When clicking on the Dancing David game on BibleGameZone.com, the player is immediately introduced to the athletic-looking, practically naked, dancing King. After being amused by the character and expecting to directly launch into the game, an ancient-looking scroll bombards the awaiting player and opens to reveal a rather lengthy biblical explanation of the game. Two characteristics make this explanation particularly ineffective for conveying any biblical knowledge about the game. In the case of the Dancing David game, the biblical literature includes difficult names and an unfamiliar writing style, while the scroll moves at an excruciatingly slow pace. This may cause a child to hurriedly skip this informative part of the game, which will leave him or her clueless about the strange character that appeared in the beginning and why he is even dancing at all. If one can patiently read the explanation, it suggests that after bringing the Ark of the Covenant to his people in Jerusalem, “David himself was dancing with all his strength before the Lord without caring the least about the staring eyes of those around him”. This sentence is important to understanding the game character and his biblical context. In this case, patience is a virtue.
When the Dancing David character appears, he is almost nude except for a white covering on his lower body. While his outfit may be accurately portrayed for the biblical time period, one has to question whether a child would understand this or think that his near nudity is funny or strange. Why is David not clothed in a robe like the figures behind him? Furthermore, when the game begins, David contorts into utterly hilarious positions as he praises the Lord without any cares. These clearly funny and overly exaggerated dance moves certainly appeal to children. Another aspect of the David character is that he wears a crown and the Star of David without any explanation being given to these symbols. How should a child know that the Star of David is a symbol for Judaism instead of an award for superstar dancing skills? Even if these symbols were better explained in the explanation, many kids would not take the time to read it.
The format of the game may also distract children from fully realizing the religious nature of such a game. The player in the game follows moving arrows and attempts to press the corresponding arrow key on the computer to match up with these moving arrows. The movement of arrows and the fast-paced pop music mirrors the Dance Dance Revolution games brought to U.S. markets in 2001 (Moby Games). This particular game inspired many imitations such as “Britney’s Dance Beat” and “Stepmania,” causing the original format of the game to become extremely popular. While trying to keep up with the sprinting arrows and tune out the shrill music, it becomes difficult to even watch the entertaining moves of the Dancing David character as one becomes totally engrossed with the task of following the moving arrows. Thus, David’s praise for the Lord cannot even really be studied by the player, except in his or her peripheral vision.
Lastly, like all the games on BibleGameZone.com, the Dancing David game promotes continued play by always displaying a message at the end of a game that states, “You are not in a top position” and then allows you to enter your name or try again. The Dancing David game particularly gives you stats on how you performed in the game such as “right moves,” “wrong moves,” “hit percentages,” and “accuracy,” etc., which encourages one to do better the next time. After the first play, the opening explanation does not appear again, so multiple plays do not help the player to understand the biblical story any better. Playing the game many times most likely will cause more focus to be spent on improving accuracy of hitting the arrows, instead of learning the story of Dancing David.
The Norwegian organization responsible for creating Biblegamezone.com is called Storst av Alt, which translates to “Greatest of All” and is a division of the Church of Norway responsible for a new educational reform in the country. Storst av Alt was created in response to a decrease in religion being taught in public schools and the organization is now implementing reformed techniques such as the games on Biblegamezone.com to provide a strong Christian education for children specifically in the Norwegian Church (Duplo Data AS). If the biblical teaching of the Dancing David game rests entirely on the beginning explanation, which is probably skipped by many players, then most players will not understand the biblical significance of such a game. And even if the player does manage to take the time to read, the religious symbols on King David remain a mystery and his dance moves cannot be viewed closely due to the player’s complete attention on the arrows. So despite the best efforts of the Storst av Alt to encourage Christian education through such religious-based video games, the moral of this game may be easily missed by children.
Biblegamezone.com. “Dancing David.” Storst Av Alt, 2010. Web. 10 Dec. 2010 <http://www.biblegamezone.com/>.
Duplo Data AS, Trosopplæringen I Eidsberg. DEN NORSKE KIRKE, 2006. Web. 9 Dec. 2010 <http://www.eidsberg.kirken.no/Aktiviteter/Trosoppl%C3%A6ring/tabid/2973/Default.aspx>.
Moby Games, Dance Dance Revolution. GameFly Media, 2010. Web. 9 Dec. 2010 <http://www.mobygames.com/game/dance-dance-revolution>.