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.

Another Castle

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Sometimes I have some pretty amazing stuff to say. Sometimes I feel like my knowledge and wisdom is bubbling over uncontrollably. And sometimes I’ve got absolutely nothing.

Today is one of those times.

But no worries, just because my deep insights are coming from a far away internet land doesn’t make them any less spectacular. Here’s a couple of links to some articles I found to be down right fascinating.

The first is about how the boy scouts are going to start offering a game design merit badge. Helping old ladies across the street, learning how to be a man, selling tasty popcorn and now game design: if that isn’t the heart beat of 8bitkingdom then I don’t know what is.

The second is about how researchers from North Carolina University discovered that playing games was adding to the emotional health and stability of seniors. In a world riddled with pesky boy scouts and talking dogs there are apparently only two remedies: tie balloons to your house and float away or load up a round of Diablo 3.

Finally, the third guest on our list loves bike riding by the beach, romantic spaghetti dinners and discussing why video games are a uniquely beautiful medium. I’ll be coming back to this one in the coming weeks but in the mean time check out this surprisingly insightful (and paradoxically somewhat immature) foray into what makes video games great.

So there ya go, plenty of reading material, and I promise next time I’ll be ready to blow your mind with more of my abounding, humble, insight.

The Fall of a Titan

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Earlier this week Sony announced the Playstation 4, and while the bells and whistles are certainly exciting, at the moment I could really care less. That’s because a much larger piece of news also happened this week although its hardly gotten the same flair of recognition. I’m talking about the announced closure by Ziff Davis of 1up.com, Ugo.com, and Gamespy.com. New consoles come and go but lately there has been an ever depressing trend of video game news agencies simply going. For many people in the world the loss of these publications is barley noticeable, as if they were stars burning out billions of miles away. But for those who are deeply entrenched in this industry, particularly as a journalist, their closure starkly reminds us of the increasing vulnerability which plagues news organizations.

Like nearly every form of written media in the modern world, the loss of diversified allies signals a power shift and rises the risk of informational abuse. With less outlets to engage for news and opinions, people are left with shutting up and submitting to those who hold all of the cards. This risk is heightened when it plays out within the constraints of a specialized, for profit industry. One of the largest reasons that people follow video game sites is to be informed about the products they wish to buy. However, if you drastically narrow the field of informational outlets then how may a person draw an educated conclusion about whether or not this information is trust worthy? A company would merely have to pull the right strings of two or three major publications in order to dupe the masses into buying a product instead of allowing them to choose based off of a myriad of editorial opinions and research.

Over the last 7 years the industry has lost some of its most valuable editorial gems: EGM, Nintendo Power, GamePro, Playstation Magazine, and Computer Gaming World just to name a few. Then throw in the mix the closure of G4 and the loss of these great sites and all the sudden the room starts to look a little lonely. The worst part about this all though is that while there are still a few untainted bastions of video game information and real journalistic editorial opinions, most of these losses have been replaced by total garbage. Some random persons blog or podcast, no matter how entertaining they may be, can never truly fill the void that is created when authentic journalism is trampled. Many large publication companies love these things because they can pay people with no journalistic training to be a post monkey for all of the press releases they receive at little more than minimum wage. However, this is merely true capitalism at work and the true tragedy of it all is that it is only an effective cycle because people allow it to be. Instead of demanding untainted, news and editorials that push the industry to new heights, most people are content with being told about the new Call of Duty a thousand times because Activision bought up all the ad space. Then they are told to go preorder it at GameStop (and only GameStop) because the retail side of the industry has suffered the same fate: all of the power is in one place.

I miss the days when I could read interesting articles like how video games are effecting the development of childhood psychology or when a local game store would get featured in a magazine. I miss the days when a publication prided itself on not taking gifts from a company that they might be covering, let alone being owned by one. But most importantly, I miss the days when the average gamer demanded more from this industry. Our industry may have grown wonderfully in the last few decades but I’m left wondering if we aren’t simultaneously loosing a bit of our soul every time one of these icons closes its doors. We aren’t so far down the rabbit hole that we can never be saved, we just need to remember the benefits that come with a diverse and professional journalistic field and reclaim our zeal for it before its too late.

Hijacked

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It’s deplorable when we cannot admit how we fail.

Over the last several weeks I’ve slowly absorbed a plethora of opinions about how video games do or don’t contribute to violent acts. None of these arguments are new (and honestly none of them are even really substantial one way or another) but none the less they volley back in forth throughout society because we always need a scapegoat for evil.

