What does it take to be a hero? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
You work for a gaming company and you have been given a task. Make a new human hero to fight evil. Okay. You think this could be a fun task. So how will you make your hero?
If you want to make a man, odds are you will make someone strong and muscular. You will make someone who has a no-nonsense attitude. This is someone who can tear through bad guys without a thought. You could also make him a James Bond type who is smooth and seductive and quite the Ladies’ Man. You could make a fighting type like Bruce Lee or Chuck Norris. You could make a Punisher type who would blow away enemies or a Batman type who seems to excel at all of the above.
If you want to make a woman, you could make someone muscular or someone who is more sleek and agile. You could make her a bombshell so that she will stun any man that sees her by her beauty and make all the women want to look like her. She will likely be a great fighter, someone like a Black Widow.
Now let’s look at who Shigeru Miyamoto made.
Odds are, without knowing who this is, he hardly strikes terror in your heart.
Somehow he has taken off. Is he muscular? Nope. Skilled at weapons or combat? Nope. He is actually a little pudgy and his career is a plumber. His sidekick and brother, Luigi, isn’t much better. He’s trimmer and taller, but he’s usually also a coward.
Yet today, March 10th is the day that he is celebrated. It’s known as Mario Day. I tried to see how many games he has had, and all I found was that he has over 200. This is in about 40 years or so. We could say that would be at least five games every year.
Mario has done everything. He has been a soldier, a doctor, a go-kart driver, an athlete in most every sport, an RPG hero, a party game player, and of course, the regular rescuer of Princess Peach. You could pretty much take any game and if you want it to do well, just slap Mario on it.
So what does Mario have to do with Christian apologetics?
In our day and age, it’s easy for us to think that there’s little that we can do to change our world. We can look at Marvel superheroes and think “Yeah, but I can’t do those kinds of things.” Mario is our different figure.
“But he does have power-ups!”
Yes, but if you look at the games and even the TV shows that were made, those power-ups would affect anyone who used them. Princess Peach and Toad could benefit from them. In some games and TV shows, Bowser himself benefits from power-ups. Thus, there seems to be nothing that says only Mario can use these power-ups. If anyone else had these power-ups, they could use them.
What makes Mario a hero for us all is that he is us. Anyone can do what Mario can do. Mario has enough reasons to think that he is not a hero and yet, he keeps going and defeating the enemy every time. He is going against a villain in Bowser who usually has greater resources and power and a personal army and yet, Mario wins every time. (And somehow Bowser gets to play sports, ride go-karts, and play party games with Mario and his friends.)
And yes, sometime this will show up on my new channel. (Please like, subscribe, and share.)
Who is Mario then? He’s you. He’s me. He’s a guy that has a lot of heart. He just wants to go out and defeat Bowser, or whoever the enemy is, and rescue the Princess, or whatever the goal is.
We live in a fallen world and we often think we can’t do anything for the gospel because we are not as great as XYZ. That has never stopped Mario. Mario has always kept going and faced much greater dangers than many of us face.
Mario is a picture for us. We don’t have to work to be like him per se as he has no physique or anything of that sort. (Save his jumping ability) He’s just a guy with an ordinary job wanting to do something great.
I wonder what could happen with our Christianity if we looked at the world and said we just want to do something great and live our lives fighting against the armies of evil.
It’d be nice to find out.
(And I affirm the virgin birth)
What do I think of Ian Murray’s book published by Westbow Press? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
Recently, I did buy a few books on Kindle on the topic of God and video games. I said on Facebook that I was doing this kind of study and my friend Ian Murray got in touch with me to recommend his book. Actually, I had already bought it and hadn’t even realized he was the author.
I finished it last night and did enjoy it. One caution for me though, and this is not about the book per se, but since I know Murray from Facebook and he’s usually had Veggietales character in his Facebook profile, well guess how I heard the book being read mentally. Quite interesting to think of Larry the Cucumber talking about Grand Theft Auto V.
Something different about this book is it’s not really a defense of video games, despite that being in there at times. It’s more about relationships. Someone doesn’t have to be a gamer to understand this book. In a sense, non-gamers especially should read a book like this.
