The Binding of Isaac

Ever since its release at the end of September 2011, I have found myself interested in Team Meat’s The Binding of Isaac. What has interested me about this game is not the gameplay but the unconventional world in which the game takes place. Take a moment and read about the game’s story from the wikipedia entry below:

The Binding of Isaac’s plot is a spinoff of the bible story with the same name.[3] Isaac, a child, and his Mother live in a small house on a hill, both happily keeping to themselves, with Isaac drawing pictures and playing with his toys, and his mother watching Christian Broadcasts on the Television. Isaac’s mother then hears “a voice from above”, stating her son is corrupted with sin, and needs to be saved. It asks her to remove all that was evil from Isaac, in an attempt to save him. His mother obliges, taking away his toys, pictures, game console and even his clothes.

The voice once again speaks to Isaac’s mother, stating he must be cut off from all that is evil in the world. Once again, his mother obliges, and locks Isaac inside his room.

Once more, the voice speaks to Isaac’s mother. It states she has done well, but it still questions her devotion, and requests she sacrifice her son. She obliges, grabbing a kitchen knife, and walking to Isaac’s room. Isaac, watching through a sizeable crack in his door, starts to panic. He finds and enters a trapdoor, just before his mother opens his bedroom door. Isaac then puts the paper he was drawing on onto his wall, which becomes the title screen.

In every culture or community there are extremes, fringe groups that display a hardcore devotion to their cause. Growing up, I lived in a small middle class community. I remember coming into contact with those who were a bit extreme in their ideals. Whether it was the Mormon family who disciplined to the point of abuse or the Christian family who would literally take all their kids things away as punishment, I have heard and seen much. Which is why it is not too surprising to read about the “mother” in The Binding of Isaac. I think at some point or another, we have all come in contact with a parent of this nature and perhaps haven’t even realized it.

Game review site Gamespot calls the The Binding of Isaac “dark”, “twisted”, “demented”, and yet “enjoyable”. In the midst of it’s dark nature, I openly wonder if the game’s scenario is inspired off of an actual person or situation in one of the developer’s lives. Something I’ll never know.

What I do know, is that Team Meat’s “spinoff” in no way reflects the Biblical account of God testing Abraham, besides “Isaac’s mother’s” devotion being tested. Genesis 22 recounts the story of Abraham being asked to sacrifice his only son. If you read it you’ll notice that the point of the story is not only that Abraham trusted God (by his willingness to sacrifice his only son) but that God provides the sacrifice. This story is a mirror to the greater story coursing through our history, that God seeks to redeem us through the death and resurrection of his son.

Focusing on the fringes of Christianity, on someone as crazy as “Isaac’s mother”, may help make a great game world. However, Team Meat missing the entire point of God testing Abraham is a bit sad in that the many who play this game will walk away with a false understanding of the binding of Isaac and history.

Selective Love

In the years that Jesus Christ ministered on Earth, he only loved on those that had pink hair. He specifically sought out the pink-headed ones in order to:

  • Heal them
  • Drive demons out of them
  • Love them unconditionally

To the others, to those that lacked pink hair, he intentionally ignored them. *Just ignore John 3:16 (“For God so loved the world…) and the entire Bible for the above to be true. :)

For at the least the past month, maybe longer, I have stopped going to the Highway 80 Bible Study my church leads every Sunday afternoon. Part of the reason I have quit going is simply a matter of convenience. I have had too many family gatherings, medical issues, and other excuses come up during the 4-5pm Bible study time. Sometimes it is nice to just relax and enjoy a Sunday afternoon nap with my wife. Who can argue with that?

Justifications aside, I had a friend send me an email the other day in which he talked about loving on other people. The email made me realize that I am selectively sharing my love, Christ’s love, for other people. In a way, I am prohibiting the work that Christ can do through me. I have become an ambassador of Christ that likes to hide away in the Christian embassy.

I am not proud of my sudden isolation. I dislike knowing that I am prohibiting potential blessings on others due to my lack of faithfulness. Just need to figure out how to get back on the horse. Regardless of my Bible study attendance, I need to be actively sharing Christ’s love outside of my comfort zone.

The Wrath of Christians

The machine guns blazed with a deafening sound, as a small band of Christians advanced upon Ignition Entertainment. Chanting the video game directors name, Sawaki Takeyasu, the blood thirsty band leveled all who stood in their way.

Weeks earlier, upon hearing about the game El Shaddai’s development and eventual release, this small band of Christians had threatened the games director with death. For you see, to even utter one of the names of God is punishable by death….err wait. Wouldn’t this be shocking if it were true? Imagine Christians militantly defending the name of God.

The announcement of El Shaddai got me thinking about how the Muslim community would react if the game was titled The Prophet Muhammad. Below is a case study from a recent headline.

