Here’s a preview of the GameCell get-together happening at my house 7pm on Friday, February 27.
Questions on, “How Do You Discern Games and Truth?”
1. Have you ever had a religious person tell you what you like is bad? What happened?
2. How do you decide if something is good or bad? Can you trust that method?
3. Do you trust anybody to help you filter out what is good and true?
“Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.” Philippians 4:8
GameTime: How do you discern what’s good in these games?
From top left:
Darkest Dungeon (solo survival RPG)
Grow Home (solo creative adventure)
Hidden in Plain Sight (4player stealth)
Life is Strange (solo cinematic adventure)
Paperbound (4player brawler)
Particle Mace (4player brawler)
Stick it to the Man (solo comedy adventure)
The core question will come down to, “What is good about this game? And why is it good?”
In which our group of dudes run the GameCell meet-up mostly by themselves. And we explore how sacrifice relates to the here and now.
“Before we get started, introduce yourself and your fav game series.”
“Hi, I’m Yoshi and my favorite game series is Devil May Cry.” One after another, each guy shared his name and series. After Greg, Seth, Garrett, Alex Hively, Alex Carter, Vince, and Tyler, we came to the new guy: “Hi I’m Brylan – that’s a combination of my names Brian and Dylan – and my favorite game series would have to be Timesplitters.”
At this point, I handed things off to our Question-Asker, Greg. Greg asked, “What are your favorite examples of sacrifice in games?”
Greg emphasized that everybody should give spoiler warnings. Seth didn’t know what a spoiler was. So he learned as he revealed the conclusion to Telltale’s Walking Dead: Season 1. He got a lot of groans in response. But that’s okay because he learned and knows to say “earmuffs” next time he spoils another game. Everybody else gave their favorite examples of sacrifices in games with the spoiler earmuff warning. Alex Carter talked about the sacrifice of a supporting character in Mass Effect 3. And I mentioned Brothers: Tale of Two Sons but didn’t explain why, only suggesting it’s in tonight’s playlist.
Then Greg asked the second question, “When you really love something, is sacrifice hard or easy?”
This started with feedback like, “yeah, everything’s easy when you’re in-love.” Vince gave an example about giving up his car for his wife when they were dating. And we realized that sometimes sacrifice is still challenging when it’s for those you love.
Greg started to go into the fourth question, but realized he missed the third: “What have you sacrificed for the things you love?”
This turned into a reflection of what some of us have given up for videogames. The most obvious answers were time and money. Then we thought about what we’ve sacrificed for significant others and family members. Again, the answers revolved around time and money.
Greg read the Bible (Romans 12, verse 1):
“And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him.”
Then Greg left us with the question, “What do you think this means?” and handed the discussion over to Vince
From there, Vince took the verse and inverted it. He started with, “This is truly the way to worship God:” Then, he led us through it. We walked away with the notion that worship has far more to do with what we do. As we closed out, I asked Garrett if he was comfortable with closing out our discussion time with some prayer. He obliged.
We kicked off with new guy, Brylan, sitting down in the seat of honor with a controller in hand. Garrett and Tyler were our curators for the evening. This meant Garrett explained what the games were as Brylan had questions and Tyler helped. Brylan landed on Apotheon,
Brylan stepped into the Greek Urn-art world and learned how to make good use of a xiphos short sword. Our crew watched as he conquered the first level as it trained him how to become the antihero Olympus needed. The Greek art style and physics-driven violence made it fun to watch. As everybody watched Brylan learn how to play, it set things up perfectly for when we would play the game’s one-on-one deathmatch. As we met some of the Greek world’s gods’, Tyler asked the question, “Could you see yourself sacrificing to the gods in this game if they were real?” Our crew offered a wide mix of responses, with Brylan mentioning that he might not mind sacrificing to Hephestus because of how much he loves metal-working.
We entered the local deathmatch mode (one-on-one versus). It may have been an afterthought for the game-makers. But with 20% health, the game turned into a fast-paced cat-and-mouse game of slow-motion kill cams and a tactical race to five-kills. I think we were all surprised when Alex Hively picked up the controller and showed Brylan who’s boss even though he never played the game before.
Apotheon was a B+ game to watch Byrlan play, but when we got into Local versus (2player), it turned into an A+ game. (Note, all letter-grading is based on our crew’s response and level of engagement)
Our curators then had to cast it to a group vote on who got to play next, with the rule that you can’t vote for yourself. Alex Carter got the most votes and he picked Stardust Vanguards.
Four space mechs step into an arena armed with a laser sword, a dozen bullets, and a three-second shield. They dash about and slash each other to pieces. Suddenly, space pirates arrive and swarm the whole screen with their attack! It’s madness and mayhem. The pirates win. Our players resolve to work together when they’re not killing one another. The game goes fast, but the organization is long and awkward. Instead of a match being just one Battle, it’s all about who can win two Battles in a row to win the War. At first, it’s pure chaos. Ten minutes in our crew eases into a groove. Everybody seems to figure out how to summon new units into battle. Then Tyler launches this question, “Do you feel like summoning support units is a sacrifice?” Our players mull it over and answer within seconds have an answer. “Well yeah, they’re the only way to gain control of the battlefield and most of them die. So yeah, it’s a sacrifice,” says Alex Carter.