After all, gaming is sometimes a maligned hobby. Why not go out there and do something instead? We live in a society where sports can be glorified and many of us who are nerds just don’t care for sports. (Besides, keep in mind that it’s common for the city that wins the Super Bowl to go rioting after to celebrate. When was the last time you heard about rioting after something like the Pokemon World Championships?)
Actually, I think gaming can be much more intellectual as a good gamer has to think about a lot of things and think about them actively. If I plan an MMORPG like Final Fantasy XIV, I have to think about where I am, where the opponents are, what abilities they are using, and about my fellow teammates who I normally don’t know and what their jobs and abilities are.
Murray’s book does treat gaming as a serious hobby, but his book is more about how gamers and non-gamers can relate together and how gamers can live an effective and evangelistic life. Some Christians might think this doesn’t make sense, but is that being thought of when you watch a sporting event or streaming services? However, gaming is many times a communal activity, especially in the age of the internet where we can play games together online. (I still contend nothing beats having those people in person and playing that way. I can still remember the classic Goldeneye done that way.)
Murray also recommends you listen to someone before you become a judge to that person. Before condemning the person playing the game, try to understand why they play the games. Odds are the person has received the judgmental side before. There might come a time for confrontation, but first try to understand the person, which might make it all the better for you if you think you have to disagree with their choice as you will now be coming from a place of knowledge.
Murray also gives a call for those of us who are gamers. Are we examining ourselves regularly to make sure we’re living Christlike lives? Is mature conduct in a game affecting us? Could a game be by and large harmless, but there is something about it that affects us? If so, perhaps we should avoid that game.
I do recommend Murray’s book. It’s short and easy to read and someone can read chapter by chapter or just go to select chapters. On Kindle, it’s also an inexpensive read as you can get it at the time of writing for less than a dollar. If you are a gamer or want to relate to one, this is a great one to go to.
(And I affirm the virgin birth)
What do I think of James Madigan’s book published by Rowman and Littlefield publishers? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
Just so readers know, I did go through this one on Audible. My books on Audible tend to be either about gaming or politics. Since I have started a channel on YouTube now called Gaming Theologian (Please subscribe) this kind of study is all the more important to me.
Each chapter here is a question and explored through not just games, but the works of modern psychology where even experiments done long before there were video games are still used to explain the impact of them today. Each of these could be read on their own if you wanted an answer to a question. Also, Madigan does not tow the party line where he makes sure games always look good no matter what. If the data is not conclusive or even goes the other way, well that’s the way the data goes.
The first section is about the gamers themselves. You get a discussion on why gamers can behave like jerks online and then when they play games, why do so many have a temptation to cheat? Also, why are fans so often ready for a fight? Back in the day, I know how many times I got into lunchroom arguments over if Nintendo or Sega was better.
The final one in this chapter was about why we’re so nostalgic about retro games. Many young gamers today do not understand this, but those of us who are older do. Who are services like Nintendo Switch online that have games for the NES, Super NES, and Gameboy for? Mainly, they’re for the adults. I can go back and play a game not because it was particularly the best one, but because I remember it and it brings back good memories.
The next section is about how games do what they do. Most of us don’t really care for studying for a test, for example, but we will do something we don’t like on a game for a long time and enter the game knowing we have to do that, and that is grinding. Now I will admit I am unusual in this in that I can enjoy grinding because I like being overpowered when I get to later areas.
For those who don’t know, grinding is where you go and fight basic enemies in an area just to gain experience or money. A lot of people don’t, and yet they do it! Why? We have to sit down and really force ourselves to do things we don’t want to do sometimes, like read and study, but we do sit down and make ourselves grind.
As some of you know, I’ve spent some time thinking about the educational system and why it doesn’t seem to work like it should. We’ve all seen people who are “highly educated” but are morons. We’ve also seen people who haven’t gone to college or have jobs many people look down on, such as you could get at a trade school (Note. I am not looking down on them. This is just the way society often portrays them) and yet these people are brilliant.
I took many classes in high school and yet even in subjects I did enjoy, I don’t remember much of it. I am a math guy, but I could not tell you a bit how to do many of the formulas that I studied in Algebra ad Geometry, and yet just recently, I sat down and found I was able to go through the original Legend of Zelda, both quests, and Link to the Past and still find everything again, and I never had to sit down and study those!
