Video Game Tournament?


There is one big event idea that I have been coming back to in student ministry for more than a decade now … and still haven’t done: a video game tournament. I thought of it again last night as my kids and I were watching for the umpteenth time (and rightfully so, it’s awesome) The Wizard, Nintendo’s movie/commercial that came out in the eighties. That thing NEVER gets old.

My guess is that it would be a slam dunk in bringing kids in; with a ton of video game stores in the area, it would be easy to promote, and a significant portion of our population in general is into gaming in one form or another. Did you know at 37, I’m right around the average age of gamers? Not the 13 year old boy hiding in the basement stereotype!

It would take setting up a bunch of systems, a well rounded series of games to compete with along with a scoring system to let contestants move through the brackets and eventually narrow down to a top three. This would necessitate referees for each gaming station to make sure points were given out accurately. It would also require a lot of game systems and copies of the same games, which I think could be accomplished by teaming up with local video game stores (for example – let me use your used systems for game stations and I’ll let you be a show sponsor and have a table set up to sell games and game related products).

Prizes would be easy; trophies and either new systems/setups, or gift certificates to video game stores. The cost of the prizes would be covered through entry fees. As contestants were narrowed down to a top three, other game stations could be switched to open gaming so kids would still want to hang around. Food should be sold/provided, as it would probably be half a day to a full day event. A trading area would probably also be a hit where kids could go to find other people wanting to trade games, etc.

Where I struggle is having a clear purpose for the event. It would be outreach, but does that happen simply through giving people a fun experience at church while gaining their contact info through the registration process to invite them to future events – kind of getting a foot in the relational door? Or does it become more direct through having a short gospel message before the final three playoff on big screens for the prizes? I would be comfortable with either approach, but wouldn’t want to come across as a bait and switch or have it be jarring (and thereby more damaging than beneficial) to the flow of the day.

I’d love to know if other youth workers have done game tournaments. With the national interest and obsession, it seems like a no brainer, but at the same time, I’ve been thinking that for more than a decade and still haven’t convinced myself to actually take the plunge.

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