Simple Joys

Back when I was in high school, I studied a poem by William Butler Yeats called “An Irish Airman Foresees His Death”, which was primarily about the Irish airman’s love for the thrill of flight. I was always puzzled by this – how can a physical sensation like the thrill of flying carry so much meaning to someone? Isn’t the Irish airman just a shallow hedonist, no better than a sex addict?

Now that I’m much older, I still think some of the critique still stands, but I now have a better appreciation for the simple physical pleasures in life like a thirst-quenching drink or the smooth touch of a dog’s fur. I did not however, expect to find myself playing not just one but two videogames purely centered on such simple joys.

Mirror’s Edge and the Joy of Running

mirrors_edge_21

To be fair, Mirror’s Edge is not merely about the joy running, but rather high-speed-and-very-dangerous-running. The danger factor brings out the adrenaline, and possibly disqualifies it as a “simple joy”. Same reason why folks don’t consider parkour or extreme sports as “simple joys”.

But Mirror’s Edge is still noteworthy because it centers the enjoyment of the whole game around the thrill of a single physical sensation. Sure, the game has a narrative, there are combat sequences and the aesthetic design is very nice, but that’s not what anybody remembers about their experience with Mirror’s Edge. Instead, they will remember the crazy jump in the opening mission (screenshot above). They will remember the blurring of the vision and Faith’s gasping for air when she starts sprinting really fast. They will remember the FEEL and the THRILL of running. Despite the game’s flaws (of which there were quite a few), credit must be given for the game’s creators for accomplishing what (to my knowledge) has not been done before: to successfully simulate the thrill of a physical sensation.

de Blob 2 and the Joy of Seeing Colours

deblob2

Perhaps more unexpectedly, I had great joy playing de Blob 2. Not because the mechanics of the platforming was fun (it was okay), but because the aesthetic design, in particular the use of bright colors, just brought me so much joy. Just like with Mirror’s Edge, the game designers center the game around the concept of colours – even the narrative and mechanics of the game was about colours. Just like Mirror’s Edge, they were centering the game around a physical sensation – the ability to perceive and enjoy the beauty of bright and vibrant colours. I don’t think it worked for everyone, but it certainly worked for me, to the point where I think this game has given me a new-found appreciation of the importance of aesthetic design in games.

But I digress. This article is about simple joys, such as the thrill of running, or the joy in seeing beautiful colours. And while it is surprising that videogame designers choose to center their games around these simple joys, perhaps it is more surprising that we can gain joy out of such simple sensory experiences in the first place. In Popologetics, Ted Ternau describes his simple joy in the smell of cooking onions, and he asks a profound question: what possible explanation could there be that I should have this sense of joy in the smell of cooking onions, other than I was created by an extremely loving God?

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?

(Psalm 8:3-4, ESV)

Indeed. While some may argue that color perception may be an evolutionary trait which helps us to survive on to pass our genes – what can we say about the enjoyment of colour? I think Ternau is right – only a wonderfully loving God would make us creatures with the ability to perceive pleasure. For the greatest gift God can give to us is Himself, and in His great love for us, he has made us capable of enjoying Him. The small joys and pleasures of life, be it the Irish airman’s thrill of flying, or the joy or parkour, or the beauty of bright colors; these all point towards the infinite joy and pleasure we will one day receive when we are finally at home together with Him.

ICYMI: My gamechurch article on DA2

I apologize, I’m in a mood right now where I don’t feel like writing much, which is why I’m putting my 5-6 part series on Mass Effect on hold. I did publish my first article at gamechurch recently (much harder to write there, since the audience is for non-Christians as well) It’s on Dragon Age 2. Link here if you haven’t read it yet.

Cheers!

How Journey Showed Me Not Everyone Is A Jerk Online

JourneyAfter 15 minutes of playing Journey I met with my first ever journey companion. He/she didn’t seem to acknowledge my presence, and I didn’t want him/her to slow me down, so I went on ahead of him/her.  Shortly after, I got bored and stopped playing the game. It wasn’t until a few days ago, when the folks at Theology Gaming decided that we would discuss Journey in the upcoming podcast did I play Journey again, starting a new game.

It was a much different experience the second time round, when I finished the game in one setting. In an earlier level there was a scarf power-up which was difficult to reach. I managed to reach it before my companion did, and I encouraged my companion to get it by repeatedly showing him/her how I managed to jump high enough to reach the power-up. When my companion was finally successful, I let out several quick “chirps” to congratulate him/her, and he/she chirped several times in return.  This was a stranger, whom I have never played with before, and who I will likely never meet or play with again ever again.  Yet, for that brief moment, we shared a genuine moment of camaraderie – or at least I felt that we did.  I find it absolutely amazing that a videogame can accomplish this – get two strangers who have no incentive to help or encourage each other to willingly do so.

