Assassin’s Creed III

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A few weeks ago, I did something out of character, I went and pre-ordered Assassin’s Creed III (ACIII).

Last night I went and picked up my pre-order at Gamestop. After being carded by the clerk, who said I looked under 30, I quickly exited the store. An hour or two later I found myself waiting for the game to install. 10-15 minutes later, I was treated to an opening video that highlighted that something bigger than the war between the Assassins and Templars was about to unfold, the end of the world is nigh. Only Desmond, the “link” between all of the Assassin’s Creed games and the player, holds the key to the planet’s salvation.

This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill – the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill – you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes. – Morpheus, The Matrix

The Mark of an Assassin

Note: Spoilers are incoming! If you wish to remain an ACIII virgin, steer clear. You have been warned.

Contrary to any promotional material you may have seen, ACIII opens in Britain with a tutorial assassination–how clinical sounding–at the London Opera House. In the boots of Haytham Kenway, you wade through eager operagoers and make your way to your seat and contact.

Notice how dimly lit the opera house is in the above picture. The poor sap, whose soul you’ve come to rid from this world, will never see you coming. And so the saga of Assassin’s Creed III begins.

I managed to play for just under an hour last night. In that time I assassinated a man, journeyed to the American Colonies, and met Benjamin Franklin. My only criticism so far is that the game seems perfectly happy holding my hand and guiding me through the various assassin processes. Like a child, I want to break free from that hand and truly discover the world that exists around me. Patience, I tell myself.

2012 Vice Presidential Debate Recap

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The dreaded morning after the debate. Today is the day that the media puts its own spin on how the current Vice President and potential Vice President fared. Words such as “feisty”, “fiery”, and “sparks fly” will be used. If you were a web editor, which headline do you think would generate more clicks?

  • Vice President Joe Biden Schools A Young And Dumb Congressman Ryan
  • Acting Like A Child: How Joe Biden Acted Like My 3 Year Old Last Night

As I sat on the couch watching last night, I heard a lot of numbers being thrown about. Numbers concerning social security, troop withdrawal, and the impending debt crisis. Had this been a church sermon, I would have had an easy-to-follow outline. Alas, I did not have that outline and that is what killed the debate for me. I wanted solid answers; I wanted to see two men act like men. All last night left me thinking was:

  • How/why has Joe Biden been in politics so long? He kept referring to his track record, to historical events he was actually present to vote for. All I could think was that he is a part of the cause and a major part of the problem our nation faces today. When the Vice President wasn’t acting like a child by making faces, interrupting, and generally being rude, he took on the tone that was demeaning. I didn’t appreciate his demeanor.
  • On the other hand, we had Congressman Paul Ryan. Ryan would often answer questions and then point blank dodge others. At times all he needed to do was answer a question with a simple one sentence answer. That was all I needed to hear. I did like how he would sit patiently and wait his turn. Ryan came across as civil. We need more civility in politics. I do wish though that he had kept his answers shorter and more concise.
  • The moderator, Martha Raddatz, was a breath of fresh air. She asked thoughtful questions that demanded thoughtful answers. Very rarely though did I feel that either candidate answered her questions well. Disappointing.

The countdown to the election draws nearer. Are you going to vote?

Thinking Aloud: Why We Don’t Need Another Church Building

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In East Texas, especially in the City of Longview, the locals jokingly say that there is a church on every street corner. If you think about this, this means that the city’s original churches fractured and then multiplied. Division beget division; street corner after street corner was soon bestowed with a church.

Just as the Internet does not need another Christian video game site, the world does not need another church building. While it is true church buildings serve as a central place for Christians to receive Biblical teaching and fellowship with fellow believers, we were never meant to stay in one place. If you think about it, what do church buildings help foster? Isolation. Sure we can invite our “lost” friends to church, but do we? Most of the time, we fail at reaching out to those that Christ came to save for the sake of comfort. I’m guilty of this. Why invite an outsider to Cheers, right?

Instead of hanging out in fortified churches, how should we be reaching out to those around us in our community? My friend Scotto happened to hear the rapper Lecrae speak on this at The Resurgence Conference the other day. Lecrae talked about how:

…he intentionally lives in Atlanta because all the other major rappers live there. He wants to be in the culture, because he knows that God can use him there. Same goes for him using rap to spread the Gospel.

His points were:

1. Engage the culture. (Learn the culture, speak the language.)

2. Love the culture. (Really develop relationships. Care about people. Don’t just wait for opportunities to give your gospel points.)

3. Rehabilitate the culture. (How can you restructure what you already do to glorify God?)

I do think that it is important that we, as Christians, grow and fellowship with one another. I just think that the emphasis on the building, that some churches put into theirs, is wrong. The Church isn’t about the building but about the people. We need to be engaging, loving, and acting as Christ’s hands and feet in this broken world, with or without a building.

What do you think?

