This is a response to a Christian meme that showed up on Facebook. Zachery wrote about it in detail on Theology Gaming.
This is a response to a Christian meme that showed up on Facebook. Zachery wrote about it in detail on Theology Gaming.
We just started a brand new show about the redemptive qualities in videogames.
It’s called WHY WE LOVE and it’s a cross between an overview and a let’s play. My goal is to keep them as short as possible but to also take you with me into redemptive play experiences. Our first episode is about Banner Saga. Enjoy!
Josh couldn’t wait for GameCell. He showed up half an hour early and just sat on the front stoop.
We started right on time (seven P.M.). I opened with a story and a question.
“Seventeen years ago, my best friend unleashed a rage on me like I’d never seen. During a round of Goldeneye, He screamed at the top of his lungs, “YOU FREAKING F****T!” Sure, I was screencheating. But that sowed a bitter seed between us that lasted for over a year. It took a long time for us to forgive one another.”
“What was your worst game experience – the time you got the most offended?”
Josh Z, Garrett, Tyler, Tim, Joey, Greg, Seth, Alex H, Jason, Joey, Joey’s friend, Devon, and Wayne listened. Then they remembered of stories of their own.
Wayne didn’t think he had any stories. But “big game hunting” had the word “game” in it, so he shared a story about a man interrupting a serene stare-down with a family of deer by walking up on him and paying no attention to any of the warning signs.
The rest of the guys shared a bunch of stories of times that they got upset at cheaters, hackers, and surprisingly few stories of “noob tubers.”
Time for a quick refresher:
“Two meets ago, we talked about how Jesus wants us to follow him: “Do you want to follow Jesus? Why or why not?” Last time: we talked about how God is a radically loving dad who just wants to welcome you home, give you fine clothes, and throw you a banquet!
Tonight? Let’s get to forgiveness.”
What do you think Jesus says about forgiveness?
We heard thoughts from almost all of the guys. Each dude offered a helpful little chunk. The character of Christ’s forgiveness came up through everybody: namely, God’s forgives our sin, how he tackles our shame, and equips us to forgive ourselves. Tyler unknowingly set me up with Jesus’ parable about how we’re to forgive others from Matthew 18:
The kingdom of God is like a king who decided to square accounts with his servants. As he got under way, one servant was brought before him who had run up a debt of a hundred thousand dollars. He couldn’t pay up, so the king ordered the man, along with his wife, children, and goods, to be auctioned off at the slave market.
“The poor wretch threw himself at the king’s feet and begged, ‘Give me a chance and I’ll pay it all back.’ Touched by his plea, the king let him off, erasing the debt.
“The servant was no sooner out of the room when he came upon one of his fellow servants who owed him ten dollars. He seized him by the throat and demanded, ‘Pay up. Now!’
“The poor wretch threw himself down and begged, ‘Give me a chance and I’ll pay it all back.’ But he wouldn’t do it. He had him arrested and put in jail until the debt was paid. When the other servants saw this going on, they were outraged and brought a detailed report to the king.
“The king summoned the man and said, ‘You evil servant! I forgave your entire debt when you begged me for mercy. Shouldn’t you be compelled to be merciful to your fellow servant who asked for mercy?’ The king was furious and put the screws to the man until he paid back his entire debt…”
“Do you believe you’re forgiven?”
“Why not forgive everyone? For everything! And yeah, I realize that it seems impossible. But that’s why we’ve got to remember how much we’re forgiven. It makes it a whole lot easier. Maybe it helps to end with a question?”
“Who do you have a hard time forgiving?”
Wayne prayed for our crew. I don’t know if Seth knew Wayne was joking about kneeling as Seth followed Wayne into his silly religious-kneeling pose. We giggled. Wayne sat up and soon spoke freedom from unforgiveness over our dudes. Then he prayed for a fun game time.
Garrett picked Gauntlet and stepped into the shoes of the Valkyrie. Others
As a 2014 reboot of the 1985 classic, Gauntlet actually established a lot of what we love about local multiplayer brawling. End-of-level scoring keeps each player hounding for gold. And when the rooms drown in dregs of the deep, cooperation becomes necessity.
“Don’t shoot the food!” was heard a few times. If somebody shot the food, that meant no health for somebody who probably needs it.
For those playing, the game was pretty solid, minus the fact that four locked-in classes meant not everybody got to play as the character they wanted. To watch? It was kinda boring.
Maybe we’ll only bust this one out in the future if we have small crew of just four people.
Josh Z went straight for Screencheat, the game where everybody is invisible and the only way to win is to peek at their screens. It’s like four-player split-screen Goldeneye, but with better controls, a faster pace, and the requirement of peeking at other player’s screens. Spread-based weapons, and colored maps with lots of landmarks keep the game sharp and focused.