We are all familiar with how gamers can be jerks online. We’ve seen it in the comments section of gaming websites, in online forums, on twitter and facebook, and what we hear over our headphones in multiplayer games.  If you’re still not convinced, read Fat, Ugly or Slutty [warning: explicit language].  And this happens not just in the gaming circle, but in other websites and forums as well (e.g. sports, politics, etc).  There are just so many jerks online.  A good question to ask is: how did such behavior come about? In real life, we don’t have people hurling vulgarities and insults at strangers as we cross the street right?

Certainly, this is sin. In particular, I think, this is the sin of pride. We all have the tendency to put others down, because doing so makes as feel superior to those we have put down. We want to glorify ourselves by reducing the glory of others and by comparison, we look better. In typical human society, we emplace rules and norms to minimize such behavior – it’s uncivilized to behave in such a way, and transgressors will be shamed by collective society.  But in the online space, such rules and norms take no effect, and the anonymity of the internet grants the perpetrator safety.  There is also safety in numbers – when one sees a large number of jerk behaviors online, they are emboldened to be a jerk themselves.

jenova-chenSo I was more than a bit skeptical when I heard Jenova Chen’s interview with IGN, where he said that he designed Journey to be a game where multi-player is not about killing (competitively or cooperatively), but about players actually helping each other in non-violent ways. In another interview with Eurogamer (a highly recommended read), Chen expresses optimism that “gamers aren’t born ***holes, but games which make gamers into ***holes” – and Journey was the game which would prove that.

After playing through Journey, I must admit that Chen was right.  It did restore my faith in the humanity of gamers. When I was at the underground level, thinking I would face the giant flying monsters alone, a companion appeared who showed me how to hide from the monsters – when he/she had no incentive to do so.  When I was at the snowy mountain, a companion showed me how to hide behind stone tablets to shield myself from the wind, and even used his chirps to indicate to me when we should rush and when we should hide. He/she too had no incentive to do so. These companions were truly a comfort, and I could only imagine how much more I would have to struggle if I were to go through Journey alone, solo.

Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone.

(1 Thessalonians 5:11-15 ESV)

It did not escape me that Journey could be seen as a metaphor for the journey of the human life, or even the Christian life. But for me, it was most poignant as a metaphor for what it means to support one another in Christian fellowship. Like the companions I’ve met on my journey, a good brother or sister-in-Christ warns me when I head down the wrong path into danger, encourages me when I am weak, is patient with me when I fail, is invested in me and is eager to see me succeed, even though they have no incentive to do so. Indeed, is this not called love?

Because two is better than one.

Because two is better than one. (Eccl 4:9-11)

Journey has showed me that yes, gamers are indeed capable of being selfless humane individuals who would help another in need.  Gamers too are made in the image of God, and reflect some of God’s good nature, no matter how corrupted by sin and pride we can be.  But more importantly, Journey has reminded me of the importance of mutual encouragement among Christian brothers and sisters-in-Christ.  For the Christian life is not a race we run alone, but a race we run, locking arms with each other, pulling each other up when one is down, persevering together onward towards the goal.  Such is the nature of Christian fellowship.  Such is the nature of the Christian life.

The Pragmatic Decisions of XCOM: Enemy Unknown

XCOM Enemy UnknownOne of the most consistent themes through XCOM: Enemy Unknown – particularly through the game mechanics – is that decisions can be very costly.  The loadout of your squad members – should you bring a medikit, extra armour, or the arc thrower? How you level up your squad – should you choose the evasive ability or extra damage perk when your Assault soldier gets promoted to Sergeant?  Who you bring to missions – should you bring a veteren solider (who is more powerful but if killed sets you back severely) or a rookie solider (who is less powerful but would benefit from the experience)?  The missions you choose to take and thus, the missions you choose to forgo.  And even, how carefully you spend your money and your research and building options.  All these game decisions make a significant enough difference to determine mission success or failure; game victory or game over.  Decisions are costly.

