Stephen Totilo, over at Kotaku, interviewed Shigeru Miyamoto last month at E3. He asked Miyamoto why Nintendo games feel different. Love the insightful response:
Miyamoto: So you know programming is all about numbers. The challenge is getting this kind of feeling into numbers. So there’s a lot of back and forth between the programmer and myself and the director. We really go in deep about how to create this feeling. We do a lot of back and forth.
Bill Trinen: It actually goes back to the way they designed the original Super Mario Bros., where when they tested it, originally, there was no Mario and there was no person. It was just a block. And you would press the button and see the block move. There’s actually a word in Japanese that describes what you’re talking about–the feeling–which there is no word for in English. In Japanese it’s called tegotae..
Tembo the Badass Elephant. Big attitude distilled down to the size of a peanut, or something like that.
Side-scrolling games scroll to the right. This is a founding principal established by the platforming forefathers Sonic and Mario. Game Freak’s Tembo the Badass Elephant goes against convention in Stage 8 of the game. Check out the first few seconds in the video below:
Yes, I charged to the right and plunged to my death. Videogame experience has taught me that the developers were toying with me. There had to be some sort of invisible platform or some such device to catch me, right? Wrong.
The level began to the left. Videogame subversion.
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.
Last night my wife left me. Well she left me to go to a bachelorette party, I should say. Soon after my son went to bed, I loaded up Telltale Games The Walking Dead: Episode 1 on the PS3. Thinking my wife would be gone for a few hours, I thought that I could at least finish up Episode One – A New Day (I had played for at least an hour a week ago). Little did I know that I would spend the next three hours deeply engrossed in a zombie-filled horror.
I want to say something upfront about this series. Unlike most M-rated games, The Walking Dead earns its rating almost immediately. Beyond the bloody and sometimes lingering gore-filled camera shots, the explicit language used in the game is intense. I don’t think I’ve ever played a video game that uses the f-word with such frequency as The Walking Dead does. This is about as far from the Mario universe as you can possibly get. Just a word of warning.
Living in the chaos of a decimating virus outbreak is not dream of mine. Personal survival quickly becomes the rule of the day; personal survival at the cost of others lives. The Walking Dead: Episode 1 opens with a man named Lee being transported in the back of a police cruiser. Whether he is guilty of whatever it is he has done, the game leaves that up to your imagination. All you know is that something is going horribly wrong in the City of Atlanta. A zombie, standing in the middle of the highway, leads to the police cruiser crashing. The story of Lee’s survival has just begun.
What makes The Walking Dead so compelling is its storyline. The game makes you actually care about different characters. Soon after the car accident, Lee meets up with a little girl named Clementine. This is where the game sucked me in. Lee suddenly has someone that is watching his every move, an innocent. Knowing Clementine is watching me, Lee, makes me make decisions differently. I want to shield her from the carnage. After playing Episode 2 – Starved For Help, I’ve learned that shielding her is often impossible. There is evil in this world, evil that knows no bounds.
I haven’t been this captivated by a game in a long time. The characters, voice acting, and storyline all come together to create a group of people I care about. Deaths come about as shocking. Choices I’ve made I’ve later regretted and have reaped the consequences of. The Walking Dead represents interactive drama at its best. I just wish they’d tone down the language.
For the first part of this series, I wanted to layout how I have personally come to the conclusion that there is a need for a Christian influence in video games and then present the overall vision of Johnny B Gamer.
Growing up in the 1980’s, the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) was a staple in my parents’ home. I remember long days spent adventuring with Mario, Donkey Kong, and Link from The Legend of Zelda series. Though I did not realize it at the time, I was actively engaging in a new form of media—video games.
As the years progressed, my passion for this new electronic media has both increased and matured. The Internet has provided me with a way to connect with fellow game enthusiasts from around the world. I often spend time reading about the latest video game news, reviews, and editorials. From my vantage point of watching video games integrate into popular culture, I have noticed a disturbing trend in online video game web sites. Besides the increase in violent games, offensive content displayed on the sites themselves has increased dramatically. In the early days of video game media, the enthusiast sites reported the news and stayed clear of any offensive or lewd content. However, over the past eight years language, sexual images, and an open disdain for God have slowly encroached upon a once clean form of web site media. I believe that God has pressed upon my heart the need for a Christian influence in this increasingly perverse form of media. Not wanting to fight a war against secular culture, but wanting to influence the video game media with the love of Christ, the concept that is Johnny B Gamer has been created.
Johnny B Gamer (JBG) is a video game enthusiast web site dedicated to integrating a foundationally solid Christian perspective into the world of video games. The web site sets forth a twofold mission: 1) to provide a safe place online to check out the latest in video games, and 2) to build community both online and in the real world. JBG features articles that explore faith, and video game review articles that examine in-game worldview and the level of potential impact the game could have in one’s life. Building community, both online and off, is an integral area that JohnnyBGamer.com uses to differentiate itself from other video game sites. Employing a relational style of evangelism, I plan to take JBG on the road and engage gamers face to face. I envision eventually hosting video game competitions in which gamers could compete and experience other gamers who are transparently following Christ. Overall, I see a complete ministry that passionately models Christ’s love for this fallen world.