It broke our brains a bit. But as each player got comfortable in the map, we got good at hunting each other down, or camping and watching their movements as they came close. It took a few rounds to figure out how to look at other screens while your own, but the saving grace is that it’s really fun to watch, as your audience can more easily track where each player is and how they are responding to one another.
In addition to colorful worlds, maps, and weapons, the game’s ton takes a cheerier tone with some seriously funny kill notifications:
“YOU GOT KANYE WESTED!”
The joy of Speedrunners is that it uses traditional platforming language as the foundation for four-player racing. Any player that falls behind dies. Last man standing wins a point. Three points to win.
Think sidescrolling Mario Kart with super heroes in ridiculous costumes.
Speedrunners won the evening with it’s sheer party-game effectiveness. Wayne picked it because I made him pick something. The guys talked him into choosing Speedrunners, because I didn’t effectively lead him into a game that didn’t require mechanical skill. It worked fine for them. And Wayne got the controller in hand and pressed a few buttons. Progress.
Stanley Parable A+
Half the guys left. For the half of us that remained, slower and funnier seemed appropriate. Nobody present in our crew played the Stanley Parable when we had a whole night around it last year.
Here’s Jason’s candid response to the Stanley Parable:
The game is a live-action commentary on your decisions as a player. The game doesn’t often go so far as to break the fourth wall, but it flirts with it the whole time. And it really makes players question why they’re doing what they’re doing. And will they obey the “great voice in your head?”
Always a fantastic choice for GameCell. And if anybody is curious about this game, I recommend that you download the standalone demo of the game as it’s probably the best demo of any game (and will spoil absolutely nothing of the main game).
Return of Obra Dinn A-
Before everybody left, I squeaked-in a quick session showing them the ten-minute demo for Return of Obra Dinn. This game is by no means finished, but does some really amazing things with interactive narratives, allowing players to piece together the story based on how they play. Also, the game has a very wild art style. Some might hate it, but I love it.
A wonderful night as always. And in case you were wondering, yes everybody was very forgiving when we played games together!
“Just love and listen.”
This seemed to be what King Daddy was reminding me as I prepped for our Friday Night experience. Questions sat in queue, but I said ready for Him to illuminate the theme: He’s a loving Papa who wants to connect with these dudes.
“What’s the best game experience you ever had with your dad?
“…Or stepdad? Or father-figure?”
Greg, Alex H, Tyler, Vince, Jason, and Alex C shared stories about playing games with papas. It wasn’t really a surprise that their all-time favorite games were often the ones that they played with their dads, stepdads, or father figures.
“What comes to mind when you hear, ‘Father?’”
Each of the guys shared a wealth of thoughts. Then we turned towards the concept of God as Father. We explored the concept together, encouraging an open dialogue. Then I thought one of Jesus’ parables might bring the subject to a head:
A man had two sons. The younger son told his father, ‘I want my share of your estate now before you die.’ So his father agreed to divide his wealth between his sons. A few days later this younger son packed all his belongings and moved to a distant land, and there he wasted all his money [on booze and hookers].
About the time his money ran out, a great famine swept over the land, and he began to starve. He persuaded a local farmer to hire him, and the man sent him into his fields to feed the pigs. The young man became so hungry that even the pods he was feeding the pigs looked good to him. But no one gave him anything.
When he finally came to his senses, he said to himself, ‘At home even the hired servants have food enough to spare, and here I am dying of hunger! I will go home to my father and say, “Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. Please take me on as a hired servant.
So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his [patriarch never-has-to-run wealthy-landowner] father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran [full speed, outrunning any of the accusers and naysers] to his son, embraced him, and kissed him. His son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son.’
But his father said to the servants, ‘Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet. And kill the calf we have been fattening. We must celebrate with a feast, for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.’ So the party began.
“May Vince and I pray into you the Father’s Love? For the party to begin?”
We prayed. Imparted. Then, game time. Vince and Tyler headed out to get snacks. The rest of us slowly transitioned to the downstairs.
Neverending Nightmares (Jason’s pick). B+
Following the theme of Papa God and deeply committed trust, Neverending Nightmares made for a surprisingly-apt pick. Not sure the guys got the thematic connection. But that’s why I’m linking my explanation about it here: The Light of the Cross in Neverending Nightmares. Vince dug the artwork. Our crew seemed to dig the personal-testimony-driven horror. I asked a lot of questions as we played-through to really encourage deeper engagement beyond just “this game is really creepy.”