Naturally, when decisions are costly, you end up calculating things down to each meticulous detail.  There is no room for naive ideology.  Each decision needs to be made by cold hard pragmatism.  I choose to mount a rescue mission in China instead of Canada because what China offered me was more helpful to me than what Canada offered.  I chose to help Brazil and not Australia because Brazil was closer to pulling out of the XCOM project, and I really needed their funding support.  It sounds cold, but it’s all for the greater cause.  I need every edge to help me succeed, because if I fail, Earth fails.

xcom-enemy-unknown

Or so I thought. The point when I realized something had gone wrong with my pragmatic decision making was near the end game, where I had launched satellites to every country except France.  I had already constructed the last satellite and it is ready for launch – but I held back from launching. At this point of the game, I didn’t need the income and the funding from France. But I knew if later France became “hot” because I ignored a mission there, I can launch the satellite to make France favorable to me again. Perfectly pragmatic decision. Until I stopped to think – I am intentionally exposing the people of France to alien attacks because…of my own political gain? What had I become?

Dr Shen and Dr Vahlen

Dr Shen and Dr Vahlen – not the best of buddies.

Throughout the game Dr Shen and Dr Vahlen act as the angel and devil talking in your head about pragmatic decision making.  Dr Vahlen is excited whenever you uncover new technology which can gain you an edge over the Aliens.  Dr Shen is worried that we are losing are humanity, the more alien technology we adopt.  Even the grotesque alien autopsies and the interrogations (which all result in death of the alien) whisper the question: “do the ends justify the means?”  Yet, when faced with an alien threat, when your own survival seems to be at risk, was not the answer a resounding “yes?”

I’m a Singaporean.  We know something about pragmatism – it’s pretty much our country’s ideology.  Do whatever it takes to survive. If it works, then it’s right. It’s also what I think is a huge problem with churches in Singapore. The pragmatic church asks “How can I get more people to come to my church?” instead of “How can I build a faithful church community?” The pragmatic church says “If many people come to my church then we are doing something right” instead of asking “What does the Bible say about what church ought to be?” The pragmatic church is more concerned about making people feel comfortable than faithfully discipling believers to be more like Christ.  The pragmatic church values results more than faithful obedience.  

For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.

(Galatians 1:10 ESV)

[SPOILERS] At the end of XCOM, it was revealed that the aliens you were fighting were actually victims, who were abused by a more menacing alien race.  Did that make the player think twice about his previous interrogations (i.e. torture) of these poor abused aliens?  Probably not – he is probably thinking about the sequel, and how he will have to defend humanity against the more menacing alien presence.  The heart hardens and the justification never ends.

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The real victim – abused by other aliens, tortured and killed by humans.

That’s my real fear about the pragmatic church – where will they draw the line regarding pleasing God and not pleasing man?  Will the line keep shifting, will they keep justifying the means with the ends, until there is no line left at all? And if so, what would the consequence of that be?  Can a church justify itself out of heaven and into hell – until it can no longer be called a church?

What kind of church will we decide to be?  After all, decisions are costly.

Free Will and the Irony of Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning

<<Warning: Minor Spoilers Alert>>

In Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning (henceforth, KoA:R), the player is immediately introduced to a universe which every individual is beholden to a predestined fate, and it was common knowledge to the people that this pre-destined fate cannot be escaped.  There exist a group of fortune tellers known as fate weavers who are able to reveal the destiny of those who seek to know their final fate, but fate weavers quickly become unpopular as few people are ever happy knowing the hour and the means by which they die.

Against this backdrop, the progtagonist wakes up among a pile of bodies, learning that he was once dead but have been mysteriously resurrected, and even more mysteriously, is the only character in the entire universe which does not have a fate.  Hence, he becomes known as “The Fateless One”.  Eventually, the protagonist discovers that not only is his fate his own to write, he can change the fate of other individuals as well, and truly, for the first time, people are free to “decide their own fate”.

I am a Calvinist, i.e. I believe that God has predestined everything to happen in this universe, including who becomes a Christian or not.  [It is worth noting that this is a controversial position among Christians (the predestination-free will debate has never ever been resolved by either Christian theologians or non-Christian philosophers).  For more information about the various positions, see here.]  As a Calvinist, I was intrigued by KoA:R‘s treatment of predestination, and there are interesting tidbits to explore (particularly  the House of Ballads faction quests) but ultimately the game was not very interested in exploring the intricacies of free will and the limitations thereof; there was just a simple dichotomy presented – free will good, anything else bad.

Which was unfortunate, because of all people, the game creators should know full well the limitations of free will, and in particular, “non-linearity” in games.  KoA:R, despite being an “open-world sandbox” RPG, is noted for its linearity – there are no real morality choices in the game of any consequence, and the narrative path is fixed. For a game whose narrative hinges upon the individual who is truly able to “write his own fate”, it is ironic that the player only follows the linear path which has already been written for him by the game designers.

