Filter Night: An Autonomous GameCell

In which our GameCell gets together to discuss how to filter and discern media. Then we played some rad videogames (that the crew helped me review).


Our team-leaders assembled half an hour early to prep (and pray): Tyler would break the ice with introductions. Greg would ask discussion questions. Alex Carter would close things in prayer. Then snack. Next: game-time with Garret. And Greg asks a question related to each game.

And so it was.

Tyler welcomed our crew at 7pm (Wayne, Tim Russel, Tim Hilbert, Alex Carter, Garrett, Greg, and myself). He led with the question, “Why don’t you share with everybody your name and your favorite game?” We went around. Then Tyler passed the ball to Greg.

Greg asked, “Have you ever had a religious person tell you what you like is bad? What happened?

Everybody had a story. For Alex Carter it was getting yelled at for bringing Yu-Gi-Oh cards to church. For another it was being made to feel unwelcome because of liking Hardcore music. And for another it was a family member restricting the purchase of an anime T-shirt because it was “UnChristian.” I shared a story about growing up being told that all videogames were “secular” and (by association,) disconnected with anything good, redemptive, and godly.


So how do you decide if something is good or bad? Can you trust that method?,” Greg asked us.

Less responses. Everybody in the room had been confronted with the “wrongness” of their likes and passions. But sorting-out the good and redemptive qualities? Less common. Tyler pointed to the Bible as a source for sorting things out, but he also didn’t feel so confident that he knew how to do it beyond “yeah, the Bible says that’s bad but maybe there’s something more to it.”

Around this time, Alex Hively showed up! Soon after, Anthony arrived with surprise celebrity guest (new guy), Matt Cadden! I welcomed them, gave Matt a Jesus For the Win gamer Bible, and quick-recapped: Name and favorite game? Religious people confront your likes? Matt, Anthony, and Alex shared. And then, “How do you decide what is good or bad? And can you trust that?”

We checked out this verse (as read by our new-guy volunteer, Matt):

“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

Greg asked the last discussion question, “Do you trust anybody to help you filter out what is good and true?

Alex Carter shared how he trusted me for answers. He went on to clarify: he trusts me because of time, hard earned, and consistent. He trusts what I say to be out for his best. But that’s all a result of years of time together. And that he trusts my dedication to Jesus and the scriptures. The praise-Josh train left me a little uncomfortable, but I loved how he drew out the concept of underlying trust formed over time.

Greg contrasted longform trust with the lack of trust that he has for his father due to a lack of time spent together or expressed interest. And Garret empathized. But we brought it home with that value that there’s a trust to be found.

I wanted to get more at the idea of finding that trust in Jesus through the Text of the Bible. But I think this is just the beginning of this topic and I’m saving that meat and potatoes for next time. Plus, this wasn’t the Josh-show. Greg was running things. He handed back to Alex Carter, who prayed a blessing over our upcoming gametime and previous conversation.

Snacktime. Then we transitioned to the basement. Gametime.

Garrett introduced everybody to our games for the evening. He answered new-guy Matt’s questions as he chose what to play from our playlist. He took little time before resolving on Life is Strange because “the chick with the blue hair is hot.” We all laughed.


Matt took control of the Maxine, the high school senior at a prestigious art-high-school. Our crew worked together to help Matt figure out where to go and what to do. Everybody was transfixed by the gripping story. Some tended to get a little caught up on some of the profanity, but I emphasized our mature-engagement with the subject matter as Greg brought up the question for the game: “What is good about this game? And why is it good?”

At first, the answers were aesthetic, but then Anthony had a really great answer: “The game seems to be about using this newfound power of time-manipulation to help others.” And there we had our theme. I was really proud of this connection. Then some of the other guys had some other answers about how the game was about real-ish people and sorting out life. All good answers.

Life is Strange was an A+ game for watch-and-play (with a profanity caveat) for our crew.

Anthony was our honorary new guy since it had been a long time since he had been to GameCell, so he got the next pick. His choice? Paperbound.


Paperbound is a wild rumpus four-player brawler with gravity inversion and one-hit kills. Our crew was killing each other within seconds – and giggling the entire time. Other indie game characters made guest appearances. And our crew could care less: they were having too much fun inverting personal gravity and smacking each other around.

Suddenly my wife called me (a rare occurance on a GameCell night) to let me know that she had a guy who grew up out of 18 South who she thought would love to appear at GameCell: Wes Hess! So I told her to send him right over. Within ten minutes we had new guy number two show up. And oh man was everybody excited to see him. Wes dove right in to the brawlmania that was Paperbound and then he proceeded to hold his own against guys who had a few rounds ahead of him.


I thanked everybody for helping me to review the game as the only reason we have a copy of it ahead of release was for said purpose. Greg re-iterated the game-question: “What’s good about this game and why is it good?” Our crew emphasized how it’s funny and literally off-the-wall. But somebody also pointed out the obvious quality: it’s about enjoying our time with each other in person.

Paperbound was an A+ four-player party brawler for our crowd this evening.

Our surprise-new-guy Wes picked what we played next: Darkest Dungeon.


Admittedly, the “What’s good about it?” question was harder for everybody to answer for this one as everything in Darkest Dungeon is dark, despairing, and horrific. But as Wes did an amazing job of keeping his four idiosyncratic dungeon crawlers alive, we were able to see something good. Tim Hilbert was the one who caught the way it pays attention to the psychological conditions of people. And it draws out the consequences of their choices.

We never got to the ways to relieve stress in the game through the church, tavern, and sanitarium. But the focus on stress management had a real positive quality that we didn’t have time to get to. Even though Darkest Dungeon has an obvious single-player focus, the combat is framed very much like a stage – so it’s really great for an audience to follow along. Plus, Wes’ quick decision-making made for a great play.

Darkest Dungeon was an A- game to watch Wes play.

By now it got to be about closing time (10pm). But we had just enough time for a bonus game: Friendship Club.


To say Friendship Club was a hilarious blast would be an understatement. But since this was a bonus game reserved more for our next GameCell get-together, let’s save some of the surprise for when we get together again in a few weeks. Sorry to tease.

Amazing night with an awesome crew. Love these guys.

GameCell Preview: Filter Night

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:

  1. Darkest Dungeon (solo survival RPG)
  2. Grow Home (solo creative adventure)
  3. Hidden in Plain Sight (4player stealth)
  4. Life is Strange (solo cinematic adventure)
  5. Paperbound (4player brawler)
  6. Particle Mace (4player brawler)
  7. 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?”

Recap – Let’s Skyhook Game-Dev God Bodies!

In which we look at posts M. Joshua wrote on Plus 10 Damage about a couch brawler, the importance of game developer commentaries, and a review of Apotheon.

We’ve been posting a lot more on Plus10Damage thanks to a general influx of creativity. Here’s three of my latest contributions:

  1. Couch Corner – We Play Skyhook (Demo)
  2. Yes, You Should Listen To In-Game Dev Commentaries 
  3. The Body of  A Greek God – Apotheon Review

Oh, and Drew asked me to sub in for Rich on the Gamechurch Podcast tointerview Jennifer Scheidereit from Tengami:

  1. Gamechurch Podcast #30 Tengami’s Jennifer Schneidereit


Sacrifice Night: A Mostly-Autonomous GameCell

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.

Snack time.


Game time.

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.

Next time!


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?


“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?”


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


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).


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:


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


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)


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


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.


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.