GameCell Preview: Sacrifice Night

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?

4.

“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?

Game Time:

We’ll pick from this lot. And the question is, “What do these games have to do with sacrifice?”

SACRIFICE_502

From top to right:

  1. Apotheon (Solo and 1v1 multiplayer)
  2. Brothers Tale of Two Sons (Solo or shared controller co-op adventure)
  3. Citizens of Earth (solo RPG)
  4. Deus Ex: Human Rev. (solo FPS RPG)
  5. Life is Strange (solo cinematic adventure)
  6. Particle Mace (4player)
  7. Stardust Vanguards (4player *Need to Review)

-

ROCKETS, Recaps, and Republiques

In which we round-up two Radiance Podcast episodes and two posts on Plus 10 Damage:

We’re picking up news stories that interest us and putting a fun spin on them over at Plus 10 Damage. Oh! And check out my “explosive” writeup about a “bangin'” couch multiplayer game.

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 Love How Fables is Like the Old Testament

fables

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.

Semi-Autonomous GameCell: Alternate Culture Night

In which, our GameCell got together, we ran out of gamer Bibles, and almost-everything was led our GameCell participants (not me).

snack-time

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.

tim_garrett_vince

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?

alex_tim_alex

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.

greg_yoshi_tyler

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.

basement

Yoshi, our new guy, picked Brawlhalla Open Beta  (A- 4-player couch deathmatch)

Brawlhalla

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

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:

snackfat

Garrett picked ROCKETS ROCKETS ROCKETS (A- 4-player couch deathmatch)

ROCKETS

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)

Samurai Gunn

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)

Towerfall

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!

Next Time?

We’re talking about 21st Century Sacrifice! And we’re playing this:

GameCell Gets An Australian Baby Brother

Ian-and-May

Proud brother moment!

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.

intertain-episode-001-unity-3

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.

Be sure to go to Ian’s blog and check out his story about Intertain’s first gathering. More to come!

Social Boss Fights in Deus Ex: Human Revolution – Subversive Mechanics

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.

You Should Listen To The Radiance Game Dev Podcast!

radiance

Ever wanted to make a Christian Videogame?

You need to listen to the Radiance Podcast. Not that I’m biased as the host or anything. I kid. It really is invaluable.

Ever wondered how Christianity should work in a videogame?

You should listen to our fourth episode with the makers of Defender’s Quest.

Ever wondered what role your testimony could play in a videogame?

You should listen to our third episode with Josh Larsen who talks about his game, That Dragon Cancer. Then we explore what Christians can learn from Papers Please.

Ever wondered what kind of journey you can expect in games development?

You should listen to our second episode with Soma Games; where we explore the importance of knowing you’re not alone. And we talk about The Swapper.

Ever wondered what kinds of Christian games the hosts (other than me) are working on?

You should listen to our first episode and learn what Christian game developers can learn from Gone Home.

If any aspect of making videogames is interesting to you?

You should subscribe to our show on iTunes.

Multi-layered Skills in Transistor – Subversive Mechanics

Skills don’t overlap in single-character games. Except Transistor.

Functions are actions in combat, augmentations to other actions in combat, or are passive bonuses to benefit the player. It’s a robust system with over a thousand potential combinations. To add to that, each Function ties directly into the main narrative.

This mechanic got it’s own deep-dive over at Gamasutra. There, the game’s authors explain it better than I ever could.

Bonus XP for Mercy in Deus Ex 3: Human Revolution – Subversive Mechanics

Get within five feet of an enemy to find yourself in this moral quandary:

two-choices

Do I use my fancy new arm-katanas?

Or do I just use my robot arms to gently make him go to sleep?

While less cool, the merciful option that preserves your enemy’s life nets you a fancy bonus of 20 XP. You miss-out on this Merciful Soul bonus if you take the enemy’s life.

Loving Enemies in Valiant Hearts – Subversive Mechanics

Valiant Hearts takes you through a French perspective of World War One. As French grandpa, Emil, you find an enemy German soldier hanging from a rope as a result of a mine cart accident. What do you do?

As Emil gets the soldier down, the two rely on one another to make further progress, subverting definitions of enemy and ally.

I explored this mechanic in depth on GameChurch and how it would have been better as an optional action than a progress-gate. Nevertheless, the enemy-rescue concept conveys a subversive notion in a culture awash in conquest.