As people, we understand good. We can see how we are a part of a larger community that professes to care for others and support the common goodwill of all. However, humans, at least in the West, seem to have an extremely difficult time owning up to the fact that we foster a cultural mentality which is riddled with judgmental ego-centrism. Like Dante’s Inferno, we predominantly seem focused on clutching to each other simply for the sake of satiating our own hunger.

However, this was not how we were created to be and as such, self righteousness is not the natural way in which we respond to each other. Rather, it is a learned trait and as such it can be unlearned. We can again come to understand how to create authentic community. We can learn how to uplift others and bless them through our individual spectrum of gifts in humility. Yet in order to do this we must stop hijacking segments of society which are not the core issues to our problem. Video games, the church, schools: all of these things have beautiful and hideous sides to them but they are merely tools which reflect the people who wield them.

If we truly want to live in a world that is beautiful then we have to take individual and communal responsibility for the ways in which we sacrifice the community for the sake of ourselves. When we finally learn to put others first then perhaps we will be able to mature beyond the need of a simple scapegoat, and as a result we may finally learn what it means to truly live life.

Newtown, Conn. Vigil – 12/16/2012

As I’ve mentioned before, I am a youth pastor. Here is the flow for the Newtown, Conn. vigil which I held with my youth group last Sunday. I hope that you all find it helpful in navigating this horrendous loss.

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Newtown, Conn. Vigil – 12/16/2012

Prayer from the Book of Common Prayer – Shane Clayborne:

Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world. Have mercy on us. Grant us peace.

For the unbearable toil of our sinful world, we plead for remission.

For the terror of absence from our beloved, we plead for your comfort.

For the scandalous presence of death in your creation, we plead for the resurrection.

Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world. Have mercy on us. Grant us peace.

We need to remember the victims instead of focusing on the shooter so that’s what we’re going to do. We are going to light a candle and pray for each of these people who were murdered last Friday.

Charlotte Bacon, 6

Daniel Barden, 7

Olivia Engel, 6

Josephine Gay, 7

Ana Marquez-Green, 6

Dylan Hockley, 6

Madeline Hsu, 6

Catherine Hubbard, 6

Chase Kowalski, 7

Jesse Lewis, 6

James Mattioli, 6

Grace McDonnel, 7

Emilie Parker, 6

Jack Pinto, 6

Noah Pozner, 6

Caroline Previdi, 6

Jessica Rekos, 6

Avielle Richman, 6

Benjamin Wheeler, 6

Allizon Wyatt, 6

Victoria Soto, 27

Mary Sherlach, 56

Lauren Rousseau, 30

Anne Marie Murphy, 52

Dawn Hochsprung, 47

Rachel Davino, 29

God we pray for each of these people and their families. Please guide them and protect them. Help them to grieve and to heal. Guard these children in your care as they are released from us.

This is really screwed up and I don’t really know what to say.

However, I do know that God did not cause this and anyone who tells you he did is full of shit. God never delights or determines destruction; he is a God of love and creation.

God knows the pain of having a son murdered. Jesus too knew of the grief that follows when someone you love is suddenly and unjustly taken away. I’d like to take a moment to look at Matthew 14.

This chapter can be split into three sections which we know fit together because the text makes sure to note that each event happened immediately after each other.

First we see in verses 1-12 that John the Baptist, Jesus’ cousin and a friend of the disciples, has been captured and then murdered for apparently no reason. There is little sign of guilt or explanation on the part of his murderers other than the fact that his death seemed to be part of some twisted party. Here we have a murder which is completely out of the blue; one where the people around John are struck suddenly with the news of his death at the hands of a despot.

Unfortunately, we understand this well, particularly this year. Every day in cities and neighborhoods across America people are murdered simply for the satisfaction of their killer. We need not look any further than the shootings in Aurora, the kidnapping and murder of Jessica Ridgeway, or the events at Newtown. In 2,000 years it seems that evil people have not changed their disposition, merely their methods.

Then in verses 13-21 we see that as soon as Jesus learns of Johns death he attempts to go off by himself. Though the scripture does not say that it was to grieve, I believe that this is a somewhat fair assumption, particularly because we see that Jesus mourns when other people he loves die, like Lazarus. We can see that we too must try to set aside time to process the emotions which arise when we suffer a loss.

However, the great crowds need Jesus to heal and guide them and thus he can find no repose. We then see that the disciples are called to gather the food available which Jesus then blesses and multiplies to ensure no one goes hungry.

This shows us several things: first, we have to acknowledge that even during an intense period of loss, we sometimes may still be forced to act in order to care for others. In this, we are provided an immediate opportunity to counteract the swell of evil by restoring those around us as we work with God toward their reconstitution and reconciliation.

