Resurrection, Alzheimers, and Alpha Protocol

In which, we explore some of the best stuff from April because we’re lazy and didn’t share it until now…

Theology Gaming’s First-ever Resurrection-cast!


A while back, we had a pretty rad Theology Gaming podcast about Resurrection where we talked about Jesus resurrection and how themes of resurrection pervade the gaming industry at large. The only times death and resurrection come up half as much as they do in Christianity is in videogames. Folks are dying and resurrecting all the time in that junk. We talked about it last month on the Theology Gaming podcast.

Ether One’s Real-World Horror


Unlike resurrection, Alzheimers doesn’t come up too often in videogames. But back in April, it came up in two. After toying around with one, I wrote about it in length. In short, if you liked Bioshock and thought it needed more of a real-world personal touch, you should find this story about Ether One fascinating.

The Wonderful Terrible People-Pleasing Power of Alpha Protocol


Alpha Protocol’s preoccupation with flattery got me into a little bit of trouble. As much as I love the game, I do have to be honest with how much it co-opted my pre-existing fear-of-man and made me just learn how to appeal to everybody’s pride so I could “win” as a verbal conquistador. Also, it’s my first feature on Plus 10 Damage!

Sharing GameCell Over Formative Stories

In which, our GameCell talks about formative stories, we play Child of Light, and we get a visitor who wants to start something like GameCell in his own community.


Formative Stories

“So, what stories formed you from an early age?”

Bob, being our honored guest of the evening, went first: “Hardy Boys. Chronicles of Narnia. Anything I could get my hands on, really. I think I read all of the Hardy Boys by second grade.” Alex went next. “Pokemon. My grandmother got me into it. Pretty much everything fun in my childhood was because of her.” Vince shared about his love for G.I. Joe and how much of a shock it was when he saw a cartoon where somebody actually died (Robotech). For me? Bible Stories where Noah, Jesus, and Moses were all cartoon characters.

“So what stories do you want to form your children?”

“Stories of Hope.” Vince said resolutely. “I don’t want my kids to ever be lost to despair. I want them to know that there’s always hope and that God never gives up on us.” Bob shared about reading to his four kids, but expressed how much his oldest child can’t seem to connect the Narnia series. He said he hopes that all of his kids can connect with the Bible so they see themselves in that story. Alex talked about how he wanted to empower his kids any way he could, focusing on stories that teach them to stand up to bullies. And I shared how I want my kids to experience the raw wild detail in Bible stories; maybe feel a little bit of the horror in the Noah Story, or ask me “What’s a prostitute?” when I tell them the story of Samson.

We also talked about what was going on in each other’s lives.

Bob came to visit to see how we do GameCell in hopes that he might bring some of what we’re doing back to his home church in the Harrisburg area. It was a huge privilege to have him. And I hope to soon hear his stories about trying something like GameCell within his own church family.

Also, Bob, you’re welcome back anytime!


Child of Light

Following the theme of formative bedtime-like stories, Child of Light seemed like the perfect fit. We gave Bob a controller and told him he was now princess Aurora. Within the next hour, we went with him into a fantastic world where everybody rhymed and the world was a mess of sad beauty. Tim showed up, picked up the second controller and as a supportive firefly named Igniculus, helped Bob with the strategic turn-based battles.


Next, we changed games to show Bob some of the GameCell favourites. He won the first round of Samurai Gunn. We also busted out Towerfall Ascension and Nidhogg. Much laughter and excitement filled the room.

Tim got so into Nidhogg that he felt the need to take his shirt off.

“How Do You Do Gamecell?”

After we closed up shop and most of the guys left, Bob seemed to have a few questions.

1. “How do you get the games or decide what to play?”

If it’s a theme night, I’ll look at the games I’ve got that circle around a particular theme. A lot of the time, I’ll grab an indie game that the guys haven’t heard of but I think they’ll like. I’ve modded my PC so that it’s basically a console and we play it just like an Xbox. It helps that there’s a ton of stuff out that’s inexpensive and great for couch play. Humble Bundles help. But I realize a lot of the game selection comes down to my love for games and having a ton that I just want to share with folks.

2. “How do you come up with the content for the discussion at the beginning of the night?

Mostly I just ask the Holy Spirit and run with whatever comes to me after that. Sometimes I come up with a theme for the whole night that links to the games we play. But I always focus on questions (never more than 3). I realize that some of this is related to my gifting and makeup as a teacher/Bible-lover guy. Also, we go through the GameChurch Jesus For The Win gamer Bibles, which are first-hand accounts of Jesus’ life according to his closest disciple. Mostly, I just want dudes to see what Jesus is like and let the Text do more of the heavy lifting. We’ll just focus on a tiny little bit of it at a shot.

