I love games. Not just youth group games but table top games of all kinds. I recently listened to a podcast from Plaid Hat Games where they discussed emergent narrative in games. According to the podcast “emergent narrative is a story that is discovered during game play that is beyond the mechanics.”
There are games that have mechanics but no story, such as chess, checkers, Trouble, etc. Pieces are moved, pawns and checkers are captured, and there is a winner and a loser. On the other side, consider two young boys playing army, either in real life or with army men, or two girls playing with dolls; there are no written rules or strategy to this kind of play and because of that, play is story driven.
This whole concept of emergent narrative jogged my mind to how we teach our students and live out our own faith. Another great quote from the podcast, “The more complex the game the less likely a narrative will emerge”. This quote challenged me. The more complex I make faith, the less likely my kids will see a bigger story at work or find them in that Story.
Why do kids leave the faith? It could be because youth pastors focus too much on the complex rules and mechanics of faith and less on the greatest story ever told.
My advice: Let’s stop asking kids to “come play this “game” with me, read this giant “rule” book called the Bible, and I’ll judge whether you are “playing he game right”” and start saying “let’s go on an adventure of faith and let’s see how our story merges with God’s story to create more stories.”
Do you tend to focus more on mechanics or story? What were you taught as a teen?