. When that 14 year old starts begging mom and dad for the newest game, those parents need a place where they can find out what they may mistakenly expose their child to.
GG: As a gamer, what are some suggestions you would give a Christian who wants to make a game? How can they incorporate biblical values or ways to share the gospel in the gameplay?
JB: As a Christian developer you need to decide whether you are shooting for Christian education or Christian entertainment. There’s a big difference, and when you try to combine the two the results are never good. As a Christian I go to church on Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday night. I read my Bible daily and I also pray throughout the day. After all of that if I buy a game, even if it’s Christian based I’m most likely looking to be entertained.
I immediately think of Sherwood pictures and Fireproof. Kirk Cameron’s Character had sold himself into sexual slavery through pornography. It almost destroyed his marriage. Sherwood pictures could of made a movie called Hosea and as Christians we would have understood it, we most likely would have went and saw it, and we would have been in awe at the power of God’s redemptive Love. Instead, Sherwood decided to make a movie called Fireproof they told the same story of God’s redemptive love, but in a way that not only Christians could understand it, but in a way that everyone could relate.
Christian game developers need to find creative ways to tell the story of God’s redemption. If it comes in the form of a soldier trying to cope with war, or the son of a mob boss trying to escape the lifestyle he was born into. Give us an interesting redemption story and make sure it ultimately points to God and we will love it.
GG: What are some of your favorite games, or geek interests and why?
JB: I am a lifelong Star Wars fan, a Hobbit fan, and I occasionally listen to Weird Al on Pandora radio. Some of my favorite games are Pool of Radiance, Titanfall, Call of Duty, Half Life, and Counter Strike Source.
GG: What games are you currently playing?
JB: When I’m ready to relax I normally play a round or two of Counter Strike Source with my friends. My steam tag is Rogue Bot. I also spend a good deal of my time playing various games in preparation for reviews.
GG: What do you want to do in the future with your website? Any projects or plans coming up?
JB: We are working on technology that will allow you see what thousands of other gamers think about any game. Through the same technology you will be able to see what thousands of families think about any game. So, I’m pretty excited about that. We have already gotten estimates on the cost for this project and it’s pretty pricey so we are getting ready to launch a Kickstarter Campaign to raise funds. We have placed a donate button on the home page at Relevant Gaming and all funds are going directly to this project. We would also like to receive prayers while we sort out all the details of this major investment.
GG: Thank you so much for your time Jerry, and I pray that the Kickstarter works out and God would continue to bless what Relevant Gaming is doing for gamers and Christians alike. Take care, and thank you for the opportunity.