The biggest reveal was that this game was about empathy for those who deal with self-harm, depression, and obsessive compulsion. Also if you’re in similar shoes, this game exists to bring hope and say “you’re not alone in this.”
Ittle Dew (Tyler’s pick). B+
After the scary and serious, some humor and color came at the right time. Ittle Dew follows the original top-down Zelda games’ almost to a T. But the curt tone and silly parodies of Zelda play through all of the expectations of a similar game. Tyler had a lot of fun playing it. And the rest of our crew had a lot of fun helping him with the puzzles.
Megabyte Punch (Alex C’s pick). B+
Time for something that brews adrenaline – four players at a time. Four players crammed-in on one screen and smashed each other around as customized robots that I had to build-out individually for an ideal combat engagement. The setup was a lot of work. But the payoff was great for our Smash-Bros-trained GameCell duders. Each round got crazier and crazier. But the climax was the enclosed level with a ton of fire-red bumpers that sent you banging into one another (and probably oblivion).
Hatoful Boyfriend. (Alex H’s pick) D+
On the box it sounded great: date pigeons, laugh at fowl jokes. We all did the voices for each new bird. And had two people doing the voice for the teenage girl protagonist who was dating the birds. Problem was that twenty minutes into the game, the only meaningful interaction we had with the game was forwarding non-interactive conversation. No choice. Just push through conversation. It could have been grand. I thought I knew it would be grand. But it almost put us all to sleep. Seriously. Some pigeon puns were funny. But on the fourth “Everybirdie listen up!”, we lost interest. So we quit early and went to a game we knew and loved.
Lethal League (Group pick) A+
Pigeon dating put us to sleep. Lethal League to the rescue! We ended the night on a good note.
In which, we look at stories about Jesus showing up in nightmares (in a good way), fun violent things to do with friends, and why Snow White should get her own game.
Wolf Among Us Season 2 Should Be ‘White Among Us’
Snow White should be the main character in Wolf Among Us: Season 2.
It’s not a stretch. She’s front-and-center in Fables’ second volume, Animal Farm, where Bigby takes a back seat. Snow takes charge on an unannounced visit to The Farm, and has to deal with an unpleasant reality: The Farm is a refugee camp with growing discontent.
Neverending Nightmares – The Light of the Cross In The Midst of Darkness
Horror games aren’t how I like to spend my time. But I have to admit that there’s something about how this game involves Jesus anguish as a part of the story and how he enters into our story.
Matt Gilgenbach highlights in Neverending Nightmares how Jesus felt similar absence from God, but also that tension of maintained relational trust. Jesus chose the cross because he wants to enter into our horror in order to deliver us from it. Perhaps that deliverance extends through us when we enter into others’ horrors as well?
Grand Smash Dunk Slam – Lethal League Review
I gave this game a 9.5/10. Here’s why:
It’s the slam-bam “you got me, man” party-fighter of the year. You’ll love slamming your friends with the Baseball Of Doom. And you’ll kinda like it when they strike it home-run-derby-style right into your throat. I promise. It’s good times. Lethal League turns sleepy-slouchy friends into raging sports-brawlers in seconds flat.
In which, we look back at a bunch of articles contributed about a ton of unique games.
Crawl is the Improv Theater of the Future
“Crawl encourages us all to be narcissistic actors. Each player’s motivation to take the spotlight keeps the play going.”
Read the Crawl Early Access Preview on Plus 10 Damage.
Roundabout Review: The Best FMV Game Ever
Roundabout wants to be an outstanding skill-based game. It’s got the leaderboards, extremely demanding expectations of each level (the best rating I ever got was a 68%), and the speed-run infrastructure to challenge even the most precise of players… Roundabout’s crowning achievement is that it’s the best FMV game ever made. And that’s something.
Growing Into Mature Gang Beasts (Preview)
Gang Beasts may be the awkward-comedy-brawler of the year. It’s neck-and-neck with Starwhal: Just The Tip. We’re gonna be hearing a lot more about these games as they update from Early Access to full release. And right now, Gang Beasts is very early. Like no-soundtrack or textures early. But even in this super-rough ultra-buggy state, I can say with no hesitation: if you have three friends and like awkward, you need Gang Beasts in your life.
Let’s Play This War of Mine
This War of Mine runs in contrast to the war games of history’s past. Instead of taking the role of the gun-toting victor, this game casts us into the plight of war’s victims. As a small community of scavengers incapable of escaping the violence, you have only one option from the outset: survive.
Crypt of the NecroDancer: B- watch-n-play, 2P co-op
Greg was a boss and took to the DDR dance mat for Crypt of the NecroDancer. After a solid tutorial mission run, he was up to rocking the dance pad as seriously as one could. I don’t know how clear the game was to everybody watching, though.
