A Christian writer who is one of Britain's top games journalists is seeking to help parents to better understand and navigate the complex world of video gaming through a new book.
Andy Robertson, who is both a respected contributor to Forbes and The Guardian, has millions watch him on YouTube each month and has hosted programmes at Exeter cathedral and the Greenbelt festival, has authored Taming Gaming which he describes as 'an unflinching look at the impact of gaming on family life'.
Robertson's book, which is being distributed through crowdfunding publisher Unbound, will look beyond some of the horror stories about popular games such as Fortnite and Call of Duty, and explore how parents can guide their children toward healthy, fulfilling gaming experiences which engage their brains and even open up the possibility of spiritual encounters.
He uses the metaphor of 'family gaming recipes' – as if this was a sort of cookbook – as a way of teaching parents how to engage with video games in a positive way.
Recent news stories have aired concerns from the NSPCC and others about the safety of children and young people in online gaming. The extraordinary popularity of Fortnite, which allows players as young as 12 (and indeed, those who are allowed to play it at below that advisory age) to communicate with other players across the internet, has led to worries that child predators could use the game to groom victims.
Meanwhile, violent games have now been cited as a risk factor for violent behaviour in official research, and 'gaming disorder' has been named as a clinically-significant syndrome by the World Health Organisation. While Robertson is sympathetic to the many concerns expressed by parents and the media, he is keen to present the other more positive aspects of gaming, which are often given little airtime where parents are concerned.
'I appreciate parents' anxiety,' says the father-of-three, 'but I'm also deeply grateful for what the skills and qualities that games have instilled in my children: curiosity, compassion, resilience, confidence, problem solving and patience.'
The author told Christian Today that his faith was an important driver in the project, which he sees partly as an antidote to family breakdown, and partly as an opportunity to uncover deeper meaning through the perhaps-unlikely vehicle of video games.
'Being a Christian means I'm sensitive to areas of life where relationships are breaking down or parents are under stress and pressure,' he explained. 'Although video games often have signs of God's creative fingerprints running through them, they require a literacy and understanding that can be hard for mums and dads to acquire. It was important to me as a Christian to do something about this. The book offers simple "gaming recipes" which break down these barriers and help parents take their role in guiding children towards healthy gaming.'
The still-unfinished book will also look at how faith and games can live together. He added: 'I'm keen to include chapters that look at the deeper meaning that games have and devote space to talk about games in worship services and arts festivals. This will be a chance to expand on the work I've done with Exeter Cathedral and Greenbelt.'
Andy Robertson'sTaming Gaming can be pre-ordered now here.
Martin Saunders is a contributing editor for Christian Today and the deputy CEO of Youthscape. Follow him on Twitter @martinsaunders.