I enjoy finding ministries that are bringing light in a dark place. Family Friendly Gaming writes reviews for families looking for games that won’t influence their children or themselves in a negative way. Think of them as a place where you can find games that are safe for kids, parents, or someone who doesn’t want to see gore, sexuality or foul language during gameplay. I was able to ask the owner, Paul Bury, some questions about how they came into fruition, feedback from their work over the years, and how they get so many products to review from companies. I hope you enjoy!
Q: Ok, so how did you start FFG (Family Friendly Gaming)? What’s the background story of your website?
I had done this fanzine called Wyldcard’s WAY. I had the handle of Wyldcard on the Internet when I started hanging out online back in 1995. The “WAY” part of the name came from early Christians and followers of the way. We were getting advertisers and needed to move into a full-fledged magazine. At the same time, I was praying for someone in the church to get engaged and involved in video games. I was not aware of Al Menconi Ministries, the CGDC [Christian Game Developers Conference, or CCGR [Christ Centered Gamer] at that point. I tried to get Focus on the Family and Family Life to get involved. Neither would. The video game magazines of the time were getting more focused on the macabre and morbid. Plus they were losing professionalism and having all kinds of profanity in their magazines that were in the kids sections of stores. I felt that was wrong and I pleaded with God to send someone to address this. One of the few times I have heard God’s voice in my life was when He told me, “You Go.” I thought of Moses, Jonah, and Gideon, and none of them felt qualified to do what God commanded them to do. Whether they argued, ran away, or asked for signs, the end result was the same. They did it. So I realized that by obeying, I could save myself some pain and misery. I told God I had no clue how to do it, and I trusted He would provide. Guess what? He has every step of the way. I also felt the name as an impression from the Holy Spirit.
Q: What has given you the motivation to continue with the site after so many years?
Obedience to God would be the first thing. Something else that has motivated me is death threats. For me, people that want to stop FFG from existing are showing that Satan is worried about what we do.
Q: Tell me about the FFG magazine. How did that come about, and what has been the feedback from your readers thus far?
The magazine came about the same time as the website. It has gone from physical copy to electronic version based on cost. There are worldly people who don’t like us but our integrity, honesty, and willingness to have an open conversation have won the vast majority of them over. Sometimes it takes a few people some time to comprehend that we apply a Biblical standard to what we do. We get a lot of thanks from Consumer Rights Advocates because we are big on that, and the same goes for supporters of the physical copy movement. Something else that was part of the origins of FFG is Dan “Shoe” Hsu. I was an avid reader of Electronic Gaming Monthly from way back. Like issue #21 or something. Dan took EGM into a darker direction. He had the magazine attack things that are good and wholesome, all the while glorifying the bad. He was a part of video game journalism leaving Christians and families behind, at least from what I saw at the time.
Q: How do you get the games or products to review? Do you have connections with the developers or manufacturers?
I always go back to the Holy Bible. The secret is asking. We go to all kinds of doors and knock. We go to the companies, PR firms, marketing agencies and ask. Some of them lie to us, others can’t help. The overwhelming majority realize that the value of a review is way higher than the cost of one product, so they win financially on the deal. A great way of networking into the industry is events like E3 and doing the one-handed business card swap. Perfect that and you are golden.
What is the worst that can happen if you ask for a game? You don’t get a response. Check back until you get one. I only give up after 50 check backs. We expect to face discrimination from some because we are Christians but I don’t let it stop me. I use it as a teachable moment in hopes of winning their soul for God.
Q: After all the reviews you’ve done and experienced over the years, what advice could you give to the gaming industry that could help it become more welcome to people of faith?
Most RPG’s do not regionalize/localize for the super majority of Americans that self-identify as Christian. They have all this religious content that most believers refuse to put into their brains. The industry needs to be aware of content that works with a Christian audience, and what fails. It would not be difficult to change many games to make it more approachable by people of faith. That would require acknowledging the content, and then updating it. I would also advise the industry to stop the propaganda. I talk to numerous pastors who are appalled at how the macabre and morbid is glorified, in their eyes it is like worshiping Satan. I hear: woe to the man who calls good evil, and evil good,” quite often (Isaiah 5:20).
Q: What advice could you give other Christians who see geek interests such as video games as a ministry?
Keep at it. There are hills and valleys. There are times of great success and times where nothing seems to work. Constantly seek God’s counsel on direction. You never know what blessing is just around the corner.
Q: What positive feedback have you received from people or organizations?
Over the last decade there have been so many positive comments from a variety of sources from pastors to other video game ministries. I would say the most impactful was when The Blaze asked us to give them a Christmas list of games they could broadcast on their station. It was very humbling and honoring that a TV station came to us for that.
Q: Ok, the serious questions are out of the way. Now on to the fun ones! What’s your favorite video game and console? Why?
Turboduo remains my personal favorite video game console. It was the first CD based video game home console. They had great sized cartridges (about the size of a credit card). Home console cartridges also worked on their handheld. They were the first company to introduce me to large role playing games with amazing cutscene movies. Bonk was a cool mascot. They ran a deal where owners of the Turbografx-16 could send in their system along with a hundred dollars for the Turboduo. What other video game company lets their owners send in an old system to upgrade at a lower cost?
Q: Best movie of 2015?
Do You Believe? It has a great message, and an accident that just keeps on giving.
Q: If you could be a video game character, who would it be and why?
I want to say Brock Lesnar from a UFC game, or Marshawn Lynch from a Madden game, or Goldberg from a WWE game since I share some personality traits with them since they are real people as well. I am going to go with Chase from Lego City Undercover. I can be a bull in a China shop with funny comments that not everyone will get. I can also be really clueless about customs in cultures. In case you are wondering, my Time Lord name is The Emperor.
Q: Which books are you reading right now, or ones you read recently?
First off the Holy Bible, second Mere Christianity by CS Lewis. I am amazed at how talented CS Lewis was. His logic can be dizzying at times, but always interesting. Aside from that, graphic novels from the library—The New 52 stuff. Nothing beyond that because I am actually writing my third book for Amazon. It will be the second book in the Future Glimpses series, un-named right now. I really enjoyed Larry Hama’s work on GI Joe.
Thank you so much Paul for your time and answers. I truly appreciate it and am thankful for the opportunity. Be sure to check them out below, and leave any questions/comments you may have for them here or on their social media outlets below!
Michael is a child of God, husband, teacher, business owner, anime lover and a life long gamer. When not conquering distant world's via console, he can be found reading, watching anime or Netflix, writing, or just enjoying life as a geek in the city of Miami. He aspires to travel to Japan and possibly...never leave.
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