The Binding of Isaac

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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.

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