Fear of the Unknown…

ImageDeep within the bowels of Redmond a force is being forged which seeks to pluck all of the  freedoms from your frail human shell. Privacy and liberty mean nothing to this menace as it heartlessly marches forward in its pursuit to rule your living room.

For the last 24 hours or so since Microsoft announced the 360’s successor, the Xbox One, the web has been aflutter with consternation over the fact that the Xbox One will require a daily online connection to play games. Add to the frenzy that Microsoft won’t allow indie developers special dispensation to publish their games and suddenly the Xbox One feels more like an audacious taskmaster rather than an innovative new console. 

On one hand, it seems that most of the message boards and rabid fanboys are tirelessly exacerbating non-issues. So what if the Xbox always needs to be online? Who cares if the Kinect is always on, potentially watching or listening to you play Assassins Creed? The cable is always connected to your TV. Your phones microphone and camera are always on or at least in standby mode. Few (if any truly worth mentioning) mobile games won’t operate at all unless you are online, regardless of whether they are single or multiplayer. And every developer, indie or otherwise, has to submit their games to Google or Apple before they are going to appear on the app store. Yet, no one ever bats an eye at the fact that this explosively popular platform already enacts the same restrictions. 

The real issue revolving around the internet connection requirement for the Xbox One has nothing to do with its future, but rather with its past. 

If an internet connection is required to validate that a game is new (lest a fee be paid to Microsoft to play a used game) then what worth will a gamers library have once we are one or two generations further down the road? By the time the Xbox One is a twenty year old system, will Microsoft realistically still be running the servers needed to validate a game and play it? Halo 2 isn’t even 10 years old and it’s multiplayer servers have already been pulled, making it impossible to play the game via online multiplayer. My Super Nintendo holds a trove of treasured memories in the library of games that I have, memories which I hope to pass down to my kids some day as we sit and play the original Mario Kart or Star Fox together. It’s disappointing to think that someday it may not be possible to load up Destiny on my Xbox One and play it with my grand-kids for the first time.

Sure this problem may be far down the road and sure the plethora of immediate benefits that the Xbox One does and will offer may outweigh the shortcomings, but if this is really the future that the Xbox One is paving then I may have to sit on the sidelines. E3 is only 20 days away so here’s to hoping that we get some more information by then… and that the future past of the Xbox One is not nearly as grim as I fear…

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Xbox One

One Xbox to rule them all, one Xbox to bind them…

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Microsoft announced earlier today that the 360’s successor would be the bulky, albeit powerful, Xbox One. Sure she’s not much to look at but with a blu-ray drive, 500 gb hard drive, 8gb ram, 8-core cpu, and 64-bit architecture, the Xbox One is poised to contend. Throw in a tuned up Kinect (that can sense your heartbeat?!?!) and touched up controller and all of the sudden the PS4 has some hefty competition.

The true trick up the sleeve however seems to be the new “Snap Mode” which lets you run multiple applications at a time (such as watching TV and surfing the web in a sidebar). The feature alone could add some unique elements to future games such as searching for real information online to solve a puzzle or scenario in a game.

This particularly becomes amazing when one starts to think of what this could mean in terms of developing games around social justice or breaking news. For instance, sandbox games could announce through in-game bulletins if there is an Amber Alert or natural disaster. They could then reward players who simultaneously went online and posted the Amber Alert to Facebook or donated to the Red Cross.

In short, the “Snap Mode” provides a beautiful opportunity to further bridge the fictional worlds of games to the events of real life. 

E3 is exactly three weeks from today and Microsoft has already announced that there will be a dump truck more of information at their press event. The next generation of consoles is swooping in with a bang and I’m nothing short of ecstatic about the opportunities that the new era has to offer! In the meantime however, make sure to hit up Wired for their exclusive look at the Xbox One and the new Kinect!

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Only The Good Die Young

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100. Dollar. Bills. Money is the root of all evil and it’s in abundance in The Great Gatsby. 1922 was a boom time for America, money flowed freely encouraged by a wave of rashly built dreams and deeply sewn corruption. For Jay Gatsby, this provided an opportunity: give in to the corruption of wealth and power in exchange for a chance at getting the girl. However, this came with a price. Giving into the corruption threatened the very principles of his core and in the end, the corruption twisted this to its advantage, ultimately leading to Gatsby’s demise.