What this means is that somehow we do learn games better. I suspect most children have never sat down with a copy of the Pokemon type chart, but they can sure remember what type works well against what for the most part. It’d be a mistake for their parents to think that that’s something simple to learn. Oh no. It is not simple, and yet these same children could struggle with multiplication tables.
Something is wrong with how we’re teaching.
Games also keep us going with items like loot boxes and free draws. One reason this is exciting is not that we care about what’s in the box always, but it’s the anticipation of wondering what we could get. Once we get it, it’s done, but there is that rush when you get a new box. For me, I think of Final Fantasy Brave Exvius. I never spend money, but sometimes you get quests that let you get tickets for new characters and there is always that initial excitement wondering what you will get.
The next section is about questions such as how games are marketed. As Christians, one aspect we could consider is how games keep us immersed in fantasy worlds. However, we could add we find it much easier to tell others about games, movies, etc., than we do about Christianity. Of course, part of this is some of us are naturally introverted, but is there something else here?
Finally, we get to questions about how our games affect us. When we make an avatar and they look like us, does it affect how we play? What about violent video games? We do seem to like them. Why? Does it matter? Finally, do games make us smarter?
One fascinating aspect of this was Daphne Maurer who was doing some studies on peripheral vision and at the university, decided to use as test subjects people who were always in the area, the video game club members. She found that when it came to the tests she gave, all of them aced it easily. This led to her studying first-person shooters and how they can improve someone’s peripheral vision.
After all, if you are someone who does well at a FPS, you have to be able to scan the field before you, identify targets quickly, be able to see them before they see you if they are hostile, and tell if they are on your side or not. Madigan also writes about the skill involved in Starcraft. Chess is seen as a good game for building up your mind, and I don’t doubt that. I agree with it. Yet with Starcraft, you have to know so much with so little and be prepared for a thousand different moves.
Overall, if you have an interest in games, read this book. If you have an interest in psychology, read this book. If you have an interest in psychology and don’t even care about games, read this book. Anyone can get some insights into human nature reading this and I highly recommend it.
(And I affirm the virgin birth)
What do I have for you? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
Okay. This is going to be brief, but I wanted to introduce this resource for everyone and I know that I don’t want to fill up the screen with a lot of words and a long article about just one talk.
So here it is.
Recently, I have received my talk that I gave at Defend 2023 on Video Games and Christianity. If you want to listen to it, you can go here. There will, unfortunately, be not video as there were no cameras in there. If you want the Powerpoint, all you have to do is ask.
Even if you’re not a gamer, listen to it. You might wind up getting something that blesses you unexpectedly.
(And I affirm the virgin birth)
Is it important to wait? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
4,000 pieces of gold.
That’s a hefty price for a young man playing a game, but in the world of Final Fantasy at the time, that was a lot. Gold pieces were the main currency then and at the area of the game you were in, most battles gave 100-200 pieces. You would have to stay at the inn at times to recover which would cost 100 pieces of gold.
However, if you wanted to get the silver sword then, you had to pay 4,000 pieces of gold. Only one person likely in your party could equip it. The next most expensive weapon costs 450 gold. Still, there were other expensive items. A bracelet you could equip costs 1,000 and level 3 spells cost 1,500 to learn and level 4 costs 4,000 to learn.
(By the way, I had to look up the prices of other items aside from spells, but silver sword stuck with me.)
If you wanted to get this sword, you had to work for it. This kind of thing is something called grinding. Why? Just think of how your going to work can be called the daily grind. Some people do it just to gain experience to level their character up. Either way, most people don’t really like grinding. It’s very repetitive.
By the way, I haven’t even mentioned buying healing items and deals like that for what can essentially be the first dungeon the party goes through in the game.
However, if someone engages in this in many a game, they are prepared not only for the next dungeon, but also for several later dungeons. Those who rush through because they just want to get on with the story are more likely to suffer and in the end, have to do their own form of grinding still when they keep encountering an obstacle they can’t get past and grinding can be much harder later on in a game.
Okay. This is interesting, but what has this to do with Christianity and apologetics?