Erm, nope. Not really.

Erm, nope. Not really.

The irony only grows when one considers KoA:R in a real world context.  Like many other gamers who like “high fantasy”, I was very excited about KoA:R when it was coming out.  It  was a game which had an all-star development team which included Ken Rolston (lead designer of Morrowind and Oblivion), Todd McFarlane (comic artist for Spiderman and creator of Spawn) and R.A. Salvatore (my childhood hero and author of the Icewind Dale & Dark Elf Trilogies).  When demos and previews started coming out, KoA:R was described as Elder Scrolls meets God of War, the game with the best combat mechanics ever seen in an open-world RPG (still true today).  How could this not be a huge success?  Surely, such an excellent game was destined to be successful?

And to be fair, the game was critically well received and did enjoy moderate financial success.  But it was also revealed that it didn’t sell enough to “break even”.  What happened?  And why was the studio laying off its staff shortly after they released its first game?  For a full treatment of the issue, read this interview, but the tl;dr version is this: the founder and owner of the company, retired baseball star Curt Schilling, doesn’t really know how to make video games or run a video game company.  But he thought if he had enough belief in himself, he would succeed – this was what sports had taught him.  So he actually round up friends and investors and went ahead.  Fast forward 6 years, the company failed without ever releasing a single game. (KoA:R doesn’t really count as it was actually developed by another studio which was subsequently bought into this company)  Dozens of employees were left jobless, and some were even saddled with debt.

Curt Schilling, Todd McFarlane, R.A. Salvatore and Ken Rolston.  In happier times.

Curt Schilling, Todd McFarlane, R.A. Salvatore and Ken Rolston. In happier times.

I am a teacher in my day job.  As a teacher I come across one sentiment very regularly, which, to me, is a heinous lie:

“You can achieve anything as long as you just put your mind to it”.

We like to simplify things to kids.  We want them to work hard.  We want them to have aspirations and not give up on them too easily.  All that is good.  But we shouldn’t lie to kids and shape their worldviews so erroneously   Life isn’t that simple.  Many factors affect your success in life, the majority of which are outside of your control.  God is not obliged to give you what you want as long as you “work hard enough” or “believe in yourself enough”.  In fact, God is not obliged to give you anything.  God is never obliged.

What is ironic about KoA:R the game, as well as the real life events which surround the game, is the failure of the principal characters to realize that human will alone is never quite enough.  We are at the mercy of many things outside of our control, things which can only be determined by God.  But our self-centered hearts insist otherwise.  We must control the destines of our own lives or else life is not worth living.  But that too, is a lie. 

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”—yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”

(James 4:13-15 ESV)

The Propitiation of Asura’s Wrath and the Greatest Lie Ever Told

I do not want to do a game review, but I would like to express my commendation of Asura’s Wrath for its artistic, narrative and entertainment merit, even if it does not really qualify to be a “game”.  In my opinion, Asura’s Wrath has been largely under-appreciated because gamers were expecting Asura’s Wrath to be a combat action game instead of appreciating it to be an innovative attempt at story telling.  Kudos to the game developers for attempting this risky and innovative “game”.

Separately, I understand Asura’s Wrath naturally lends itself to comparisons with the God of War series. I am unable to comment on this as I have only played one game from the series (the original GoW).  I may do so when I complete more games from the series.

***

[Major spoilers, including the contents of the unlockable bonus episode 18, and the DLC episodes 19-22.]

Like many other Japanese games which evoke religious imagery and expound on moral philosophy, Asura’s Wrath is chock full of interesting things to discuss (and perhaps one day I may give it an “Exegesis” treatment), but for now I would just want to focus on probably the most central theme of Asura’s Wrath – that life is only worth living if it is a life free from the manipulation of others, and the attainment of this ideal is worth fighting and dying for.

Chakravartin – the Creator God of Asura’s Universe.

In the DLC, it was revealed that the entire history of Asura’s world, Gaea, was manipulated by its creator God, Chakravartin. Chakravartin’s purpose for guiding history was to find the one individual worthy of being his heir, the one to rule Gaea in his stead.  Asura was the one who had passed all his tests, and was deemed worthy to be the ruling God of Gaea.  Asura, when offered this position of Godhood, rejected Chakravartin by punching him in the face, and then by continuing on to fight and to kill him, so that the universe would finally be rid of his manipulation.  Asura is aware that killing Chakravartin would also destory himself, as Asura was made of “mantra”, a substance dependent on Chakravartin’s existence.  Regardless, he proceeds to kill Chakravartin, believing that his daughter would suffer less in the world which is not ruled by a God.