And now as I’m writing this, I’m wondering: Would it be helpful for me to put together all of the kinds of discussions we’ve had? Like as a guide or a list of suggestions?

3. “What would you say is the most important part of GameCell?”

I’d say listening.

So much of Gamecell is about creating a culture and group focused on the new guys. To listen to their stories. To learn from one another. But mostly to listen. That’s especially why I like to pick a single-player game for the newbie to play so we can all just experience it with them. It teaches us to appreciate each other instead of just focus on ourselves or winning or whatever.

Also, always pray. I’ve found that prayer/readiness for what the Holy Spirit wants to do? It consistently dictates the quality of our time together as a group.

Kids From Church Design Game in My Car (And Here It Is…)

In which, a conversation with young guys on a drive home from church led to a funny game you can have.


A conversation from a drive home after church:

“What if you made an endless runner where you’re a cob of popcorn trying to avoid being popped?” Israel asked.

Isaiah smiled as he listened to his brother.

“Yeah. And he could get a sword and cuts the other already-popped popcorns to pieces.” Isaiah said.

“I dunno guys, I think it would be funnier if our corn didn’t have any weapons and he was just terrified out of his mind!” I said.

We all laughed hysterically.

Recently, Isaiah informed me that he made this game.

And you can play it now.


Indiana Corn (58mb, PC Only)

No Underestimating the Walking Dead and a Theology of Exploration

In which, contributions elsewhere point-out the value of oft-overlooked folk and remind us to have an explorative theology.

No Underestimating The Walking Dead’s Protagonist


Telltale’s Walking Dead: Season Two is shaping up to quite a curious tale. An eleven-year-old girl starts showing up the men in her life. And I realized that maybe this has something to do with the “least of these.” GameChurch pubbed the piece.

A Theology of Exploration (and Videogames): The Podcast


Ted, Zach and I discussed the merits of theological exploration in a diversity of traditions and the videogames that somehow relate to that. Ted related it to playing Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, Zach linked it to Dark Souls, and I drew connections to Dishonored: Knife of Dunwall/Brigmore Witches. Go figure. Listen to Podcast 35: Exploration on Theology Gaming or through itunes.

Resurrection and Octodad: GameCell Recap

In which, our GameCell talked about the resurrection of Jesus and octopuses who have to make coffee.


The Convo:

“What do you think Christianity is really about?”

I lobbed this query into a room of young men. (My suspicion was that they had the answers and maybe didn’t even know it.)

“Like, forget all hypocritical trash. What’s the real substance?”

“Like that Jesus died for our sins?” Matt replied.

“That’s an awesome point, Mr. Romano.” I said. “I like how you emphasized ‘our sins’ and made that connection to each of us. What do the rest of you guys think?”

Brian told a recent real-world good Samaritan story and how important it is to take care of others. I affirmed that that was tied to the greatest commandment. Newcomers, Garret Kraut, and Alex Hively filled in a few gaps in the story, bringing up resurrection. Alex Carter shared a bit, too. Then Vince fleshed-out how the whole story related to his experience with Jesus and the church.

“So what do you think of Jesus resurrecting from the dead?”

“Do you believe it’s true?”

Then I read this bit from John 20 in our Jesus For The Win Bibles:

Thomas said, “Unless I see the nail holes in his hands, put my finger in the nail holes, and stick my hand in his side, I won’t believe it.”

Eight days later, his disciples were again in the room. This time Thomas was with them. Jesus came through the locked doors, stood among them, and said, “Peace to you.”

Then he focused his attention on Thomas. “Take your finger and examine my hands. Take your hand and stick it in my side. Don’t be unbelieving. Believe.”

Thomas said, “My Master! My God!”

Jesus said, “So, you believe because you’ve seen with your own eyes. Even better blessings are in store for those who believe without seeing.”

Jesus provided far more God-revealing signs than are written down in this book. These are written down so you will believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and in the act of believing, have real and eternal life in the way he personally revealed it.

“So what do you think? Do you believe this?”

Garret said, “Yeah, I do believe it. I didn’t understand when I heard bible stuff before, because it was boring. But I get this.”