Thinking Aloud: Why We Don’t Need Another Christian Video Game Site

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9 years ago I noticed that the Christian worldview was sadly lacking in the mainstream video game press. I wanted to find a web site that discussed the theological impact of the games that I played. A web site written by actual gamers that attempted to go beyond discussing the surface elements of video games (violence, language, etc.). My questions all revolved around:

  • What thoughts, ideas, and experiences am I being exposed to by video game developers?
  • How do these worldviews differ from my own?
  • As a Christian, what should my response be?

I envisioned a web site that could compete with the big boys at the time, Gamespot and Gamespy. So I created JohnnyBGamer.com to go against the best. Quite quickly I learned that a large amount of time, talent, and money are needed to compete in any real way. In short, I couldn’t compete. Eventually I relaunched JBG as the personal blog it is today. I wasn’t defeated, just confronted with reality.

Almost a decade has gone by, and I now find myself questioning the need for a Christian video game web site. Why do we, as Christians, have to segregate ourselves from the world and form our own personal ghettos? Instead of having a Christian video game site, why can’t we have writers writing for major publications that are Christians?

The digital landscape has changed a lot since 2003. Sites such as GameChurch and The Cross and the Controller (which seems to have gone missing) now exist to plumb the depths of video games and the Christian worldview. I am in no way against such ministries, but I openly wonder at the audiences they reach. Would it not be better to influence the gaming culture from inside a major web site versus from outside in the ghetto?

What do you think?

Life After 9/11: The Avengers

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Living in a post-9/11 world, I view the world through a different lens. This past weekend I finally had a chance to sit down and watch The Avengers with my wife. As the movie raced towards its world-ending conclusion, with a portal opening above New York City, I found myself drawn out of the movie’s fantasy and into reality.

Helpless bystanders were running through the city streets, trying to evade the destruction going on around them. New York City was in havoc.  As taxi cabs were blasted through the air and skyscrapers were torn asunder, I became uncomfortable. I remembered scenes of people fleeing the dust cloud on 9/11; I remembered the repeated video footage of the planes that flew into the twin towers.

I don’t think I’ve ever realized just how much my perception of life has changed since 9/11. Even the movies that I used to think were fun, big budget action films, are tainted in messy reality.

Side Note: With all of the above being said, did anyone else notice that despite the falling debris from the skyscrapers, there was no dust in the air? The end scenes from The Avengers would have been almost unviewable had reality ruled. Hurray for viewable fantasy!

Verse of the Day: Philippians 4:6-7

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Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  – Philippians 4:6-7 (NIV)

Invite Christ Into Your Hobby

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This morning, as I was reading through Bill Farrel’s The 10 Best Decisions a Man Can Make, I came across a passage that talked about inviting Christ into your hobbies. The beginning of Chapter 8 asked a question:

“What do you like to do to relax or have fun?”

The book followed up by asking you to:

“Brainstorm ways to invite Jesus to be part of this activity in your life.”

Bill gave a few personal examples of him inviting Christ into his hobbies: 1)as he is out in the garage tinkering around on his car, he prays and just generally communicates with God just as he would a friend; 2)as he is out exercising, Bill listens to worship music and sermons. Both examples show how easy it is to invite Christ into our down time activities.

Now my own personal ways of winding down do not include physical exercise nor picking up the odd tool and “tinkering”. I know that I need to be more active but I prefer reading a good book or enjoying a video game. I honestly cannot remember a time where I have ever invited God to take up the second controller (figuratively). I don’t think I have ever asked God for the amazing dexterity to accomplish a specific Mario jump either. No, I just mindlessly play and let the digital world envelope me as I would a movie. What does this mean?

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. – Colossians 3:17 (NIV)

As a Christian, everything I do is to be done to the glory of God. I need to be keeping God at the forefront of my mind. Even as I play a video game, I need to not be mindlessly consuming but actively engaging the media. This means filtering the game through what I know is truth in scripture; this also means asking God for the endurance to take on that last boss fight. Video games can easily be all about the glory of the player, I want that glory to instead be directed at my Creator.

The Great Secret

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I dislike it when I have to keep quiet about something that is exciting. So here it goes, my wife and I are buying our first home!

Now, this isn’t just any old home. No, this is the home that has sheltered my wife’s family for decades. The house has no doubt seen many storms of both the physical and emotional; the house has no doubt been a place of great joy and deep sorrow. As we anxiously await the finalization of appraisal, survey, and other loose ends, my wife and I can only dream about our future in our very own home. To say that we are excited is to try and contain an enormous amount of energy in something that was never meant to store it. We are ready to put our own mark on the house and make it our home.

Web Design – Tiny Details Matter

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I was at the gas station the other day and I noticed something peculiar about the base of the gas pump. Do you see it in the picture below?

The base of the pump is raised. I’m not sure what the significance of this is but I am sure that there is a reason for this elevated decision– sorry, couldn’t help it–. Details such as this, as I am learning with web design, are the small seemingly insignificant design decisions that make all the difference. Our eyes notice everything, even the smallest pixel that is out of place.