Case Study:

Back in the beginning of April, the TV show South Park aired its 200th episode (recap here). The episode, which was all about not angering Muslims by physically depicting the Prophet Muhammad, stirred up anger within the Muslim community. One Muslim group even threatened “violent retribution” against the creators of the show. Meanwhile other religious figures which include Jesus, Buddha, and Krishna were depicted with little outcry from their followers. Comedy Central, fearing a backlash from the Muslim community, ended up heavily editing the episode.

Commit a series of terrorist acts and suddenly entire nations cower before you in fear.

As per my opening to this article, I am not insinuating that Christians should become militaristic and take up arms against those that offend us. That goes against the very person of who Jesus Christ was/ is. What I am trying to say is two things:

  1. Our modern media needs to treat all religious groups equally and with respect. Christ should be treated just as respectfully as Muhammad if not more so — hey, I’m biased!–. To cater/cower to only one religious group shows favoritism. Not only favoritism…but fear.
  2. Video game developers need to be respectful when telling stories/ making statements religious in nature. Take for instance the game Assassin’s Creed. SPOILER ALERT!!! The end of the game reveals that the object you’ve hunted for the entire game is what caused people to believe that Moses parted the Red Sea; that Jesus did miracles. I find such thought to be totally offensive. Furthermore, this makes me think that the developers of Assassin’s Creed believe that Christianity is a sham. Whatever happened to tolerance?

Tolerance: a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward opinions and practices that differ from one’s own.

In closing, the video game El Shaddai will not incite acts of violence on an epic scale. No death threats will be reported due to its development/ launch.  The wrath of the Christians will not be experienced. Consider that cancelled if not non-existent.

Things to think about:

  • Why are Christians openly mocked in media and Muslims feared?
  • What are the developers trying to tell us in their use of names like Enoch and a story about Satan and his fallen angels?
  • What is their worldview?

Whore

Recently, I started reading through the book of Jeremiah. Today I was reading through chapter 3 and was struck by a theme that has been carried over from chapter 2, that of the nation of Israel acting like a whore.

20-22“A long time ago you broke out of the harness.
You shook off all restraints.
You said, ‘I will not serve!’
and off you went,
Visiting every sex-and-religion shrine on the way,
like a common whore.
You were a select vine when I planted you
from completely reliable stock.
And look how you’ve turned out—
a tangle of rancid growth, a poor excuse for a vine.

(Jeremiah 2:20-22a, The Message)

Notice that Israel was whoring themselves out to both physical and spiritual things (“Visiting every sex-and-religion shrine on the way”). This has got me thinking, what things am I prostituting myself to daily? Is it something physical like a hobby? Is it a thought or an idea that is not Biblical (thus not of God)?

Perhaps this is a shock to you, especially if you came to this site looking for video game related material. Trust me, the content is here. One of the other purposes of this site is to stir conversation. So let’s stir the pot!

  • Are you, someone who has been made clean by acceptance in Christ’s death on the cross, whoring yourself out to physical things and thoughts that are not of God? If so, there is no time like the present to make things right.
  • Are you someone who does not know Christ but still feels like you are whoring yourself out to something? Perhaps its time to evaluate what your intaking on a daily basis.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be known as a whore to that which is evil and not of God.

Bryan

*Please note that the word “whore” is used due to the overarching marriage analogy found in the passages.

Shock

Christians and Christianity never fair well on videogame related sites. Theological and spiritual discussions always seem to devolve into name calling/ hateful discussions. Take for instance a recent post on Joystiq.com. The post speaks of a recent opinion piece posted to the Christian Civic League of Maine’s website, The Record, entitled Ban this Video Game. Instead of analyzing The Record’s opinion piece, Joystiq.com is content to make fun of punctuation and generally mock the Christian group. This is a shame. What Joystiq.com should have done is note the following:

  • The opinion piece is heavily slanted from the opening paragraph.

…participate vicariously in the destruction of their fellow man.

Anyone who has played videogames since their inception knows that not all games lead players down dark paths of violence. Mario, Pacman, and Sonic are great examples of non-destructive games.

  • The Christian Civic League of Maine’s article continues by essentially saying that violence is violence whether virtual or not (real life prize-fighting versus videogames is given as an example).

What do you think of this? Is violence in a videogame like real life violence?

  • The article continues by talking about Modern Warefare 2’s controversial “No Russian” mission.

    In the game, the player becomes a member of a terrorist gang which guns down helpless men, women, and children waiting at an airport.

    While I have not played through Modern Warefare 2, comments on various forums and sites seem to indicate that the scene was placed in the game for shock value. Below is a quote from an article Tom Chick, from over at Fidgit.com, wrote on the controversial scene which seems to pretty much sum everything I’ve read.

