Thomas Wasn’t Alone – A 2015 Flashback

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I came across this piece the other day and still felt it was relevant. At this point, Thomas Was Alone is available on pretty much everything (even your iPad). Give the game a chance if you haven’t happened to play. Never know what life lessons you can learn from colorful shapes. – Bryan

We are not meant to go at this life alone.

thomas-was-aloneThomas Was Alone drives home the point that we are meant to live in community with others. As the levels in Thomas progress, the game reinforces that red rectangle Thomas needs others to move from one point to another. Thomas cannot move through the game world alone.

My son graduated from kindergarten today (5/29/2015). I’m not sure how I feel about that. Sitting there in the auditorium, I was reminded of what big personals events were like growing up. I remember having the biggest cheering section out of anyone. My parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins were always there to cheer me on. I wasn’t alone.

thomas-was-alone1Thomas Was Alone combines minimalist design and expert narration to introduce characters one cares for. Take Claire for instance. Claire is a large blue square. Even though she cannot jump high, Claire dreams of becoming a superhero. Thomas and his friends need Claire. She is the only one that can float across the toxic waters that would kill anyone else in an instant.

The Bible talks about the human body having many parts, each with it’s own task, function, and purpose. The Bible likens the human body to the body of Christ. In that we are meant to live in community.

I teach a group of men on Wednesday nights. We’ve been going through some difficult material. Peeling back masks and becoming real with one another, I have learned that we all have a need for friendship. Most of us feel as if we do not have anyone to walk in life with. We feel alone. Sometimes lost. Isolated within our families, running the race of life. The guys and I discussed how we can move beyond our personal islands:

  • Reaching out, in person, on the phone, even a simple text
  • Having a bigger focus than just ourselves
  • Being legacy minded

God lives in community with the Holy Spirit and Christ. If He is our example. . .  it may be time to pick up a phone, knock on a door, and connect.

Oxenfree

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Looking back, I feel bad for my dad. I think he was used to nice things like his stereo system. Nice things that us kids always managed to break. I think we broke his turntable first, but my memory is a tad fuzzy. What I do remember though is the green glow of his Pioneer radio tuner. There was something magical about that soft glowing dial that brought music and voices from afar.

Title: Oxenfree
Developer: Night School Studio
Platform Reviewed On: Nintendo Switch

A group of teenagers head to an island to party for the night. Just a small get together really. They bring along a handheld radio, you know, just for fun. And maybe also because tuning the radio to specific frequencies causes weird things to happen.

The evening soon goes to cosmic horror hell. Oxenfree starts dropping hints of:

  • A submarine crew who died off the island’s coast…
  • A scientist who was researching radio frequencies…
  • Environments that react to specific radio frequencies you tune in to with your radio…

Friends start going missing. You soon do not know where reality begins and the isolated island nightmare ends.

.: SPOILER ALERT :.

I played this game without knowing much about it. I’m happy I did. And I won’t ruin that for you. What I will spoil is that there are multiple endings to this game. Endings based on specific dialogue choices you make. Oxenfree is all about a constant flow of conversation that feels inconsequential. But surprise! Your words do matter and do affect the outcome of the game.

Do you want the super happy ending? The ending where whatever is happening actually ends? You have to pick the right grouping of dialogue choices.

By the end of the game, I doubted whether I had actually finished Oxenfree. Even after the credits rolled, I didn’t trust the game due to how much it had messed with me. The game reinforces this feeling of unease as the credits finish rolling and Oxenfree loops back to the main menu:

“Continue on the same timeline?”

The same timeline? What is this? I was so confused and yet felt like I could kinda see the breadcrumbs the game had left me. My confusion led to a Google hunt. That is where I learned that dialogue choices are a huge key to this game. HUGE! So much for choice.

I’m happy with the time I spent with Oxenfree. I feel a little ripped off by the way it all ends… but I also like endings that are not all neat and sorted out. Life is a lot like that.

The Nintendo Switch was the perfect system to play this game on. Nothing like laying in bed, headphones on, being creeped out by forces who just want to live. No matter the costs.

3/5 – Best use of a handheld radio gameplay mechanic. Love the way the Switch’s rumble felt as I spun the radio dial. In the end, I wish the game had telegraphed more how important conversation choices are.

A Book Review – Open by Craig Gross

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The first time I heard the word accountability was shortly after high school. A good friend of mine asked me if I wanted to be accountability partners with him. This meant that we would talk about the deeper things that boil beneath the surface; things that hold most tightly to themselves. I am not sure if I was scared or what, but I quickly declined his invitation. I did not want anyone getting closer. I was an island.

