Don’t assume that teenage boys are the only ones spending hours and hours playing online games. Girls, younger children, and adults are all well represented among the players of video games. In fact the astounding popularity of games and the whopping amounts of time spent playing them has led many educators to move their work into a gaming context with points and levels instead of quizzes and tests assigning students play rather than work. Certainly in religious education there is value to be gained through some gamification of what we do. This may sound daunting especially for those like myself who are personally not big gamers or who have no idea how one might actually create some sort of online video game. That is fine because our move into this new digital approach to the work of faith formation will probably benefit from a more modest beginning. A simple start is to begin identifying those games that are already out there which compliment and support the goals, aims, and commitments held by Unitarian Universalist. There are scores of what are called meaningful games, or serious games available online which offer players opportunities to walk in the shoes of those facing poverty and need, problem solve international conflicts and much more. By simply exploring some of these games and encouraging young people to play them during the week we could greatly enrich what goes on during the usual sunday morning session. Obviously whenever we meet young people on their own terms or through a medium that resonates with them we have a chance to demonstrate the respect we have for them and there is a chance to bridge language barriers that exist between the generations. However I think the greater benefits that are presented to us as educators and faith leaders are 1) the chance to extend the scope of our ministry into the week should they get into the game we suggested or assigned them to play, and 2) should they find the game engaging they will come to the next meeting with a weeks worth of personal thought, work, and involvement with the themes and challenges about which they will be asked to reflect and discuss. Imagine, instead of a stilted adult imposed topic around which you almost have to force reflective consideration an active and enthusiastic dialogue around issues and obstacles they had fun trying to overcome through the week some anxious to share success others seeking tips and suggestions about solutions they found to be illusive.
So if you have your game on and are ready to take up the challenge here are some good places to start. These sites have links to a selection of good games that dovetail nicely with numerous lessons and curricula.
Games for Change Has over 100 links to games aimed at positive social change. The games are organised by the age of the target player as well as by subject or focus. You will find games dealing with environmental issues, human rights needs, civics, and much more.
http://www.willyoujoinus.com/ Chevron has a game that has a couple of ways to play but each seeks to build awareness around energy consumption and the importance of sustainability.
Smokescreen is more than a video or online game. It incorporates mobile devises and social networks to provide players an immersive game experience that aims to educate about the dangers and risks in our digital and online worlds so that players emerge better informed and prepared ready to make intentional decisions about the way they will present themselves online and how they will protect their property, identity, and reputation.
There are more out there but these will offer a nice start. I will post links to other ready to use online games from time to time and invite you to share your favorites and finds as well.