As I thought about it, it came to mind that this is a lesson in delayed gratification. Consider this. How many problems in our society come because we do not like to wait? We live in an instant society. Everything we want comes immediately. We can put something in a microwave or get something out of the freezer or drive where we want to go and with the internet, we have instant communication. Paul would love to do in the Roman Empire what we can do today.
In some ways, that can be fine, but in others, if we think we have to wait for something, then we will suffer in the end for it often.
Let’s start with money where this started. How many people are in debt today not because they had to buy an expensive item like a house or needed emergency surgery that was really expensive, but because of out of control credit card debt? How many people just buy items constantly and don’t really think about the price?
I considered that my early habits in gaming came to influence my early thinking with money. I learned the value of money there and to this day, I make it a point to have money in the bank and be light with my spending. Because of that, when I do want to splurge, I normally can without much difficulty.
Recently, a friend gave me a pass to the World War II Museum here in New Orleans. I only had to pay for parking. When I was done going through the museum, I got to the gift shop which had books. I bought a couple of them there. It cost me some naturally, but I was able to handle it. This also after having a month where I had to go to the doctor twice for a really bad sinus infection after the conference, the second being a follow-up, and I currently have no health insurance.
Still, I have money in the bank and my money in savings I haven’t even had to touch since moving to New Orleans. I pay my bills responsibly and I use plenty of programs to get free Amazon gift cards and to get deals when I do have to go out into town. My parents were always frugal with money, but I think my experience in gaming where I had to save up to buy things and make sure I always had enough taught me just as much.
Not only that, but I realize that some of my money comes from donors. Thus, I want to make sure I honor the money that is given on my behalf. If you want to become a supporter of me financially, which is greatly appreciated, then you can do so here.
This also works in other areas of our life. Our country has a problem with obesity and most of us are eating not because we are hungry, but because we are bored. We also don’t want to wait, and why should we? We can get fast food which normally isn’t good. I think we all have experienced the event of sitting on a couch or chair watching something or playing a game and just snacking while there. We don’t move much, we exercise little, and what do we have as a result? Obesity.
Finally, what about sex? Who wants to actually have to wait until you’re married? People who went to school with my parents and get divorced are now living together before marriage. In their day in school, that was definitely the exception. Today, it is the norm.
We live in a world of one-night stands and a hook-up culture and why? Because why should we have to wait? It’s just sex. Not a big deal. Right? We say this in an age of single parents, unplanned pregnancies, STDs, and ultimately a miasma of meaningless hanging around us. The sexual revolution has been a disaster.
However, the option left is waiting and we don’t like that. Why have to wait? If you want something, get it now.
Maybe we should return to what I learned so long ago in Final Fantasy. It was hard to work and work and wait before I went into the dungeon in making sure all my characters had the best equipment and spells, but you know what? When I did that, we did much better than everyone else and were more prepared not just for that dungeon, but for every other later dungeon. Also, if I needed to grind again to buy better items, I did it again.
Patience is a virtue we don’t really have today, but we definitely need it. How many of our problems in our society could be dealt with better if we would just learn to wait? How much of what we go through would we be better prepared for if we just waited?
(And I affirm the virgin birth)
What do I think of Matthew Millsap’s dissertation? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
“And Matthew Millsap wrote his dissertation on video games and Christianity.”
My ears perk up as I’m in my systematic theology class last semester and hear these words. I immediately look up this man and find him on Facebook and send him a message. Before too long, he’s happy to send me his dissertation. In preparing to write this also, I contacted him and asked where others could go if they want this dissertation as well and he said you can contact him on Twitter.
So theoludological. I had never heard that word before and my spell check doesn’t even recognize it. It is a combination of ludology and theology. Great! That explains it! So what’s ludology? It’s the study of games. Amazing I never even knew that there was a name for what I have been doing through so much of my life.
Millsap and I are quite similar. We’re both gamers and we’re both at this time 42. We have both been playing games for pretty much all our lives.
Fact check true on the above meme.
When you go through the dissertation, it’s clear that he has a great knowledge of games. Something interesting also for me is that the games he plays seem to be more of a different genre for the most part than the ones that I play. He seems to enjoy first person shooter types and other similar games and I am much more into the RPG and JRPG genre.