Octodad: Starring Alex as the legs and Garret as the arms

This got messy fast. Octodad is a hard game to control. That’s the fun of it. You’re an octopus trying to keep the world (and your family) from realizing that you’re a mollusk. It’s surprisingly easy as everybody in the world is pretty deluded.  You just have to be careful not to smack your wife with a toaster or beat your kids with the milk jug when you pour them a drink. Problem is, that none of that is easy. Even when you’re two dudes who are like this:

Pretty sure they had a blast. Though, it’s pretty painful to watch when all you have to do is a simple task like, “make burgers” and our heroes can’t seem to get the last burger on the daughter’s bun because their tentacles are going each way to Sunday and Alex just laughs hysterically the entire time. Very funny. Though, maybe not exactly fun to watch. Though, everybody got to enjoy the extreme sense of accomplishment when we successfully weeded the garden, brewed coffee, and hung the birdhouse on the tree.

Then it was time for something we could all be good at.

Towerfall: Ascension

Then Tim showed up with pizza!

GameCell Isn’t An Event Anymore

I told the guys I’ve messed up. I’ve treated GameCell like it’s an event. It’s not an event. GameCell is us. We are GameCell.

My mistake was in how I framed things by saying “Come to GameCell.” Instead, it should be, “Our GameCell is getting together. Wanna see what we’re like?” From here on out, people are a part of GameCell the moment they they show up. It’s up to them whether they want to own it or not.

So, would you like to be a part of our GameCell?

Holy Monday: Why Did Jesus Really Curse The Fig Tree?


The first thing Jesus does after Palm Sunday where he rode into Jerusalem, cleaned-out the temple, and healed the sick?

He flip-outs on a fig tree:

“May you never bear fruit again!” He shouts. Then it withers and dies.

It seems like he was just hungry and got pissed-off that he couldn’t have a snack. Or that he just wanted to show his disciples that if you have enough faith, you can boss nature around. But it’s important to note that whenever a Bible story starts, you’ve got to read it until the story ends or that day ends in particular. Or you might miss the point of the story.

When the disciples were done swooning over Jesus like starstruck fanboys, he explained that if have enough faith and don’t doubt, you can “say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done.”

So why did Jesus really curse this fig tree?

Where does this story end?

It starts in Matthew 21:18 with them going into Jerusalem. And then the day ends in Matthew 26:5, where the religious leaders scheme to abduct Jesus in private. That’s five chapters of activity in one day. It’s a pretty busy day. But what’s interesting is what Jesus says to his disciples around the time that he’s passing the dead fig tree on the way out of the city. The disciples are all marveling over how rad the temple is. And Jesus says “not one stone will be left on top of another.” And they’re all confused by all of this.

Ever notice how Jerusalem is on a mountain? And what did Jesus say about prayer and mountains? And where was the temple exactly? Wasn’t it like at the top of the town? Might Jesus have actually been cursing the corrupted temple and the system of it’s screwed-up leaders?

I think all of that is a solid maybe.

What I do know is that just after Jesus cursed the fig tree, we get to see some of the best verbal Kung-fu recorded in the bible.

Check this Jesus fight out:

Jesus shows up in the Temple and schools the religious leaders and then they’re like, “By what authority are you doing these things?” And he’s like ““I will also ask you one question. If you answer me, I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things. John’s baptism—where did it come from? Was it from heaven, or of human origin?” Of course, they can’t validate John or they look like fools. So he’s got them trapped. They don’t answer his question, so he doesn’t answer theirs.

Then Jesus tells this parable about two sons who appear disobedient before their father. One son says he’ll obey and doesn’t. The other son says he won’t obey and then does. Then Jesus explains the parable by saying that whores and traitors are closer to God than the religious leaders.

This doesn’t exactly earn any points for Jesus among his enemies. He spends the next two chapters turning their own words on them and making them look as guilty as a middle-aged man walking out of a porn shop.

And if that’s not harsh enough, he starts yelling at them:

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.”

And then:

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.”

And in case, that wasn’t clear enough:

“You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell?”

(At this point in the story, it may become clear why these leaders didn’t like him.)


So where are you at in this story? Cheering-on Jesus for calling-out the religious buttholes? Watching it all in disbelief, not knowing how to take it all in? Or are you questioning where you have hypocrisy in your own life? Carefully making sure you don’t end up like the pharisees?


After all of this goes down, you can feel the heat coming off of Jesus with how angry he is. He leaves the temple with his disciples and they’re super shocked when he tells them the temple is gonna be destroyed. So they ask the obvious questions of where, when, and how. They’re trying to make it fit with their view of the end times (which says a lot of other things have to happen in the temple before it can be destroyed). So Jesus tells them a pretty scary sounding story of deceptions, rumors of wars, faux-messiahs, and a time when “there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now—and never to be equaled again.”

This is a really weird bedtime story.

Then after Jesus seems to have screened the most depressing version of a Left Behind film trailer, he says this:

“Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door. Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.”