    It is unnecessary, cheap, and disgusting… (for full article click here)

    • Logic is thrown out the window as the Civic League’s article draws to a close.

    There is a well-established cause and effect relationship between video games and school shootings…

    Really? While I have read that the shooters in the Columbine incident played videogames, I am also sure that they watched R rated movies.

    • Finally, the article summarizes that Modern Warfare 2 and videogames in general need to be banned.

    Moreover, it may be time for Maine to begin a debate over the advisability of banning these games completely, giving due consideration to both the First Amendment, and the danger these violent games pose to the public.

    Following their logic, anything that runs in conflict to their beliefs should be outright banned from existence. This makes me wonder how this group separates books that conflict with their beliefs. Why aren’t they calling for a ban on books?

    In the end, I wish that more civilized debates were waged on the Internet. Flame wars, articles/ posts written to drive up web traffic, and opinions not thought through help no one. Please post responsibly.

    Surf Report – 12/21/09

    Welcome to the Monday edition of the Surf Report. Proudly sponsored by no one!

    .: God :

    Christmas, oh how I remember the consumer-driven holiday of my youth. Every year I would come up with the perfect Christmas list. This list would be scientifically engineered upon the foundation of known–I don’t know how–Christmas spending limits of my family. For example, I knew that my Aunt spent roughly a $100 on me each year. In order to maximize my gift receiving, I would specifically structure my list so that I would get everything on it. And received I did. Everything.

    I didn’t realize the impact of my greedy childhood until I became an adult. Christmas was no longer just about presents–although presents are great!–. Christmas, as a Christian, is about the celebration of Christ’s birth. This tiny detail is shadowed by presents, the Christmas tree, and all the lights that illuminate the cold December nights. For me, as a Christ follower, I realize that I need to look beyond all the distractions of the holidays and focus on why we celebrate Christmas in the first place.

    1-5About that time Caesar Augustus ordered a census to be taken throughout the Empire. This was the first census when Quirinius was governor of Syria. Everyone had to travel to his own ancestral hometown to be accounted for. So Joseph went from the Galilean town of Nazareth up to Bethlehem in Judah, David’s town, for the census. As a descendant of David, he had to go there. He went with Mary, his fiancée, who was pregnant.

    6-7While they were there, the time came for her to give birth. She gave birth to a son, her firstborn. She wrapped him in a blanket and laid him in a manger, because there was no room in the hostel. (The Message, Luke 2:1-7)

    .: Life :

    A spark of imagination + a $300 investment = “Panic Attack!”

    .: Gaming :

    Super Mario Bros. Wii has occupied much of my gaming time as of late. Although I have to admit, I am not very good at Mario games…you? :)

    Surf Report – 7/22/09

    Surf Report

    Welcome to a Wednesday edition of the Surf Report.

    .: God :

    Came across this interesting post on the difference between a Teacher and an Exhorter. For those who do not speak Christian-ese, an Exhorter is one who ” urges, advises, or cautions earnestly.”

    .: Life :

    Just got back from a trip to the West Coast.

    Looks like its going to be an amazing summer!

    Looks like its going to be an amazing summer!

    .: Gaming :

    Pokemon Logo

    3 Guys (Ages 25-28).

    3 Games (Pokémon: Platinum, Diamond, and Pearl)

    A Summer Filled with Pocket Monsters.

    Join JohnnyBGamer.com as we explore what happens when guys in their 20’s engage in the world of Pokémon.

    Wave SplinterAs of today’s date, the games have been handed out and the Pokémon experiment has begun! So far:

    Bryan (Platinum):

    Having almost played through Pokémon Diamond last year, I decided to see what changes have been made in Pokémon Platinum. So far I am really enjoying the revamped storyline.  Progression wise, I have just made it to Sandgem Town with my Turtwig named Revolver. Hopefully I will have time this week to challenge the gym leader.

    Turtwig

    Revolver - Stage One

    Shooter McGavin (Diamond):

    Thoughts of the game so far: the advantage I see, so far, over other RPGs is the ability to add more members to your group whenever you want, plus the hunt/ thrill of finding ones you haven’t yet. The only negative so fat is the annoying “trainers” who want to battle for stupid, made up reasons! Eg “don’t you love the aroma of the flowers? Smell this!” and a battle starts.

    I think I’m finding a storyline :) my “friend” is also annoying. His name is Bryan, in honor of the one who supplied the game :) and he is always running ahead an not letting me catch up and hang out with him, what a spaz!

    Chimchar

    Shooter

    Scotto (Pearl):

    Has yet to enter the world of Pokémon.

    wavesplinter

    That is it for this weeks Surf Report. Make sure to comment below and have a good week!