Kickstarting ReElise


Justin Fox is a longtime friend I met through Theology Gaming University (TGU). He just launched a Kickstarter for his game, ReElise, a Hip-Hop RPG. Justin hopes to not only fund his dream but start a movement.

How did your values influence your game, ReElise?

The game started out about race. Mostly a coming of age story. Just exploring culture and how people deal with them. When I got saved (gave my life to Christ) the story completely changed. It became a story about how God can make dry bones live again. However the theme of race still plays a role in that it serves no real role in the story. The main character is a black female…. that is all. Sometimes, it’s just not important in contrast to the big plot, and it shouldn’t always be a plot to insert a person’s views on an almost ageless problem so they can be the guy who “figured out how we can get along”. It’s a problem of classifying people as ” those people ” and that’s not going away. Ever.


What exactly is a Hip-Hop RPG?

There’s a lot more to the culture of Hip-Hop than violence, money and abuse of women. There’s dancing, style, language, AMAZING art, and some would even say theology that’s not focused on quite as much. It was supposed to be fun in the early days. I like fun things. A Hip-Hop RPG is a game that  leans into the dopeness that is Hip-Hop. I love it. I wanted it in there. I’m indie… so I do what I want I’m grown and sexy.

How long have you been working on the game and what have you learned?

Steadily for 4 years. I’ve been tinkering with it for roughly 7, but those were entirely different builds.

For me, it’s been the power of belief. Believing that something good can come out of an idea that’s not really been done before, and seeing how the power of that belief carried me through for 4 years. It’s a crazy thing. Not to mention how drastically my belief in Jesus changed the core of the game. Belief is really something else.


Engage in epic rap battles.

What would you like to say to anybody thinking about backing ReElise on Kickstarter?

This is more of a movement than it is about just one game. Traditional gameplay but with very non-traditional stories as well as concepts (I mean this is a 2D, hand-animated, Hip-Hop, turned-based, Mature Christian RPG… with sprinkles… definitely unconventional). I’d like to subtly offer deeper things to my audience. I’m giving my audience the chance to simply play a great game, and offer them a deeper story that I truly hope will be beneficial to their lives if they care to look. We’ve just gotta get the colorists, programmers, editors, travel expenses, and advertisements out of the way for this project first. That way we can make this first project everything it needs to be!  There’ll be much much more to come with the support of backers.

Thanks, Justin, for giving us a slice of ReElise pie. We can’t wait to get a taste of your Hip-Hop RPG goodness.

If you’d like to back Justin’s work, check out his Kickstarter page.

Thoughts on The Last of Us


Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us is the antithesis of the Uncharted series. One game is built on stealth, scavenging, and nonviolent solutions; the other game on blood, ammo drops, and guns, lots of guns.

I happened to take a sick day this week. To relax, I fired up The Last of Us. Now I should note that this is a game I have tried quite a few times to get into. Somehow, someway, The Last of Us has failed to capture me, until now. The fact that it was daylight outside could have helped my bravery. Scary games and I do not get along.

The last time I played The Last of Us, I had left Joel, Tessa, and Ellie out in the rain. They were trying to make their way down a slick street, avoiding the military along the way. Years of Uncharted training told me to unload my gun on these goons, up the body count, and get along. Yet, The Last of Us teaches one that guns are bad. If you are going to shoot a gun in this game, you better prepare to deal with the consequences. You see, guns are loud. In a game all about stealth, enemies swarm towards gunfire like flies to fresh poo.

We soon came across two new enemy types: 1) Clickers: Infected that are blind yet have amazing hearing; 2) Runners: Infected that can see and rush one at will. I realized that each enemy encounter is like a puzzle. If you can distract an enemy with a glass bottle thrown into another room, you are golden. The Last of Us is all about misdirection. And bricks. Bricks are fantastic melee weapons. They also provide something to throw to stun or create a diversion. I cannot stress enough that the moment your gun clears its holster, you will be stringy flesh on toast.

Expect to die many times. Each encounter is different. Sometimes it is best to observe first, die, and then try a solution. Death isn’t the end, death is your friend.