So I’d love to do a fancy pastor/teacher thing and wrap this all up super nice and clean. But instead, I’m gonna leave you with this:

A Holy Monday question:

What does Jesus want us to do with all of this cursing/faith/criticism/apocolyptic stuff? How do you think it’s meant to affect your faith?

Pitch Process: Invisible Inc., Ether One, Luftrausers,

In which, Josh digests three games and discovers something worth writing about (maybe).

Invisible Inc.


I opted-in to Invisible Inc.’s alpha. It does for turn-based tactics what Mark of the Ninja did for stealth games. Or what Don’t Starve did for procedural wilderness survival. Or what would happen if you mashed both of those games together to make Ninja Starve stew, then poured it into an ice cube tray, let it freeze overnight, and then set the cubes on your tabletop with some D-20s and the simpleminded determination of “let’s do this.”

In short, it’s a two-man tactical stealth game with random levels and a permanent death. Or at least that’s what it is right now. Being in alpha, all of this could change with the next update.

I heard some preview dude at IGN say it was his favorite game of PAX East. Made me excited that I beat that guy to the previewbial punch. I’m the hipster schlepp who put down money on a game that isn’t even on Early Access yet. It’s was a gamble. And while I feel cool, I really don’t know what to think about the rogue-likeness.

When I press-into my tactics games, I like growing attached to each and every man, woman, and manchild I toss into the battle-arena. I like knowing that if they die, I can re-load to the quicksave event in time that exists before I funkified the visceral discourse. The punishing permadeath nature of a roguelike assures that I don’t get a second-chance. My Dr. Pedler is Dead. And my Agent Deckard has to just wipe-away the tears he sheds for his robot BFF. Lest the run ends in a near-waste of time.

I’d like to really deep-dive into the mechanical ingenuities at display here.

Luftrausers: A History Lesson


In the mid-early twentieth century, Axis forces unleashed a submarine-launched aircraft that decimated the Allied front. If it weren’t for the last-minute luck of Allied diplomats, the Luftrausers would have won the war for Axis powers and subsequently destroyed everybody in the known universe.

Immediately after the war, Luftrauser technology was dismantled and disavowed – assuring that future generations would never know the destructive awesomeness captured in tiny “Rauser” bits.

Thanks to modern advances in flashpunk cyberdata technology, reformed Axis scientists have made it possible to “Raus” once again – and for the first time ever, experience what it was like to shoot at their grandfathers. You can thank “Luftrausers,” by Vlambeer for making it possible.

Saddle-up, children. For tonight, WE RAUS!

Ether One


Ether One’s pay-off trumped every Bioshock game I ever played (including Gone Home – sorry Gaynor and team). It made each action I made in the game matter in real-world terms that I didn’t expect. And it made me want to play through a second time just to take each of the puzzles more seriously.

Admittedly, the game got slow – both from a technical standpoint and from a mechanical one. There’s not a lot of tension in this first-person-walker. I just had to find the basic memory cores that show up as red bows and slowly I come to understand what is going on in this strange world. Think Inception meets Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind in first-person dealing with dementia. It’s not cheery. But the brilliance of the conclusion makes it worth pushing through the five or six hours of confusion. I promise.

Also, it’s a game that made me empathize with real-world horrors.

Rest, Heal, And Clothe the Naked

In which, contributions elsewhere remind us to rest, heal, and clothe the naked.

Rest: Do We Need Tengami’s Rest?


From the article:

When I look across the videogame landscape, I see some of the most intense games ever created. Titanfall, Dark Souls 2, and Towerfall all came out just in one week. But then I look at little Tengami, sitting quietly in the corner as calm as can be. It’s content to focus on walking and quietly collecting cherry blossom flowers while folding paper. When I look back at the stress-addled games of today, I can’t help but wonder if Tengami is just what we need: a game about rest.

On GameChurch: Do We Need Tengami’s Rest?

Heal: A Discussion About Healing In Videogames And The Church


Do you believe supernatural healing can happen today? Healing’s such a regular part of video games, but we don’t often think of it as we play. So Zach, Ted, and I discussed the collective imagination of videogames, the gospel, and healing on the Theology Gaming podcast.

On Theology Gaming: Healing Podcast

Clothe: Toplessness in Wolf Among Us


Jesus commanded us to feed the hungry and clothe the naked. And while videogame nudity has historically served the male gaze, it’s fascinating that Wolf Among Us lets us interrupt that gaze and provide clothes. It raises the question of what’s most honoring to those who are disrobed: to find a way to clothe them or to just throw out the story they’re a part of.

On Theology Gaming: Toplessness in Wolf Among Us

Starwhal Identity GameCell

In which, we welcome two new Matts, discuss identity, and play not nearly enough of Starwhal: Just the Tip


So where do you get your identity from?