Stardust Vanguards was a B- multiplayer brawler for four players – until everybody got comfortable with the game. Then it turned into an A+ game.
Tyler and Garrett were doing an excellent job of curating, so it seemed fitting that everybody picked them to play our last game. Garrett chose Brothers: Tale of Two Sons. Since Garrett and Tyler opted to go co-op, this meant they had to share the controller.
Tyler lead everybody with a question before starting the game, “What are the Brothers sacrificing for their father?” Tyler took control of the little brother while Garrett took control of the big brother. They worked together to accomplish all of the challenges the game set before them.
They realized each brother had a different contextual response to each situation. The best moment came when they went up to the gardener. Tyler pressed the interaction button and spanked the old man on the tush! The old dude screamed like a little girl. Our whole room erupted in laughter. The fun for all of our non-players came as they observed the world around the brothers. They tried to help solve the progression puzzles. And they noticed little details like the empty spare bed in the ogre’s cottage.
Brothers was an A- game to watch and A- shared-controller co-op.
By now, it was past ten PM and our crew had thinned-out to a small number. I had recently acquired a press copy for a multiplayer brawler. And I wanted to find out how it played. So we had a bonus game: Paperbound (Beta)
I’ve heard it described as “Smash Bros. on crack.” Very true. It was bonkers and very fun. We’ll save the more-elaborate writeup for when we can play it with the rest of GameCell proper.
Here’s a preview of this Friday’s GameCell get-together.
Questions On Sacrifice:
1. What are your favorite examples of sacrifice in games? (If it’s a spoiler, be sure to let people know what the game is before you say what happens so dudes can cover their ears)
2. When you really love something, is sacrifice hard or easy?
3. What have you sacrificed for the things you love?
“And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him.” (Romans 12:1 NLT)
What do you think this means?
We’ll pick from this lot. And the question is, “What do these games have to do with sacrifice?”
From top to right:
Apotheon (Solo and 1v1 multiplayer)
Brothers Tale of Two Sons (Solo or shared controller co-op adventure)
Our Radiance Podcast wrapped-up our pilot season of six episodes. If folks really dig it, we’ll pop-out more episodes. But it’s a ton of work. So we want to be wise with our time and only keep doing it if it’s turning a crop. Dig in and spit out some feedback:
I just finished the fourth volume of Fables. When people say it’s one of the best comics series of all time. They’re not exaggerating. Every page is awash in surprises, subtle variations of expectations, and culminations of anticipation. But I love it because it’s so much like the best stories in the Old Testament.
Yes, in the Bible.
That notion might strike you as strange. But consider that the best stories in the Bible also have this extreme air of familiarity but are contrasted with the subversion of expectations: David defeating Goliath may be just as iconic as a Fable. But it’s the fact that the little “defenseless” teen besting the symbol of military might that sticks with you.
So it is in Fables. The Big Bad Wolf is the sorta-kind protector. Snow White dishes out harsh justice. And Goldilocks is a murderer. Fables may not be inspired by the Holy Spirit. But the lessons in storytelling and contextualization ring so many bells.
In which, our GameCell got together, we ran out of gamer Bibles, and almost-everything was led our GameCell participants (not me).
We ran out of Gamer Bibles. New guy, Yoshi (Zach), got our last Jesus For The Win Gamer Bible.. And dude had such a great time that he’s already planning on being here next time we meet.
Our regular GameCell dudes led the discussion and play time this past week. And it went amazingly.
Almost everybody showed up at least fifteen minutes early because I wanted our discussion and game-time leaders to be early for setup and prayer. But everybody came with them! So we prayed together. Then I started with a baseline: “What’s your name and favorite game from the last year?” Everybody answered. Then I handed the question-asking over to our discussion leader, Tyler!
Tyler asked, “What videogame’s culture would you hate to live in?”
We got all kinds of answers. But my the obvious stand-outs were things like Dead Space’s horrifying religious-cult and monster-filled space future. And Five Nights At Freddy’s restaurant, Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza. Or Wolfenstein: The New Order’s alternate world where the Nazis won WW2.
Then Tyler asked, “What’s one thing about your culture (here and now) that you can’t stand?”
Racism. Prejudice. Alex Carter brought up Swatting and the volatile things some gamers have done to other people. He brought up GamerGate. I brought up hopelessness in our town of Red Lion in particular. After everybody shared, Tyler added a scripture:
These six things the Lord hates,
Yes, seven are an abomination to Him:
A proud look,
A lying tongue,
Hands that shed innocent blood,
A heart that devises wicked plans,
Feet that are swift in running to evil,
A false witness who speaks lies,
And one who sows discord among brethren.