No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent…

– No Man Is An Island, John Donne

Open, by Craig Gross, is a book that encourages living a life in accountability to another. The book is divided into three parts:

  1. Part 1: Why accountability is…(Good, Safety, Deep, Necessary)
  2. Part 2: What you need…(Honesty, Courage, Help)
  3. Part 3: How – Get…(Involved, Intimate, Effective)

Open by Craig Gross

The Good:

Starting in Chapter 8, I love how Craig breaks down exactly how to establish an accountability relationship and exactly what that looks like. He talks about the small things such as:

  • Picking someone of the same gender.
  • Finding someone you are compatible with (preferably someone who knows you).
  • Having an accountability partner whose views are slightly different than your own (this way you avoid someone who is simply going to be a yes-man and will instead challenge you).
  • Choosing someone who you can trust. I have found point to be especially true. If you don’t trust your accountability partner you will never go below the surface conversations that you have with everyone else.
  • Taking into consideration whether you want someone in the same stage of life (income, age, marital status, kids, etc.) as yourself.

Though Craig’s background is primarily in dealing with pornography through XXXChurch, in Chapter 9 he goes beyond porn in asking, “What are you seeking accountability for?” (p146). This is a fantastic question because accountability can be for almost anything from exercise to the spiritual discipline of reading the Bible. I know that when I hear the word accountability I automatically think of someone needing to overcome some sort of terrible sin.

Finally, in Chapter 10, Craig discusses scheduling, deciding on a meeting place, and what the format for an accountability meeting looks like.

“Honesty can be spontaneous, but spontaneity often arises from planning.” (p171)

He suggests:

  • Five minutes of small talk
  • An opening prayer
  • A series of staple questions you ask each other each week (“How was your week? Were you honest and truthful in all you did? State one lie you have told someone in this past week or a secret you are keeping from someone else or the group.” (p173))
  • Asking specific questions that apply directly to you (Did you steal from the cookie jar?)
  • Closing prayer
  • Further discussion/ small talk
  • Close

The Bad:

I dislike the tone that Craig writes with at the beginning of Open. The first few chapters paint a picture of a man who is all about self promotion/himself. This turned me off to the book and caused me to skim until I found material that was actually helpful and worth reading (the back half/practical end of the book). This is a shame as I can see this as a turn off to other readers.

In Closing:
Despite a poor beginning, Open features useful discussion on the why’s, how’s, and what’s of going beyond the personal island and seeking out others to walk through life with.

I was given a copy of this book by BookSneeze. All opinions are my own. I was not required to write a positive review.

Book Review: Open by Craig Gross

Standard

The first time I heard the word accountability was shortly after high school. A good friend of mine asked me if I wanted to be accountability partners with him. This meant that we would talk about the deeper things that boil beneath the surface; things that most hold tightly to themselves. I am not sure if I was scared or what, but I quickly declined his invitation. I did not want anyone getting closer. I was an island.

No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent…

– No Man Is An Island, John Donne

Open, by Craig Gross, is a book that encourages living a life in accountability to another. The book is divided into three parts:

  1. Part 1: Why accountability is…(Good, Safety, Deep, Necessary)
  2. Part 2: What you need…(Honesty, Courage, Help)
  3. Part 3: How – Get…(Involved, Intimate, Effective)

Open by Craig Gross

The Good:

Starting in Chapter 8, I love how Craig breaks down exactly how to establish an accountability relationship and exactly what that looks like. He talks about the small things such as:

  • Picking someone of the same gender.
  • Finding someone you are compatible with (preferably someone who knows you).
  • Having an accountability partner whose views are slightly different than your own (this way you avoid someone who is simply going to be a yes-man and will instead challenge you).
  • Choosing someone who you can trust. I have found point to be especially true. If you don’t trust your accountability partner you will never go below the surface conversations that you have with everyone else.
  • Taking into consideration whether you want someone in the same stage of life (income, age, marital status, kids, etc.) as yourself.

Though Craig’s background is primarily in dealing with pornography through XXXChurch, in Chapter 9 he goes beyond porn in asking, “What are you seeking accountability for?” (p146). This is a fantastic question because accountability can be for almost anything from exercise to the spiritual discipline of reading the Bible. I know that when I hear the word accountability I automatically think of someone needing to overcome some sort of terrible sin.

Finally, in Chapter 10, Craig discusses scheduling, deciding on a meeting place, and what the format for an accountability meeting looks like.

“Honesty can be spontaneous, but spontaneity often arises from planning.” (p171)

He suggests:

  • Five minutes of small talk
  • An opening prayer
  • A series of staple questions you ask each other each week (“How was your week? Were you honest and truthful in all you did? State one lie you have told someone in this past week or a secret you are keeping from someone else or the group.” (p173))
  • Asking specific questions that apply directly to you (Did you steal from the cookie jar?)
  • Closing prayer
  • Further discussion/ small talk
  • Close

The Bad:

I dislike the tone that Craig writes with at the beginning of Open. The first few chapters paint a picture of a man who is all about self promotion/himself. This turned me off to the book and caused me to skim until I found material that was actually helpful and worth reading (the back half/practical end of the book). This is a shame as I can see this as a turn off to other readers.

In Closing:
Despite a poor beginning, Open features useful discussion on the why’s, how’s, and what’s of going beyond the personal island and seeking out others to walk through life with.

I was given a copy of this book by BookSneeze. All opinions are my own. I was not required to write a positive review.