The underlying reason why Asura rejected the position of Godhood was his belief that humankind is better when they are “free”, without the interference of Gods in their lives. Gods who may very well make them suffer for their own purposes, just like his daughter Mitra had suffered.  Asura believed that the only life worth living is the life of freedom, autonomy, independence; a life where man decides how best to live his life, and not one where another being decides for him.  Not only was Asura willing to turn down the lucrative offer of Godhood to defend this belief, he was willing to die for it.  In other words, Asura is the quintessential Captain America.

Asura has way cooler hair.

Asura acted out of a selfless love for his daughter – a good and noble intention worthy of our admiration and emulation.  But from a Christian point of view, Asura also acted out of a misguided belief, a lie.  In fact, to a Christian, he believed in the greatest lie ever told:

But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

(Genesis 3:4-5 ESV)

Before the Fall, Adam and Eve had a special relationship with God.  They were his subjects, and he was their Lord.  He decided what was right and good for them, and in their willing and joyful obedience towards God, they enjoyed life, creation and a wonderful personal relationship with God Himself.  There was truly nothing else that they need.  Yet, the crafty serpent told them a lie which would forever change the history of humanity: “You cannot trust God to decide for you how to live your life.  You must decide for yourself what you want and take it”.  In other words, the life of a subject to a master, even if the master is the most benevolent God, is not a life worth living.  Only the life where you are your own master is a life worth living.  Only the life where you do not worship God but worship yourself is the life worth living.  This was the greatest lie ever told, and is still the greatest lie being told today.

‘The Temptation of Adam and Eve’ by Michelangelo

[If there are non-Christians reading this: I know I sound a little kooky, fascist even.  There are two important clarifications I want to make.  First, this is truly and unabashedly Christianity at its core – a Christian is someone who understands that he no longer lives for himself, but he lives for the sake of increasing the glory of Christ.  This is non-negotiable for Christians to believe as true, although every Christian will admit they fail to live up to this at times.  Second, Christians do believe in the principles of justice and mercy, and Christians should always be firmly against the oppression of humans by other humans.  If we had failed to do so, it is to our shame.]

Back to the lie told by the serpent; you don’t even need to be a Christian to see how the lie is untrue.  There is no such thing as “complete unbridled freedom”.  I am not free to rob a bank.  If I shoot someone dead, he is not free to avoid my violence.  There is no such thing as “complete unbridled autonomy”.  If I am hungry, I am bound by my hunger to eat.  If I am tired, I am bound by my body to rest.  There is no such thing as “complete unbridled liberty”.  If I have a wife, I am not at liberty to sleep with another woman.  I am not at liberty to violate your rights.  The important thing to realize is that we are always bridled, we are always constrained, we are always yoked.  The question is not “how may we be free of this yoke?” but rather “what is the yoke that we choose to bind ourselves with?”

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

(Matthew 11:28-30 ESV)

The yoke of man’s self-centered autonomy, self-directed freedom, and self-defined liberty is certainly a possible choice.  But it is the poorer choice, as Adam and Eve had discovered. As I had previously written,  the life of man left to his own devices is anything but a Libertarian utopia.  This has also been observed by atheist thinkers, and one of them has even suggested that though Christianity cannot be believed, it should still be emulated to escape from the suffering and pains of a self-centered society.

Asura believed in this lie.  Asura believed that self-worship is the better choice.  He believed it so strongly in fact, that his wrath could not be satisfied until the alternative to self-worship has been crushed and destroyed.  The propitiation of Asura’s wrath is the murder of God Almighty.  This is the incredulity of man’s self-idolatry – God has to die so that man can be God in his own eyes. If that cannot be attained, he will forever rage against God, His will and His purposes.

As Christians, do we realize that each time we sin, we are affirming the lie?  Do we realize that sin is us saying that we refuse to accord God his proper place in our life, but elevate ourselves to God’s place?  Do we realize that each time we sin, we murder God in our hearts?

Asura punches the God who created him.  We do the same each time we sin.

How grateful we ought to be that, unlike Asura’s wrath, God’s wrath has already been propitiated by the death of Christ on the cross (1 John 4:10).  For without this grace, we would surely perish for our insolence (Matt 10:28).