While tragic, this story is far from new.

Merely 10 years before, Booker DeWitt was also faced with challenging the demons in order to save a girl. Wrought by the twisted souls of greedy men, the floating city of Colombia had imprisoned DeWitt’s girl, Elizabeth. Yet his attempt at saving her revealed the same horrible truth that faced Gatsby: the realization that he had been corrupted and would thus be destroyed by the world he helped create. For both men, the world in which they lived was too violent for them to be natives, and yet they struggled against it, pining to conform until the ferocity overtook them.

In the end, who the men wanted to be was destroyed by the same thing:

The reality of who the men had become.

How often is this true for us? How often do we let the pursuit of the “good life” steal away and corrupt who we really are? We dream of a utopia, one filled with wealth, hope and promise; yet the roads we pave to create this life are stained by the blood of our sacrificed ethics and convictions. We lose ourselves in order to become the cardboard dream we’ve held up and in doing so we forsake our humanity and purpose. In the words of Paul the Apostle, “The trouble is with me, for I am all too human, a slave to sin. I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate.”

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Paul is right, this is what it means to be human. We are slaves to the dreams of something more than we have. Rather than count and protect our blessings we gamble them, fritter them, or sell them to the highest bidder. We whore out our lives in an attempt to be more than we can handle and the result is that we become the very beast we’ve long challenged.

This would typically be the moment to turn and reflect on a hopeful note.

However, this time we must refrain. The reality of this tired story is that far too many people trivialize the danger of this corruption and whereby they climb ignorantly into its open maw. Of course Christ provides us a future and a hope. Of course Christ has defeated sin and triumphed on our behalf. Of course we are reborn a new creation in Him. But every once and a while it pays to let the danger of corruption resonate. To acknowledge its destructive nature and to recognize our weakness to its lure. Occasionally, it is helpful to pause in the stories of the Gatsby’s and the DeWitt’s because they may give us clarity. They not only highlight our need for a savior, but they also remind us of the slippery slope of corruption. A descent that we are all tempted by but only few will truly overcome without being destroyed.

 

THE NOVEL, THE BIBLE, AND VIDEO GAME

My friend mike over at SoulFarer wrote a great article on how video games are starting to replace novels in terms of narrative storytelling. You can read an EXCERPT below and then check out the rest of the article on his site.

Last night I heard a conference speaker talk about the present and future state of the novel. It was really quite interesting. He suggested that, while novel reading has diminished over the years, the need that used to be filled by the reading of fiction is now, in part, satisfied by other activities.

Like playing video games. That’s right—video games.

He pointed out that video games have evolved to be something more than just explosions and shooting. The more recent and sophisticated games develop lengthy (sometimes 1,000 pages or more) “bibles” that track the ongoing story of the game. Players often get together to discuss the various characters, plot points, variations in interpretation, and so on.

This is a fascinating shift. Reading words on a page is a relatively new phenomenon in human history. Prior to the broad availability of text, people’s imaginations were fueled by pictures and stories told over meals and campfires. Now, it seems, many people (research shows that over half the people in the US play video games 13 hours a week or more) desire the fanciful journeys provided by novels, but also want to participate as a character in the story.

The speaker (much to my relief) didn’t pronounce the demise of the novel. Instead, he suggested that the world of creative fiction is expanding and changing. I’m okay with that…

CHECK OUT THE REST OF THE ARTICLE HERE.

Spring Cleaning

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Hey there folks!

Hope you’re all having a rock awesome Friday! Just wanted to make sure you’re aware of a few changes to the site. First, Theology Threads has temporarily been removed but will be back once we iron out some details regarding production and proceed disbursement, (that is to say, we need to pick a humanitarian organization to get all the money from the threads).

Second, we’ve added a few new sections to the site. We now have a dedicated page for submitting contributing articles as well as pages covering prayer requests, mission trips and conventions. The hope is that this new content helps to refocus the site on its foundational goal of bringing together the work and action of God’s Kingdom (via the beatitudes  with the expressions found in video games.

