George Herrera is the game director and producer behind the mobile game “The Journey of Grace,” based on the 2021 VBS theme created by the Church of the Nazarene. For George, video games have always been a part of life.
“Gaming has always been a passion of mine,” George says. “I remember when I was growing up I could always go into my room and play games; it was a safe space for me. It is where I found meaningful connections and community with my friends.”
With an undergraduate degree in youth ministry, George loved video games but didn’t see how they could connect to his ministry, calling, and vocation until he moved to the UK and went to Nazarene Theological College, Manchester. While there, he attended a seminar on the intersection of video games and spirituality.
“At first, when I saw this, I thought ‘no way, this can’t be a thing,’” George says. “But as they explained, there is a lot of Christian symbolism and concepts in video games. Most games have a religious element to them because it enhances the narrative of the game.”
After this, George started to incorporate video games more and more into his youth ministry. He immediately saw a change in the culture of his ministry. He started an Esports team in his community, which has turned into Victory Gaming, which holds local tournaments for games like Mario Kart and Rocket League – with 10 young people accepting Jesus at the most recent event! But George knew that there was much more to this calling than just incorporating video games into church. For him, helping create a game to serve the church was his next goal.
“At this seminar they had us play a couple of Christian games,” George remembers. “One of them was called ‘That Dragon Cancer,’ and it won a BAFTA in 2017. It is a testimony of two Christian parents whose son gets diagnosed with cancer. And as I played it, I had a moment with God where he clearly spoke to me and told me that He wanted me to step into the video games industry as a Christian and make video games about him.”
This passion to create a game for the church and for Christ was something George started to explore more and more. At first, it was hard to imagine what the project could look like. He didn’t have any game design experience or entrepreneurial skills. When George would tell pastors about his idea, they would pat him on the back and wish him the best of luck. “There was just no help,” George says. “No one really saw my vision, but I knew what I had was gold.”
As George pursued his gaming goal, he quickly learned a key element would be funding.
“My prayer for the longest time was just…give me the money,” George says. “I was at my mid-week bible study. The leader read a portion from the New Testament where Peter is walking around the temple and there is a guy who is begging for money. Peter asks him, ‘Is that all you want, gold and silver?’ And the beggar says, ‘Yes.’ Peter responds by saying, ‘I don’t have any of that, but I do have something much better for you.’ When I heard that, I realized that I was that beggar simply asking for money. And in that moment, I realized I needed the right relationship [with God] to make this work.”
George kept praying, and soon after he was contacted by Diego Lopez, who is the Nazarene Discipleship International coordinator for Eurasia. They met for breakfast, and George explained his vision for using video games to communicate the gospel. From there on, Diego was on board with George to see the vision become reality.
Then, the pandemic hit.
Everything came to a screeching halt, and all hope seemed lost for a game to be developed. But George kept serving and praying. He had conversations with Diego, Eurasia Region Director Jim Ritchie, and Global Director for Nazarene Discipleship International Scott Rainey. They eventually settled on placing George’s project under “Journey of Grace,” Vacation Bible School (VBS) resources that the Church of the Nazarene created. George got the project approved with the understanding the game would be ready to showcase at the 2023 General Assembly. George and his team had nine months to complete their tasks which he describes as “a mountain of work.”
The “Journey of Grace” narrative follows a girl named Grace who is nervous before her first day at a new school. To ease her nerves, her mother tells her the story of her name. Players are cast as Grace’s mother as she journeys through three different levels, meeting God in three different forms: a fox, a ram, and a hummingbird. Through these interactions, players learn about God’s grace and love. Players see that no matter the challenge, God is there to help guide them through their journey.
“Journey of Grace” allows kids aged four to 11 to learn about theological concepts through the art of play. As the world changes, this tool will help the church meet culture in ways that bring value and contextualize the gospel in ways that make sense to them. George stressed that the game is not simply to entertain kids, but it’s a communicative tool to be used to teach truths about who God is and His relation to individuals.
“My hope for the game is that it would be widely used as a tool to teach our children about God,” George says. “I think video games can be a powerful teaching tool. Each game communicates something, and my hope is that this game could be a way to learn through experience.”
“Journey of Grace” launched on the 12th of June 2023 and is now available to download for free on the Apple Appstore and Google Playstore.
– written by Troy Vernier, volunteer for Eurasia Region Communications
photos shared by George Herrera – group shots from the recent Victory Gaming Event (click on an image to see a bigger version)