The Christian Game Developers Conference 2011 is now well under way, and it’s been a great day of fascinating talks and top notch company.

Os Hillman kicked off the day talking about the Seven Mountains that influence our culture: arts & entertainment, business, education, family, government, media and religion. He outlined how crucial the media and entertainment industries are in shaping how we think and respond to issues, and how historically the church has abandoned Hollywood and given up trying to work with them. Os gave us the challenge to use our creativity and inventiveness to exert a positive influence on culture.

Next up was Gary Barkalow, talking about identifying your calling and finding the way that God has for you to serve him with the gifts and passions he’s given you. Gary used the metaphor of the need to find your bearings when you feel disoriented. When a medical professional is seeking to assess your level of disorientation she’ll use the “Alert and Oriented x3”: who are you? where are you? what day is it? Personally I think I enjoyed his metaphor maybe more than the way he actually applied it, but I think these are great questions for us to ask ourselves when seeking to live to the glory of God – this triplet of identity, situation and place in salvation history. Knowing who we are, that we’re children of God saved by grace, where we are, that we’ve got a specific set of gifts and a specific set of opportunities before us, and when we are, that the time is short and Jesus could come back any moment, gives us a great framework for making decisions about our lives. As an aside, Gary closed with a great example from Apollo 13 – sometimes we just “need more time in the simulator” – God knows that we need to be refined by the trials of life for a while before leading us to where we’ll eventually end up.

After lunch there were various workshop options. I went along to one by Mark Soderwall, a game industry veteran whose worked on a lot of the Star Wars games, on various issues related to industry best practice and how to get into the industry. I also went along to one by Tim Johnson on “games that reflect God’s glory” – how to employ game mechanics themselves (rather than story) to reflect aspects of God’s character such as grace. The four values he particularly focussed on were cooperation (that two is better than one), individuality (that God has made each one unique), sacrifice for future gain (as per the parable of the treasure hidden in a field) and “eucatastophe” (a word coined by Tolkien to mean a “good catastrophe” – a sudden joyous turn in the midst of seeming disaster, ultimately a reflection of the resurrection of Jesus), but naturally there are a tonne of others. The nature of my game, Ebenezer, like Monkey Island before it, is that I’m much more focussed on story rather than gameplay mechanics, so I really enjoyed thinking about this different perspective for a while.

I wouldn’t say I agreed with everything said today, and I’d probably have but a few emphases in different places, but they were all wonderfully thought provoking and led to some great discussions. It’s fair to say that a real highlight of the conference has been turning some virtual online friends into real life buddies, and it’s been great to be able to chat through the stuff we’ve been hearing.

Time now for Barlow Girl!

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