The Challenges for Gospel Planting in RPGs and MMORPGs

by Paul on July 9, 2009

If the goal is to plant the Gospel within every sub-population online, then we have to deal with the difficulties of planting the Gospel within the role playing communities in Second Life and within MMORPGs like World of Warcraft and Guild Wars.  These communities present several barriers to Gospel Planting, but these can be overcome with careful consideration and planning.

There to Play the Game

The basketball court is one of the worst places to plant the Gospel.  People aren’t there to hear what you have to say.  They can’t break out a Bible and read it together between baskets.  They just want to play the game, and that isn’t unreasonable.

But, relationships form over time around the court.  Pre-game and post-game conversations dip into their life off the court.  If post-game conversations move off the sidelines and into the pizza parlor, then you have a better chance to plant the Gospel within that community.

Online RPGs and MMORPGs are similar.  If you start talking about Jesus in the middle of a World of Warcraft raid, then you are going to be told to shut up, if not kicked out altogether.  You have a chance to develop relationships before and after the raid that can lead to spiritual conversations, but during the raid is a bad idea.

Similarly, in some RPG communities in Second Life, there are rules about talking about your First (offline) Life.  If you violate the rules, you will be kicked out of the game.  It’s that simple.

Breaking Through the Avatar

Knowing whether you are talking with an Avatar or with the person behind the avatar in an RPG can be extremely difficult.  Since our goal is to disciple communities into obedient relationship with Christ in a way that affects every community in their Fulfilment Triangle, we have to make sure we’re talking with the person behind the Avatar – the one who is going to exist offline as well as online.

Timing is Everything

Don’t talk about your faith while on a raid in World of Warcraft.  More importantly, don’t share the Gospel with people who aren’t ready.  Your job is to live the Gospel.  If people aren’t ready, you are the only Gospel they are going to read.  When they are ready, begin a Discovery Bible Study.  Until then, be the Gospel and pray for God to reveal Persons of Peace who will receive the Gospel into their community.

What is Your Mission?

Getting lost in any RGP or MMORPG is easy.  There is a huge learning curve for people who aren’t already a part of those communities.  You have to reach a certain level or amount of game play before people will talk with you.  It take about 2 hours a day to maintain online community.  Within RPGs and MMORPGs, your time investment may need to be much higher – especially in the learning phase.

My Advice

1.  Take the conversation into other social media outside the RPG or MMORPG.  Engage people on Twitter, Plurk, Facebook, forums, or blogs.  You are more likely to have appropriately timed spiritual conversations in these other media than in the middle of the game.

2.  Move the conversation to a place where you can talk about your offline life.  I know a bunch of Second Life-ers who chat about their First Life in Plurk.  So Plurk is where I talk with them and pray for them.  Second Life is just the Social Object that binds the community together.

3.  Learn the game.  If you join an RPG or MMORPG, get ready to set aside the time to play the game in addition to participating in the community.  Or, work with people who are already a part of those communities.  One of my online summer missionaries is involved in Guild Wars.  He is already openly praying for members of his guild and scours the forums for opportunities to engage people in spiritual conversations.  If you, or a member of your team, isn’t into the game, you will burn out.

4.  Realize that how you play is part of your witness.  Don’t be a bad sport.  Don’t steal loot.  Don’t call people names and cuss.  I shouldn’t have to say this, but I’ve been a part of MMORPGs and seen enough Church Leagues play basketball.

5.  Practice appropriate evangelism.  People don’t want your religion.  They don’t want your church.  They generally don’t want to talk about either.  Be conspicuously spiritual without being obnoxiously religious.  It’s a fine line.  My online summer missionaries have learned how to do it well without compromising the Gospel or succumbing to ‘lifestyle evangelism.’  So can you.

6.  Set a timer.  I use TV shows and iTunes playlists to manage my time.  When the playlist is over, I get off the computer.  Do whatever you need to do to spend the right amount of time in the game without allowing the game to consume your time.

7.  Have fun!  Enjoy the Game!  If you play with your spiritual eyes open, God will show you when you are to speak and help you know when it’s better to stay silent.

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