(Proverbs 6:16-19, NKJV)
Tim Hilbert asked what each one of those things meant. And so Tyler went back through and everybody worked together to make sense of what it meant. In the end, we had a surprising abundance of agreement. “Yeah, people who do those things suck,” somebody said. Our group seemed to both be shocked that there are things God hates and at the same time agree that all of those things are enemies of a healthy culture.
Tyler asked the third question: “What’s one thing about your culture that you want to see more of?”
Answers ranged all over the place, but the most common themes were love, acceptance, and a problem-solving reality. Eventually, it became clear that this was leading (at least a little bit) into the last question:
“What do you think God’s culture is like?”
Right out of the gate, Alex Carter went straight for perfection; the idea that God’s culture is just plain old perfect (and only in Heaven). Many of our dudes thought Alex’s answer was also perfect. But new guy, Yoshi, had something else in mind that blew me away: what if God’s culture is about the long-burn process of transitioning from a destructive culture into a healthy one? In short, God’s culture is about the changing process and not about the microwave “ding-it’s-done?” I’m putting what Yoshi said in my own words. But it was just so good, it’s stuck with me.
Tyler wrapped everything up on the subject and just did a swimming job as the conversation leader. I only expected him to ask the questions, but he added his own flair that only drew out far more conversation than I could have. Garret made sure to point out that it was “our best GameCell discussion ever.” I agree.
Great work, Tyler!
Next? Game time with Garrett and Greg (our curator for the evening). We transitioned to the basement. Tim and Vince went to get snacks. Garrett gave everybody an overview of what the games were about and hooked interested players up with controllers. I helped him a tiny bit. As did Greg, who insisted on making awkward dinosaur faces in all of our photos.
Yoshi, our new guy, picked Brawlhalla Open Beta (A- 4-player couch deathmatch)
Brawlhalla was super easy for everybody to pick up as it’s the most blatant Smash Bros rip-off to date. There’s far more recovery options. And some of the hitboxes are a tad off. But everybody took to this item-heavy brawler of a knock-your-opponents-off-the-platform. Yoshi loved it. And it set a solid fun tone for the evening: all multiplayer, all light-hearted fun. It never got too intense.
It had been forever since Tim Hilbert was able to come. So we gave him Honorary New Guy status. Tim picked Meltdown (A- 4-player couch co-op)
Meltdown grabbed everybody’s attention right away. Bullets flied, swords slashed. Tim led the charge as the four stout mercs took the isometric field against a robot horde. While levels looked a little samey, the challenge compensated for the abundance of players at a tight pace. Vince dug right in as it played kinda similar to NES classics like Commando, Jackal, and Contra. After beating three levels and letting everybody try, we were ready for another game. But first? Snack break.
Tim Hilbert and Vince hooked everybody up with bottled root beer, cream soda, and chips. Then we took pictures. For some reason, they insisted on picking me up:
We blasted off in our rockets, shot each other with smaller rockets, and tried to not lose all of our rocket shields. To say it was a blast would be an understatement – not to mention, a terrible pun. Admittedly, the game had some refining to do as its Steam Early Access. Ironically, the game updated a day later and added a ton of refinements. We’ll keep in in the rotation.
Speaking of rotation, Alex Carter asked if we could play some of the GameCell classic, Samurai Gunn (S+ 4-player couch deathmatch)
We busted it out to discover what all was added in the new update. In short, tighter swordplay, widescreen support, new levels, and sheer happiness. Our crew ate it up. It’s like you take one of the greatest multiplayer games and just make it better. We slashed each other to pieces and enjoyed the cherry blossoms instead of blood – just because it was prettier.
The crowd thinned. Tim Russell and Tyler went home. As did Vince. Tim Hilbert asked to play some Towerfall. (S+ 4-player couch deathmatch)
We made time for it. As it’s also one of our GameCell classics. After a couple rounds of pinning each other to the wall with arrows and Tim shrieking like a billy goat, we all gave each other hugs and closed down for the night.
Garrett did an amazing job of guiding the game selection process and I am looking forward to when he can do it again. Before leaving, Greg told me that he’d love to ask the questions for our discussion next time. And I’m generally just super excited about how much these guys love taking responsibility and running with it!
We’re talking about 21st Century Sacrifice! And we’re playing this:
My brother in Christ, Ayk Iano (Ian), started his own game cell group! It’s called Intertain. You can read about their first get-together on his website here.
I met Ian through his great writing and contributions in the Theology Gaming community before it started to grow. His love for Jesus and games was immediately apparent, as was his unique perspective. Ian and his wife, May, live in Sydney. And they’ve both proven to be fantastic friends.
Boss battles are always violent, Right? Except when they aren’t. Meet Deus Ex: Human Revolution’s social boss fights.
You can easily lose these “fights,” but a silver tongue will get information out of somebody who doesn’t want to give it to you. Much of this is helped by an upgradable skill (augmentation) called Emotional Intelligence Enhancement.