The Two Leviathans of Tokyo Jungle

Tokyo Jungle is a rather quirky game.  For those who have not heard, you play as an animal (you start with a choice of 2, but can unlock up to 50 different animals) in a post-apocalyptic Tokyo where humans have suddenly vanished and the animals learn to fend for themselves.  As an animal, you do what animals do – explore to find food, catch and eat prey, flee from predators, mark your territories and mate to pass on your genes.  The objective of the game is just to survive as long as possible, and in the process fulfill certain challenges to unlock new animals, stat upgrades, costumes to wear.

Although striving to stay alive long enough to meet the next challenge can be quite entertaining, it soon became apparent that no matter which animal you choose, you were doing the same thing.  Eat, fight, flee, mate and, (as emphasized by Richard Clark), you eventually die, either from starvation, poison, or (most likely) being killed and eaten by a predator.  Of course, such is to be expected from the life of an animal driven by nothing else but their base impulses to survive.  Which soon lead me to ask: is the human life any different?

The First Leviathan – The Tedium of a Darwinistic Existence

These are a group of atheists who believe the answer is no – there is no greater meaning to life than biological survival and the passing on of genes.  For lack of a better term, let us call these group of atheists ‘Darwinists’ [I am aware the term ‘Darwinists’ can refer to different things.  ‘Darwinists’ are contrasted to ‘Humanists‘, who are atheists who believe that the meaning of life is to better humanity].  I have no intention to argue against Darwinism as a philosophy of life, but it does appear to me a Darwinist must live his life no differently from an animal in Tokyo Jungle – we just do what it takes to survive, and fulfill our basest desires (like sex).  I guess I can see the how this philosophy can appear liberating; cultural and societal norms don’t necessarily have to shackle you, and well, sex is can pretty darn awesome.

But living in a society filled with Darwinists could be anything but “liberating”.  As gamers we know this – we’ve seen and played through plenty of post-apocalyptic games where the only philosophy is to survive at all means.  Drew Dixon observed this in his review for DayZ, and similar sentiments arose from 1UP’s preview of War Z.  When thrown together without societal or cultural norms, instead of co-operating with each other, we distrust, kill and loot from each other.  It’s a world filled with fear, suspicion, constantly on the fight or flight.  Just like an animal in Tokyo Jungle.  400 years ago, the philosopher Thomas Hobbes realized this and he wrote these famous words in his book, Leviathan:

In such condition…the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.

What Tokyo Jungle made me realize was that while you can get better and better at surviving and mating, ultimately living a Darwinist life feels pointless, tedious and hopeless.  After all, at the end you always die.

The Second Leviathan – God is Sovereign

<<Minor spoilers alert>>

This brings us to the humans of Tokyo Jungle – who became extinct before the start of the game.  As you advance through the story mode of Tokyo Jungle, gathering clues regarding mankind’s disappearance, it becomes apparent that a small group of humans were responsible for the extinction of mankind.  Nevertheless, for the mass majority of humankind, they had their extinction forced upon them, helpless against it.

If we are honest with ourselves, we would admit that sometimes, life is like that.  Bad stuff happens to humans to which they are helpless against.  Libya, for example. Or most recently, Hurricane Sandy.  Good humans suffer helplessly.  Many of them Christians.  Why did God allow this to happen?

In the book of Job, Job similarly went through suffering which he was helpless against and he asked similar questions.  The answer he got was somewhat surprising – God is sovereign.  You do not question Him, His purposes, or His methods. Period. He is God, and…you are not.

The sea creature ‘leviathan’ is described in much detail in the Job 41. At this point, God was rebuking Job for questioning God’s sovereignty – if Job cannot tame the mighty Leviathan how could he doubt the greatness of the One who created the Leviathan?

Lest you think that all this talk about suffering and sovereignty is too heavy for a blog about gaming, I have an anecdote to share:  a few months ago, my best friend, a good Christian man and PS3 gamer like myself, found out that he was suffering from nerve damage in his fingers, a chronic form of ‘gamer’s thumb’. He shared with me that while he knows it to be true, he hasn’t quite come to terms with the fact that he will probably never be able to play video games again for the rest of his life.

If something similar (or worse) happens to us, will we be able to sing this song by Matt Redman?

You give and take away
You give and take away
My heart will choose to say
Lord, blessed be Your name

Blessed Be Your Name from Central Films on Vimeo.

***

At the end of one of the story missions of Tokyo Jungle, the following words flashed across the screen:

“The fighting never ends in Tokyo Jungle. Blood is washed away with more blood.”

Tokyo Jungle offers us a glimpse of the tedium, hopelessness and meaninglessness of a life lived devoid of Christ.  As Christians, even in our darkest days, in our days of our most helpless suffering, we can boast in the eternal security we have in Christ.  For the stains of our sins have been washed away by blood – the blood of the Lamb.

3 thoughts on “The Two Leviathans of Tokyo Jungle

  1. Great article. Thoughtful and surprisingly makes me kinda want to play Tokyo Jungle less. Haha. Not at all to your fault, more to your credit. Perhaps that’s why my first play of the game didn’t get in me like a hook? I’ll get to it soon, I’m sure.

    • I think it’s a pretty fun game to play for maybe 1-2 hours, but the subsequent content after that isn’t worth the investment in the number of hours. Just my take.

      That said, I salute the game makers for creating something so out-of-the-box.

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