Still, he has got me curious about the Bioshock series at least. (Available on the Nintendo Eshop if anyone is feeling generous)
This dissertation is divided into seven chapters. The first is about interaction with pop culture and the lack of interaction with video games. The second is about the origin and history of video games. The third is about narrative themes in video games. The fourth is about theology’s dialogue with other forms of narrative material. Chapter five is where the meat of this work is and shows how this interaction takes place and why video games are different from other forms of media. The sixth shows it in practice with a look at the game Journey. The final chapter discusses implications and further areas of research.
One possible researcher being the one writing this blog.
I was definitely pleased reading this to see how much Millsap definitely is familiar with video games. To some extent, probably a little bit jealous too picturing him getting to read so much about games and at the same time consider it theological research. I could easily picture him, seeing as he’s married, sitting on the couch playing a game like Bioshock and his wife saying “Honey! Can you take out the trash?!” “Not now, dear! Doing research for my dissertation!”
One of the rare times that excuse would work.
If you are unfamiliar with the history of video games, Millsap will give you a good crash course on it in this dissertation. He is also right in there is very little interaction with this medium. When I gave my talk at Defend this month, I was pleased to see how many people showed up. Why? Because this is a topic we need to talk about and there were people of all ages and of both sexes in there.
That being said, the narrative aspect is key. Yesterday, I watched a video on Final Fantasy IV and considered just how much a story difference there was. Final Fantasy IV when it was released over here was Final Fantasy II as Japan kept the next two games in the series to themselves. (And why did we just not declare them our political enemies at that point?!) Something I was surprised I hadn’t noticed was the marked difference in story between I and II. I was a bare bones basic account, but II was a dialoguing adventure with personal characters with real names and twists and turns.
Many games today do have stories. Many outsiders don’t realize that, but just as you watch a TV series or a movie or read a book because you want to know what happens next, so also you play a game because you want to know what happens next. Of course, there is the difference of player agency. It doesn’t really take skill to watch a TV show or movie or read a book to find out what happens next. With a game, unless you look it up on YouTube, you have to play the game successfully to know what happens. Some games even make it harder by having different endings and only those who do the game well will get the good ending.
When we look at the fifth chapter, I mainly noticed his interaction with Craig Detweiler. Consider this quote that he has from Detweiler.
Am I equating cinema with Holy Scripture? Heavens no! The Word of God is a special revelation unequaled in human history. I am not baptizing all art as sacred or all inspiration as divine. Yet God has revealed himself in ways beyond the written word. The Bible itself is a litany of unlikely communiques. Christ promised if his people did not praise God, the rocks would cry out (Luke 19:40). Perhaps those
rocks have recently taken on pop cultural forms. It does not denigrate a sacred text to study other texts; I am merely affirming what the Spirit is already doing. God does not discriminate. The Spirit can communicate via inspiring films like The Shawshank Redemption (IMDb #2) or cautionary tales like The Godfather (IMDb
#1). We need role models and warning signs. While the religious community questions prophets’ credentials, divinely inspired artists keep on singing songs, telling stories, making movies.
While I do think the phrasing can be bad here some, I think when Detweiler speaks of God revealing Himself in movies, I don’t think he’s saying the movie is like Scripture. However, I think what He is saying is that one can see in a movie sometimes an idea of who God is. I remember hearing about a Jehovah’s Witness who left the cult after watching the Passion of the Christ and realizing they didn’t have to go through everything the Watchtower said. One can get theological insights watching popular media like movies and certainly God can use a movie, a book, a video game, a TV show, to draw someone to Himself. I also don’t doubt that Millsap would disagree with this.
At the same time, Millsap did think there was a lowering going on when Christianity was explained in gaming terms.