As always, we would love any feedback or thoughts you may have. Have a great weekend!

Gods Among Us

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Since the dawn of time man has dreamed of what it would be like to live among the gods. After losing our daily place in the garden with the physical presence of God, we created elaborate deities which encompassed every corner of our lives. From gods of mundane tasks like plowing a field to more powerful pantheons representing the might of mountains and oceans, the desire to be in the presence of the divine has never left us. 

Although Nether Realm’s, Injustice: God’s Among Us is not explicitly about deities it does dance around this important nuance of human desire. On a surface level, the game is a well-crafted fighter that sings a sweet psalm of homage to the realm of DC. While characters like the Joker or Solomon Grundy are far from being reflections of immortals the cast of characters is still extraordinary and the environments and story only add to their detailed depth and tightly polished awe.

Yet on a deeper level, Injustice also evokes a sense of wonder among its simple human observers, namely us as the players. Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, all of these characters seem to be so other worldly, so astutely reflective of the good nature and justice that we once shared with our creator and have long tainted. While on the other side of the roster there are also characters such as Lex Luthor, a mere man who himself preaches that, “No good comes from hero worship.”

Indeed on the slightest of levels, Injustice doesn’t only pit Batman against Ares but it begins to dabble into the tension between the heavenly realm and the earthly realm: are we left to marvel at the feats of those that are god-like or save our worship for the accomplishments of humanity? Either way, at least it’s a thrill pulverizing each other on the road to deeper understanding. 

 

Bioshock Infinite

It’s our pleasure here at 8BitKingdom to feature this months guest game reviewer, Luke Monahan. You can contact Luke at lukermonahan@gmail.com. If you’re interested in writing a review of a game for 8BitKingdom please contact us at: 8bitkingdomgames@gmail.com

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MAJOR SPOILERS

 

 

 

 

There are thousands and thousands of people playing BioShock right now. If you look on YouTube you can find dozens of commentaries, guides, and Spoiler Casts. Normally, I wouldn’t jump into the fray, but this story is so poignant that I felt compelled to process it on paper. If you are reading this out of a similar feeling, welcome.

In a universe of Infinite possibility is redemption possible?

We see that Comstock and Booker come from a common background; they are the same man until the decision to be baptized or not. Baptism is about the washing away of the “old person” and becoming someone new. It is at the crossroads of a fresh start that the conflict in this story has its seeds. Will Booker become Comstock or the Private Investigator? The damning part is that both become terrible people. I think they motivated to changing that, but at what cost. I think that they each see the other as evil and are trying to stop that guy. Booker obviously spends the majority of the game trying to stop Comstock. Though we see very little of Comstock’s motivation I believe that a part of choosing Anna to “adopt” is to save her from Booker Dewitt P.I.

The lynchpin of the story is saving a girl from a man who will ruin her life. The catch is that each man will still make her miserable no matter what the other does. Booker will sell her, Comstock will brainwash her, booker will “rescue” her, Comstock will torture her till she is a Warlord, Booker in return forces her to become a killer, both of Fitzroy and Booker. (Though possibly only of Bookers who choose baptism)

The caveat would seem to come in the fact that there are an infinite number of choices these characters could make, yet we only see minor deviations in the game. One of the Lutece twins (who I think are the same person from different universes) says that it’s all about variable and constants, such as booker flipping heads over tails. A constant seems to be everything goes to Hell. The variables are only how they get there.

It’s not about happy endings, but the question of are we destined to be evil no matter what choice we make. The Booker who chooses baptism -forgiveness- is a bigger monster than the one who sells his daughter. Ironically, the one who is shot to Columbia in a rocket accepts a baptism, but that leads him into significant bloodshed. It appears that seeking forgiveness can only result in committing more heinous crimes. It is as if the act of mitigating guilt is the most serious crime, and thus the person will be forced to commit new evils thereby replacing the guilt with deeper guilt. Baptism washes away the good and leads to destruction.  

With that comes my final question; is this universe, our reality made in such a way? Are we fated to be evil people who do terrible things? Do we make matters worse by seeking to “wipe way the debt”? I say an emphatic “No” Redemption is real. No one is too far down a road to turn back.