Are we playing a game? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
Spoiler warning for the old game Final Fantasy Legend ahead. It’s an old Gameboy game, but if you are planning on playing on an emulator or something, skip this part.
Your party in Final Fantasy Legend has climbed a tower twice that is said to lead to paradise, defeating the fiends of Gen-Bu, Sei-Ryu, Byak-Ko, and Su-Zaku, as well as their leader Ashura. (Fans of mythology should recognize those names.) There was a trap the first time going up so the party had to do it again and fight the first four of those fiends again, until they got to the top again.
This time, they seem to enter a peaceful and serene area where there doesn’t seem to be much of anything, except for one man, standing in front of a door. They talk to him to find out he is the Creator and they were the first to finish the game. It was a game he made because people didn’t know what courage and determination meant so he created Ashura to see what they would do. He wants to reward the party and grant them a wish.
The party is indignant upon hearing this insisting that he used them. Eventually, it’s clear they’re picking a fight with him and so the party fights the creator. In the end, they win, and rather than go through the door, they choose to return to their world. (How much I wish we could get a story that would show what was beyond that door.)
THOSE WANTING TO AVOID SPOILERS CAN RESUME HERE.
What if our world also was a game? Granted, there are differences, as contrary to Isaiah 45:7 as read by fundy atheists, God did not create evil. However, He did allow it. My thoughts on this come from reading Edward Castronova’s book, Life Is A Game, which I heard about on a podcast on God and Gaming with two hosts, one being a Catholic priest, who both love gaming and they have Catholics on there who are in the game industry and Castronova was one of them.
He looks at game design and says “What if God created the universe like we create a game?” It’s an interesting hypothesis and I am going through it and in that spirit, rather than call this a book plunge, I will call it a walkthrough. This is one of those books that I am highlighting every night something I read that I find relevant. I am not just learning a lot about the world around me, but I also think I’m learning about myself and so many times I read something and I think “I can relate to that! I didn’t know there was a name for that!” By the way, I’m not even 20% through the book.
So let’s start with RPGs. These are my favorite genre of games. In these, one assumes the role of a character and makes decisions as him (or her) and really seeing the world through their eyes. Castronova says that these have shown us that people want to be heroes and have their lives matter and go on quests. (Another area that shows this I think is the rise of the superhero genre) It’s common in the world of RPGs for a player to spend 20-40 hours a week on one game. Consider how many people made plans suddenly when The Legend of Zelda: The Breath of the Wild came out. In Japan, there are laws on when a Dragon Quest game can come out because everyone takes off to play it.
Now we can look at this and say “What is wrong with our society in that people are wanting to spend so many hours playing a game?” or we can say “People are spending so many hours playing a game? Why?” Obviously, it is meeting some desire in the lives of those people, but is it just a desire to have fun?
Probably not just that, because while gaming is fun, there is also the reality of what is known as rage quitting. People get super frustrated because they can’t seem to beat that one level. Many times it’s common to throw one’s controller and just march off in a huff, and yet so many times we come back. Why?
What if we saw this not as a problem, but rather as a clue? Could it be possible that game design could tell us about the human condition? What if we did see the world as a game? Could that give us any insights into the nature of reality? Is this also a novel idea to see it this way?
And what is the purpose of play? Something to consider is play is its own end. People do not play so they can work, but we do work so we can play.
And how does this relate to our everyday theology and life? Is this part of the reason sometimes men hate going to church? Could seeing life as a game make us want to go deeper into understanding God?
I plan on exploring these questions as I go through this book. I don’t know how long it will take, and I also do not plan on blogging next week as I have the Defend conference going on. I hope you’ll be there, but if you can’t, I hope you’ll join me as we explore answering if life could be a game.
(And I affirm the virgin birth)