Jesus dropped into the game of our world with both remarkable (even divine) skills and crippling limitations (of humanity). He explored many comers of his Middle Eastern “island.” Among his contemporaries, he made both friends and enemies. A tightly knit, dedicated community arose around him. Jesus and his clan experienced plenty of grief from aggressive and uncooperative rivals. He was eventually fragged during a deathmatch on an unexpected field of battle. He submitted to the rules of engagement, even while resisting them, proposing an alternative way to play. After three days, Jesus respawned, took his place as Administrator, and redefined the way the game is played
I understand Millsap’s concern here in that this can seem like crude language at times to describe Christianity. After all, respawning in a FPS is really normally not a big deal. Everyone does it. However, I also thought, “What if someone wasn’t a Christian and was a gamer and I was trying to explain Christianity to them?” I could use language that is similar to this. We could say that Jesus was the true respawner much like Lewis said Christianity is the true myth. What we can do in a game, Jesus can do and did do in reality.
Despite all of this, Millsap is definitely right in all of this in how we need theological interaction. The stories he gives from Bioshock I found particularly fascinating. I have listened more than once to the introduction from Andrew Ryan in the first game on YouTube. If you want to listen to it, you can do so as well.
Many of us would agree with some of what Ryan says in this. A man should be entitled to the sweat of his brow. Many of us could also say that while God doesn’t claim all of it and lets us have some of it, we should give some of what we receive to Him.
In the third game, he tells us the story is about a “prophet” who has a cultic form of a Christian type of religion and how someone has to go to his floating island to rescue someone. Despite what some people might think, games like this wrestle with moral decisions and questions. There are many games out there that are extremely philosophical. Consider even Final Fantasy X where the game is all about a quest to defeat a mindless, destructive beast known as Sin.
In the sixth chapter, we look at Journey. I had bought this game and I didn’t get much into it, but perhaps some weekend when I have a couple of hours, which is how long Millsap says it takes to finish it, I could do that. Millsap chose this game because it is an easy one to learn and there is no violence done by the character and it tells a story. Another one I would consider would be Stray, because after all, who wouldn’t enjoy getting to play as a cat?
I definitely agree with his conclusion. There are plenty of areas for extra study. Games are becoming one of the main features in our culture, especially with the rise of smartphones. We Christians have too often been behind the times on this interaction. We need to change that.
(And I affirm the virgin birth)
How do you approach a challenge? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
I know someone here at the seminary who was sexually abused as a child and now has a blog helping others to overcome this. You can see her work here. I read a new post she had yesterday and I started thinking about my attitude as I went through my own divorce.
Something I like about her blog is the idea of describing herself as a brave girl and to let the voice of a warrior be heard. That is a definitive choice on how to describe oneself. She had to make a deliberate choice at one point that she would face what she went through, be brave, and be a warrior and fight back.
I wrote about this before in how I had to make a choice. It would be foolish to deny that the impact of the divorce when it hit me hurt me greatly. I would also be lying if I said it doesn’t hurt me still every day, but I had to make a choice and I still have to make the choice. Will I be defeated by it or will I overcome it?
In looking at Life Is A Game, this book has resonated with me because I had that attitude. Some might think it to be frivolous, but the reality is, it works. We are often told that attitude is a big factor in how one overcomes. If two people of relatively equal health get a cancer diagnosis and one is positive about overcoming and one isn’t, all things being equal, the positive one is more likely to overcome it.
If you’re a gamer like me, you know the idea of what it is like to fight a boss. You enter an arena and all of a sudden this huge hulking monster that practically dwarfs you in ever way looms over you. In reality if this happened to us, most of us would probably be in a total panic. If you’re a gamer though, you can get nervous but you also think, “All right. Let’s do this.” That just ups the challenge level. It actually makes it more fun.
Why not live this way in reality more often? When a huge problem comes our way, why not see it as another challenge to overcome and we’ll be the better for it? Add in also that in the real world, we have the promise of a God in our lives that if we love Him, all things will work for our good. I have referred to this in gamer terms as the ultimate cheat code.
My friend had to make a deliberate choice that she would not be a victim all her life of abuse but would not only be an overcomer, but also help others to overcome. I had to make a decision that I would not be the victim of divorce. It’s why I made it a motto of mine to “play to win” and why I am here at seminary working on a Master’s and talking to a therapist here in person to help me with learning social skills. When I have friends here who help me with various things, these aren’t just friends. These are teammates on the journey. These are party members who are coming alongside and helping me fight my battles. Of course, I help them when I can in return, but I can only speak of what it is like from my own perspective.