The real test came when we disconnected the DDR dance pad and gave Hively a controller. He and Greg made it for about a minute and a half before dying on regular difficulty. Hard game with a steep learning curve.
Lethal League: A+ multiplayer
We went all-in with lethal league: a four-player fighting game that plays like dodgeball with baseball bats. It starts fast and only gets faster. We alternated groups back and forth for a bit. The games went so fast, everybody got to play, got into other’s playing, and generally had a fantastic time. Here’s a clip of the game with GameCell dudes recorded at another date:
Talk Time (Our first hour together)
“Mr. Carter, mind putting your 3DS away?”
“GameCell is about connecting with one another about life, providing a safe space for spiritual discussion, and listening to one another. That’s why Alex is putting his 3DS away.”
“Fine. I am. I am.”
“We want to connect with one another with our whole attention. And show one another that what we have to say is valuable. Even if there’s no new guys tonight. This is good that we’re all veterans now. Means we can go a bit deeper.”
Dakota K, Greg, Seth, Alex C, Alex H, Tim R, Tyler, Vince, and I crammed into the living room, starting about the games we’re enjoying from this year and what we’re looking forward to. Then, the deeper question:
What stories come to mind when you think about what Jesus is like?
Turning water into wine.
Walking on water.
Flipping tables at the temple.
Healing the sick.
Raising the dead.
Do you want to follow Jesus? Why or why not?
A few of our guys shared quite candidly on this subject. Dakota shared about how being around loving prayerful people in his trials with his daughter’s health has meant God showed up in times of need. “When I reached out to him, he’s answered. So yeah. I wanna follow him.”
Vince closed our discussion in prayer.
Steamworld Dig: A- watch-n-play
Tim dug right into Steamworld Dig. As we met characters with talking parts, the non-players acted them out. Since a lot of the game is digging in the dirt, finding treasure, and selling it, we didn’t always feel perfectly connected to the action on screen, but the guys were digging it and providing useful commentary to Tim’s adventure. It didn’t hurt that Tim progressed pretty quickly and got a lot of upgrades for Rusty within half an hour.
Mark of the Ninja: A- watch-n-play
Seth wanted to try Mark of the Ninja, so I cleared the game and he started fresh on the first mission. Kid seems to be a stealth-game natural as he barely had to retry this punishing game about sneaking, being fragile, and graceful.
The rest of us watched as he played in full-tension, always feeling the fear of getting caught by much-stronger guards. Surprisingly fun to watch.
Roundabout B+ watch-n-play
Tim opted for the silliest game of the night, Roundabout. Dude was graceful, carefully avoiding any crashes for far longer than I could manage – which is a tricky thing to do when you’re driving a revolving limousine that never stops spinning.
Roundabout was a perfect way to end the night: funny, off-the-wall and not enough time to play and get red-faced because of frustration.
Until next time!
Our GameCell asked a lot of brilliant questions last time we got together. But we didn’t have time to answer all of them. To preserve the value and integrity of the questions being asked, I took to video.
“I’ve recently lost hope in life, and I just don’t know. How do I get it back?”
“What if I come from a religious family, but I am doubting God?”
“Who has Steam? Is it worth getting?”
Thanks again to my GameCell crew for all the valuable questions. And don’t be afraid to keep them coming. I’m always up for this kind of stuff and more serious stuff. Also, don’t be afraid to ask other people that you trust. Sometimes, we spend too much time in silence.
This War of Mine is a game about the victims of war. Using survival-crafting mechanics, the game casts us into the care of three survivors. Here’s my short play-through of the game:
Courtesy of GameChurch and 11 Bit Studios.
This time, all our serious questions came from the guys, not me.
First, we broke the ice with “What games have affected you on a deep emotional level?” Our four new guys (Johnny, Seth, Greg, and Jason) shared; as did our six veterans (Matt, Tyler, Anthony, Nick, Hively, and Carter). Vince and I passed out index cards and asked them to share any questions that had been weighing on them – anything they wanted to ask older guys who had life experience. We tossed the cards folded into a bowl and dug them out:
We took our time answering these questions. But there was one that we took some extra time with:
Why am I alive when my life has no meaning or purpose?
Firstly, to anybody who steps in my house, I want to tell you that you’re loved. Loved my me, Jess, Vince. And I know this might not carry quite the same weight for some but it’s truer than you can imagine: God loves you. I don’t know how to draw that out and make that real for anybody here, but I do have to tell you that his love goes beyond any disorientation or depression or anything. I get it, though. I wanted to end my life when I was fifteen. And telling me “God loves you” didn’t fully change that.