Further along in the game, we made it to the state capital building. The military arrived and surrounded the building. I tried at least 5-7 times to sneak around and out of the building. No good. So I then decided to move as fast as I could from one barrier to the next. Avoiding military patrols like the stealth professional I am not, I walked out of the building without a single shot fired. This game is good.

The Last of Us pushes for non-violence and yet is the most violent game I’ve played in a long time. I like how the non-infected humans are scarier than the infected. I love how the game is kicking me out of my comfort zone of running and gunning.

I ended my sick day entering the darkened corridors of a high school. My wife and son where out shopping for the evening. I was home, alone. Coming across a group of Clickers, I decided that enough was enough for the day. Could have been that my bravery left me when the sun went down or that I was just tired. But I’ll be back, brick in hand, to continue the journey. Not forgetting the quiet moments in the game, moments of utter wonder.

Beauty. Light. Darkness. Oh the world we live in, reflected in a video game.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. – John 1:5

Armello and the Matter of Text


I was recently given a review code for Armello, a digital role-playing strategy board game. Imagine HearthstoneRisk, and the Redwall book series put into a blender. The end result is a fantasy setting filled with animals, intrigue, and violence.

Below is some video from the first tutorial mission:

Right away you’ll notice that Armello suffers from text sizing issues on the PS4. The developer, League of Geeks, is aware of the matter and has stated that they are working on a solution. In the meantime, I get to sit up closer to my television. Not sure how I feel about that. The whole purpose of playing a game on a console is to relax. There is nothing relaxing about sitting right up next to the TV. I can hear my late Great Grandma Nelson telling me to back away, one does not want to become blind.

May the patch come soon.


The Walking Dead: Episodes 1 and 2 Impressions


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.

Shank: The Demo


Ultra violent. Gritty. Extreme.

Awhile back I downloaded the demo for Shank, an old school side-scrolling brawler of sorts, on the PS3 (also on PC and 360). The game follows the title character through the dirty streets of some nameless town (at least in the demo). Shank is after THE BUTCHER, a luchadore that beat the crap out of him and stole his girl. Wrought on revenge, through any means necessary, Shank battles to win not only his pride but his woman back. Sound like a typical Tarantino script? I’d say yes!

So the demo starts as Shank begins his road of bloodshed and violence. Ultimately ending with him killing the wrong masked wrestler. “WHERE IS HE?!?”, Shank yells questioningly in rage. Fueled by Shank’s anger, I can only assume that he completes his mission by the game’s end.

Overall I enjoyed the demo and wish it had been longer. The game’s M rating has me questioning just how much sex and language are in the rest of the game (the demo really didn’t showcase anything but violence). As of right now, I’ll be passing on Shank.

Balancing, Rated, Violence


The other day I was looking up something on Focus on the Family’s Plugged In Online, and I came across an article written in 2007 entitled “‘Halo’ and the Holy”. The article discusses the use of Halo 3, in churches, as an evangelistic tool. It goes on to talk about:

  1. Church vs. Pop Culture
  2. How Halo 3 is M-rated (age 17+) and not appropriate for those under the age of 17.
  3. How the church has always been a sanctuary, therefore violence and mayhem need to be kept outside its doors.

And now, a bulleted response:

  • The balancing act of being in the world but not of it is something that every Christian must deal with on a daily basis. Churches often use different genres of music to bring in non-Christians (oh no, rock-n-roll!) and the use of video games is no different.
  • I readily agree with the fact that Halo 3 is a M-rated game and not meant to be played by those under the specified age. I have no issues with that.

  • I do, however, have an issue with the article’s conclusion about the lack of violence in the church. The Bible itself is full of violence, war, rape, and general mayhem. Violence is apart of the human experience, unfortunately. I don’t see having video games within the church as inviting violence into it. If anything, one is inviting competition, team work, and communication.

In the end, I feel that the article fixated too much on Halo 3 and ultimately failed to to touch on how other games  (such as Mario Kart and Super Smash Brothers) can be used instead. I see nothing wrong with using video games in an effort to bring people into church. I don’t believe that should be the reason that people attend, but I also don’t think that it is harmful in the least. Heck, most of these kids have video game consoles at home anyways.

Plugged In followed up their article with a reader response post. Some of it was quite entertaining.