To my friends who have helped me on the journey, thank you. I still have friends back in Tennessee and other parts of the world and I consider them helpers as well, and this includes my folks who I talk to every night on my Echo. To all of you out there also facing your own trial, play to win and while there’s no guarantee with someone like cancer or anything else, you can still fight with all your might. We are meant to be warriors.
(And I affirm the virgin birth)
What can we discover about the game? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
Imagine a large table with a big jigsaw puzzle on it, except the puzzle is broken apart. No two pieces are together. You also don’t have a picture of the box, so there’s no telling at the start what the picture is. However, you are intrigued and sit down and do what most people do, start working on the edge first and the corners, and bit by bit, you piece it together. Slowly it dawns on you as you continue what the picture is and when you put the final piece in eventually, you see how it all fit together.
That is fun.
You also know it’s fun because you keep doing it even though there is no force external to you compelling you. There’s no seeming reward to the puzzle beyond just doing the puzzle. No one is forcing you or even bribing you to do this.
This is akin to the world we are in.
We are thrust in a world that there are some things that we can’t change about the world, such as laws of math, but there are things we can change, such as ourselves, and to an extent, the world around us. Everything we can do you can say is a power that we have. We are here in this world and we are on a quest to discover who we are an why we are here.
That’s also fun.
In looking at the book Life Is A Game, Castronova argues that this way the world is is fun. From a design perspective, this is good game design. Discovery is something we tend to really enjoy. How much of it is in our popular media? We watch a TV series or movie intrigued by the plot wondering what will happen next. When we play games, even after beating a video game, there’s still talk about how exciting it is to discover new things in games. It has been talked about on the web that years after Super Mario World came out, now it is being found you can defeat a Big Boo on a castle by sliding, or how years later in The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, you can beat the first boss, an evil plant, by bringing pure forest water.
Discovery is fun.
How do we know this? We do it on our world! What is science but the constant process of discovery? What was philosophy at the start but man thinking about the world and learning about it? How much of religion is seeking to understand the divine and relate to it properly?
There are things that are certain for us, such as the laws of math will hold and the sun will rise in the East tomorrow, but there are many uncertainties. Some of those we don’t like, but some we do. We wake up in the morning and none of us knows exactly what will happen that day. We can have a general idea, but we don’t know. For all I know, I could meet today for the first time a girl I will wind up marrying. I mean, if I do remarry, which I hope, I have to meet her some day. Right? Maybe I already have, but if I haven’t, maybe today is the day.
Maybe today you’ll get a big promotion at your job. On the other hand, maybe you’ll learn you have cancer today. Anything can happen possibly, good or bad. We don’t know. We can live in terror or in curiosity. This game is not simple that we are in. It is full of constant surprises and new challenges thrown at us regularly.
It is also a lot more enjoyable to see life as an adventure, which works well with theism. This life is not an accident. We are here purposefully and for a reason. Our questing does have a purpose. We are automatically in a game much bigger than ourselves.
As we continue on, hopefully, we will learn how to do the adventure well.
(And I affirm the virgin birth)
What is information? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
Data. It’s all around us. When we open up the internet, we are bombarded with information. Nowadays, there is constant talk about fake news and no matter what political side one is one, everyone agrees that some news is fake news, whether you think it’s Fox or CNN. We all laughed at the old State Farm commercial that said you couldn’t put anything on the internet if it wasn’t true. We also all laugh at the idea that April 1st is the one day everyone checks everything before they share it on the internet.
Something interesting about information is that though it travels through material means most often, it itself is not material. If you read this blog, you do not take the information out of it in a way that no one else has access to that information. The information is expressed in the material form of a screen, but it is not that form.
This also gets us then into imagination. We can take the information we have and combine it in ways that do not really exist. In the gaming world, Pokemon is one of the best examples I can think of this. One takes multiple creatures and types together and combines them to form new creatures with new abilities.
When a new generation comes out, it is always asked what new creatures will be used this time that have not been used before. For instance, this last generation had a peacock, a flamingo, and a dolphin. With imagination, while we are making things that are new, we are still only taking existing ideas and combining those with other ideas to make new things.