Maybe a picture will help?
Not that picture. This picture:
The Bible starts by telling us that we’re “Made in God’s Image.” Like we’re his. He sees so much of himself when he looks at us. When I was a kid and came up with drawings of violent-blob-dudes that beat the crap out of each other, you know what my dad said? “This is awesome! I’m so proud of you!” I know some of you didn’t have great dads. But this is the kind of picture God is trying to instill with us when he says “I made you in my image.” He’s excited by anything you do. Anything you create. And he wants to share in your joy.
How about another picture? Imagine this:
You are a seed. A huge, glowing, powerful seed. Full of potential. Full of life. But right now all you can see is that you’re a seed. You have no idea what kind of tree you’ll become. You might become a tall tree with normal fruit that most people like. Or you might become a wide tree with wild fruit that a smaller group of people like, but they’ll be radical in their excitement. Or you could become the kind of tree that nobody has ever seen before.
The simple matter right now, however, is that you’re presently a seed.
Most of you guys aren’t quite into your 20s yet. And that’s a whole decade of your life where your tree-like nature starts to flourish. You discover – at least a little bit – of what God’s got in-store for you.
It starts with this: “I love you. I’m with you. We’re gonna make it.” I’m confident that’s what God’s saying to you. So much so, that I feel the same way and want to know that Vince and I, we’re with you. We love you. We’re gonna make it, together.
And we’re gonna find out what kind of tree you’re gonna become.
We didn’t get to all of the questions. We still have yet to answer these:
I plan on getting to these questions sometime this week. I might shoot short video clips trying to give a truthful response.
Game time. Seth went first. His pick?
This War of Mine (A)
This War Of Mine doesn’t have a release date. But it does have this deep press demo that I have to write about. It’s a very different kind of war game. Instead of being a soldier, you lead a group of homeless wartime civilians who are squatting in a bombed-out building. There’s only one option in the game: survive.
As Seth played, we discussed the scavenging mechanics, and how the game was inspired by letters from survivors of the Kosovo war of the late 90s. Seth had to make some very hard decisions like, “do we make a bed, or do we make a crude stove?” Or in other words, “Do we sleep, or do we cook our food?” This decision can be made easier if you don’t have enough food to cook (which was Seth’s group’s case).
Our GameCell crew provided Seth with lots of suggestions on what to do and how to try to get by. But ultimately, he lost one of his survivors on the first night. The remaining survivors got a status ailment that said “sad.” But I think it put those of us watching right there with them.
(Group rating: A* single-player (others watch) *This game is not finished.)
Gang Beasts (A+)
Greg picked Gang Beasts. The next forty-five minutes was a chorus of awkward groans of “Guhh,” “Buhh,” and “Eyaahh!” Meanwhile, four colorful play-dough-men proceeded to grab and push each other into harm. The result? Sustained laughter.
Controls are awkward. Sounds are barely finished. Levels are plain. The game glitched-out multiple times. And yet this may be the best multiplayer experience we’ve had this year.
It’s hilarious. Even when you lose.
Gang Beasts is like if Goat Simulator wanted to do Super Smash Bros. And everybody got into it. We passed controllers.
Everybody jumped in when we could give them a turn. It was a little tricky because I accidentally set the levels to alternate. Which, in this early state, doesn’t give enough time to hand-off controllers to new players. But I’m sure all of this will get worked out in the future updates. So fun.
(Group rating: A+ 4P-multiplayer *Game is in very early Early Access)
“PUNCH ME IN THE FACE!” Jason said to Johnny on several occasions. To be honest, it was more, “punch me in the spectral bubble so I can help you beat-up Mexican skeletons.” But in the heat of the moment, these details can get lost.
A luchador and a luchadora take the screen and proceed to run, jump, and adventure through a wild Mexican cartoon world where they progressively unlock new abilities. They get all of these abilities from a goat-wizard, of course. Comedy carries this to a smaller degree. The brawling mechanics started to suck Johnny and Jason right-in at about the twenty-minute mark. I’m sure they could have kept going for hours. But some of the onlookers weren’t as into it, feeling the 10:10pm sleepy-time more than the intensity of the game.
The two guys playing loved it. But Alex Hively fell asleep. I love Guacamelee. But I think it’s better when it’s just two players and not in front of a large group.
(Group rating: B- 2P-co-op)
We kept going until 10:30, hoping to see Jason and Johnny get to the alebrije. But as they died for the first time, our hopes of sticking it out were dashed. Time to call it a night. A great night.
Loved having you guys over! So much fun! And great conversations!