Alex shared a couple of posters he designed based on what he learned in school. We oohed and awed for a bit. Then we watched the video below and discussed the question at hand.

Really, where do you get your identity from?

New Matt number two (Matt Smith, my buddy from college) shared about how he discovered the futility in getting your identity from your job. New Matt number one (Matt Romano, a teen from the youth center) shared how he enjoyed just fitting in with everybody. And Vince shared how he’s struggled to get his identity from anything until he found out he’s a son of God. I echoed similar notions. Brian contrasted his thoughts with Vince and myself, questioning whether or not we really get our identity from God or if that’s just something we say.

I admitted that games sometimes compete for the biggest piece of my heart pie. But that I don’t want to let that over-clock Jesus. I said I want Jesus to frame and shape every part of my story. He seemed to resign to this notion. But I got the impression he’s not convinced.

Game Time!

New Matt number one (Romano) picked Kentucky Route Zero for “show and tell.”


For those not familiar with GameCell show and tell, it’s an opportunity everybody to watch, listen, and help the new guy along the way. It’s kind of a meat-world Twitch stream.

Mr. Romano dug it. But it became apparent that everybody had ants in their pants for something more adrenaliney – to which Starwhal obliged.

Starwhal: Just The Tip

I encourage watching this video of kids playing this game with relatively pure hearts:

Oh man, does Starwhal get awkward fast. As the objective is to use horned space whales to poke each other’s hearts, it seems clear that the designers knew that this goes wrong fast and often.

In one survival match, all of us Starwhals just laid on one another. It was intense.

There’s just thrusting and turning to worry about in Starwhal. And a taunt button. With that super simple toolset, you have all you need to poke your space-foes in the heart.

Our crew found their favorite custom starwhals pretty quickly.


Tim dubbed his monacled gentleman starwhal, “Mr. Peanut.” Vince seemed to prefer the light saber horn. Alex paid homage to Mega Man. And Brian’s Bear Hotdog became the destroyer of worlds.

And yes, there was lots of hysterical yelling.

Ugly Fan Service: God’s Not Dead (Un)Review


So this God’s Not Dead movie surprised a lot of folks by making a multi-million-dollar splash in box offices this weekend. It’s supposed to show how Christians should respond to atheists. But I take huge issue with its ugly framework:

“Present-day college freshman and devout Christian, Josh Wheaton (Shane Harper), finds his faith challenged on his first day of Philosophy class by the dogmatic and argumentative Professor Radisson (Kevin Sorbo). Radisson begins class by informing students that they will need to disavow, in writing, the existence of God on that first day, or face a failing grade.” -God’s Not Dead movie synopsis, Rotten Tomatoes

The movie seems designed to make Christians feel like a persecuted minority where evil Atheists rule the world. And the film seems designed to make Christians feel good about arguing for God’s existence. But apologetics that serve only to make Christians feel good are garbage. It’s just fan service.

When an argument is built around a villain created purely to be a hateful antagonist, the faith “conversation” turns into propaganda. It’s not terribly different from the posters used in WWI to get American soldiers primed for war and dehumanize their political enemies.


People who don’t follow Jesus are people that Jesus loves. They deserve more than ugly caricatures. And our first and foremost apologetic is gracious engagement that doesn’t paint them as the bad guy in an Olsen Twins movie.

So forgive me for not bothering to sit through the whole of God’s Not Dead. My issue isn’t with the actual information the Christian student pursues to prove God’s existence. My fight is with the ugly framework.

Shrewd as Slugs, Innocent as Dingos

Jesus’ apologetics were subversive acts of love. He gave this a name when he told his disciples to do likewise: “be as shrewd as serpents and as innocent as doves.”

Our apologetics should follow our Rabbi’s model. Jesus was far more interested in showing what God’s kingdom looked like than proving God’s existence. And it showed by how he loved the tiny tax collector in the tree by hanging out with him while challenging him to give up corrupt extortion practices. By singling him out, Jesus made little Zacheus look like the tallest man in the street parade. And when confronted by actual antagonists, Jesus got angry and used his anger to restore a crippled man’s hand on the Sabbath.

For those of us who are more interested in following Jesus than American Christian Subculture, we define apologetics more like 1 Peter 3:15:

“Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect..”

That gentleness and respect bit is huge. Otherwise it’s really hard to have a clear conscience.

Like I said, I’ve not watched the movie. But if the promotional materials are any indication, it seems clear that the script doesn’t give atheists a fair rendering. And when a people group isn’t rendered well, then maybe you can’t expect to have a meaningful conversations on matters close to the heart?