Consider the idea of taking adjectives and combining them with nouns that they normally wouldn’t be used with and lo and behold, you get something that is new. For instance, what if we took the noun “cat” and combined it with the verb “purple”? We are not used to seeing purple cats. I certainly can’t think of any purple cats that exist.
Somehow, we make things that are in some sense real. They are not real in the world outside of our minds, but they still have some kind of reality to them. We can have a discussion about the nature of Superman all the while knowing that Superman doesn’t really exist. He is a figment of the imagination in one sense, but at the same time he is an icon and a “real” figure that we talk about.
As a Smallville fan, when I was at work and wanted a Halloween costume, I would wear a Smallville T-shirt and change my name badge to say “Clark Kent.” No one saw that and thought “What an interesting name.” Everyone who actually noticed it would recognize immediately that Clark Kent is Superman.
What has this to do with our game? All of our game like any other game is still information. When I boot up a console game at my home, there is information being displayed on my screen, often in a visual form, and I am using the information that existed in the imaginations of other people and seeing it given a quasi-reality on my screen. When I play a game like D&D, I have to rely on imagination to see how the story works and my companions do the same. It will be an odd game if I imagine a dragon while my companion imagines a goblin.
All of this will be relevant as we go on, but for now, let’s realize the role information plays in our lives.
(And I affirm the virgin birth)
Why is it that we enjoy what we enjoy? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
Last night, in the midst of some gaming and watching some shows on YouTube, I returned to thinking about my life here in New Orleans. I have thought about how our country used to be much more Christian than it is now and yet New Orleans is now known as a hotbed of crime, drugs, and well, we all know what really goes on at Mardi Gras, which should sadly be a Christian celebration. What has happened to this great city and how can we change it?
Then I thought about how it has been said before by G.K. Chesterton that fairy tales don’t exist to tell us that dragons exist. Children already know that. Fairy tales exist to tell children that dragons can be beaten.
Let’s start this with a subject I don’t care for that much. Sports. For the most part, the idea of watching sports should be that someone goes and watches these people on the field and then decides that they want to be like that person and is willing to work out and practice the game too. Now for some, this is impossible and they can remember what they used to do or dream about what they might do in eternity someday. I think of those with severe disabilities or those who due to an older age cannot play like they used to.
Completely antithetical is the picture of someone who sits down on a couch to watch a game and goes through a whole box of Oreos at the same time. This is not to say you have to be a fitness king, but if you do care about sports, you should care about your own physical condition. Sports should get you out of yourself.
With fantasy, it is the same, whether we are talking about old Greek plays, novels like the Lord of the Rings, TV shows and movies, or video games. All of these are meant to give us heroes to emulate and people that we are to look and say “I can overcome what’s in my life as well.” With sports movies, we often have the story of the underdog, such as movies like Rocky or Rudy, where we know that the team or player we want to win will be the hero in the end because they never give up.
In the world of gaming, we have the same going on. A player playing a game can see a boss villain they have to fight that is gargantuan compared to them. In reality, most of us if we saw such a villain would not bother to really try even but start realizing that our time has come. In fantasy, it is the opposite. You are even more certain that you can win and you try again and again and again. The size of the enemy doesn’t make it impossible. It just makes the victory all the greater.
So it is also with every challenge that we face today. The Greeks told their plays I suspect in the hopes of spurring other young Greek men on to greatness. Hebrews tells us a list of heroes of the faith in an effort to say “Be like these people.” Today, we tell stories of people, real and fictional, in an effort to inspire greatness in us.
That should be the purpose of what we do today. If we are captivated by the battle of good and evil on the screen or in literature, we had sure better be fighting it in our own lives. If we believe that the villain can be overcome no matter what, we need to live accordingly as well. It could be tempting to say “That’s fiction, not reality”, but as Chesterton again said, “Truth is stranger than fiction, for we have made fiction to suit ourselves.” In fiction, the characters normally aren’t aware of a supreme deity watching over the story entirely. In reality, we should be, and that should change everything.
Enjoy the story, but also use it. If you care about sports, care about your own physical condition. If you care about the battle of good and evil, be ready to fight it yourself.
(And I affirm the virgin birth)