Second, we can see through this that often times when a tragedy strikes, God intends to work through us in order to bless others. God could have simply multiplied the food or maintained the crowds without the disciples, but he chose to include humanity in his plans. Therefore, we see that we can meet tragedy and death head on through the life and healing of God as we submit to him.

Finally, in verses 22-36 we see that after the work of healing and feeding is done, Jesus still goes off alone to pray, he doesn’t neglect the fact that he needs time with God in order to process the loss of John, regardless of how busy he has been. We then have the scene of Jesus walking on the water and saving Peter from drowning. Though this scene tells many things, I believe that in the context of all of chapter 14 the purpose of this section is to highlight the glory of God.

We have to remember, the disciples also suffered a loss and spent the entire day managing crowds so that they could be fed and healed. They were probably exhausted and depressed. Yet in the midst of this, Jesus did something miraculous, he reminded them that God is greater than humans and that he is always here to save us from drowning, whether we believe in him or not. Peter had little faith and yet Jesus made sure to impress upon him that he was cared for and that he was protected.

In all of this we can begin to see that when a murder happens there are two things which must follow: our action to continue to spread the blessings of God’s kingdom and our remembrance that God is glorious and will never forsake us.

Murder is never something that we can take lightly. However, we must remember to not let the grief consume us because that is how evil wins. God goes through the pain with us and even though at times evil may release a furious blow, it will never be victorious. As long as we continually reside in the love and guidance of God we can have a compass for how to navigate the wickedness.

In this, we certainly grieve, and we grieve deeply, but we also continue to trust in God and act in a way that ushers in the love, protection, and peace of His Kingdom.

We’re going to end by blowing out each of the candles as we pray for these people again. Each of their lives was snuffed out unjustly and we cannot do anything to change that. However, as we pray, we can remember the charge we have to guard those around us and to trust in God as he ushers in a justice that frees us from the captivity of fear, aggression, hatred and death.

Finally, I would like to close by reading you all a poem which I wrote about all of this:

Evil is a violent foe, that feeds upon our broken souls.

But resurrected life pronounced, provides a light amidst the clouds.

To children that will weep and mourn, know that evil will too be scorned.

As justice comes in sovereignty, and life’s restored by God to thee.

Pause

Halo 4 comes out in 18 days and in anticipation I’ve been playing through Halo:Anniversary on Legendary. I’ve never beaten any Halo game on legendary and as such, now seemed like the ideal time to gear up for Halo 4’s release and fill a gaping hole in my gaming resume. It’s been fun but it’s also frickin hard! I constantly find myself with one bar of life while covenant forces are swarming in on all sides, grenades are going off, marines are dying and all hell is raining down upon poor ol’ Master Chief. It’s exactly in these moments that I normally do something stupid like charge an Elite and try to pistol whip him which most always ends in my demise. But lately, I’ve been trying to pace myself more: right as everything goes to crap I pause the game and give myself a moment to breath. It’s amazing how with the push of a button I am instantly transported out of the world of Halo and back into reality. I realize that the controller throwing, heart racing stress of the game is only as real to me as I allow it to be and in this moment of reprise I’m able to reorient myself for the task at hand and create a plan to topple my enemies. And the more I’ve been thinking about it, I’ve come to realize that life is really similar to this.

So often I let the day to day concerns throw me into a panic: What assignments do I still have for school? How are we gonna pay to get the car fixed? What if these medications don’t work? What if I don’t find a job in time? Granted some of these worries are reasonable to be concerned over but I can never address them if I let my anxiety take over. In that case I become just like my hasty Master Chief: rushing into battle with one health bar and no hope of survival.

But then I remember that I can pause real life to a degree too. Psalm 130 says:

Help, God—the bottom has fallen out of my life!
Master, hear my cry for help!
Listen hard! Open your ears!
Listen to my cries for mercy.

3-4 If you, God, kept records on wrongdoings,
who would stand a chance?
As it turns out, forgiveness is your habit,
and that’s why you’re worshiped.

5-6 I pray to God—my life a prayer—
and wait for what he’ll say and do.
My life’s on the line before God, my Lord,
waiting and watching till morning,
waiting and watching till morning.

7-8 O Israel, wait and watch for God—
with God’s arrival comes love,
with God’s arrival comes generous redemption.
No doubt about it—he’ll redeem Israel,
buy back Israel from captivity to sin.

And that’s exactly what I want to start trying to do. Instead of always trying to rashly address things myself, I want to start living more like my life is a prayer, one where I wait and watch for the Lord. Often times it feels like my life is on the line, just like Master Chief or the Psalmist, but I know that if I just pause then I can reorient myself to the knowledge that God will come to me with the plans of love and generous redemption. With this plan I can unpause and face any challenge that comes my way, be it the obstacles of life or a covenant swarm.