[For a different take on Theology and Asura’s Wrath, see Nick Dinicola’s article at PopMatters.com. ]

A Confession regarding Dead or Alive 5

My original title for this article was “Should A Christian Play DoA 5?”, and my original draft was an elaborate attempt to explain why we should not play DoA 5 based on Christian principles.

I cannot, in good conscience, publish that article.  That’s because a couple of weeks ago, in a moment of weakness, I bought and played DoA 5.  And God forgive me, I really enjoyed playing it.

Self-Justification – I needed an “accessible” fighting game

Many years ago, I was an avid fighting gamer, especially on the arcade cabinets.  I remembered spending much time on games such as Street Fighter 2, Fatal Fury, Art of Fighting, KOF 97-99, Dark Stalkers, Super Gem Fighter, Soul Edge, Virtual On, and the  entire Marvel-Capcom series from X-Men to the first Marvel VS Capcom.  since then, I’ve never really played any fighting games the past 10 years or so, and have been itching to re-discover the joy of fighting games. However, when I looked up recent fighting games such as the latest KOF, Soul Caliber 5, Virtual Fighter 5, Tekken Tag Tournament 2 and the Blazblue series, they all seemed really difficult to break into.  Enter DoA 5, which boasted not just to be accessible to beginners, but also to have much “cinematic entertainment”, which sounded very attractive to me.  Yeah, I was aware of the sleazy reputation of the game, but the screenshots didn’t look too bad…or at least that was what I told myself.

Denial – It’s a game with many merits

And so I bought a copy of DoA 5 and played through the entire story campaign.  I was surprised – it was a much better game than I expected.  First, I enjoyed the story, cut-scenes and all  Sure, it was kinda wacky at times, but the fighting sequences made sense in the flow of the story, and by fighting game standards, this was a fantastic narrative, with genuine drama and plot twists.  Second, these were some of the most beautiful character models I have seen. You could tell much dedication and craftsmanship was put into creating and animating both the male and female characters.  Third, I appreciated the depth and ingenuity of the fighting mechanics, and how the “triangle system” is both intuitive yet challenging.  I also appreciated the way the game guides beginners to learn more and more complex fighting mechanics over time.  Lastly, the game was just really fun.  The game just felt fun, even when button mashing.  The moves (especially the complex throws) looked really awesome.  The stages were well designed and environment interactions added to the sense of tension of the battles.  The cinematics of the Power Blows felt really effective and really added to the enjoyment of the game.

I genuinely believed these were the most beautiful character models I’ve ever seen.

Doubt – Okay so maybe it is kinda creepy

After a while, two issues started to make me feel uncomfortable: first (and unsurprisingly), the animations of some of the female characters appear to serve no purpose other than to titillate, that is, to incite lust. Second, and more disturbingly, I realized that after you’ve lost your match and while your character is in his/her losing pose, you are free to rotate and pan the camera to look at your character from various angles, often while your character is still panting and groaning.  [The camera can similarly be controlled for the winning pose as well, but the allowed time window to do so is short.]  Given that many of the female characters wear revealing costumes – this really felt creepy and voyeuristic.

Temptation – Playing With Fire

Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

(1 Corinthians 6:18-20 ESV)

The Bible appears to be disproportionately harsh to sexual sins compared to other sins.  As explained by Tim Challis, this is because sex is intimately tied to marriage, a covenant relationship between a man and a woman, which in turn is intimately tied to the relationship between Christ and the church.  It is for this reason that Hosea compared Israel to a prostitute who had whored herself in her unfaithfulness towards God. Thus, it should not surprise us that the Bible gives clear imperatives for us to be wary of the the temptation to sin sexually.  In particular, we are not just to resist from such temptations, but to flee from situations which might tempt us to lust (Matt 5:27-30).  Situations like playing DoA 5.

No Excuse – For the Love of Women

People are tempted differently, and it’s true some might not be tempted to lust while playing DoA 5 (e.g. female gamers).  Even so, there are two very good reasons why none of us should play DoA 5, and in particular, none of us should buy DoA 5. [I repent.]  First, we should not be willing participants, endorsing an endeavor to tempt male gamers to lust and sin (in the same way that none of us should be supporting the porn industry).  Second, we should not be encouraging or supporting Team Ninja (financially or otherwise) to continue in their objectification women as sex objects.  Given the opportunity to do so, we should be vocal about this.

We are called as Christians to love, in God glorifying ways, all people and this includes loving all women.  The objectification of women as sex objects (and prevalence of such objectification in mass media) do affect and influence the thoughts of Christen men and boys who consume such media.  As a result, they regard and treat women, including their sisters-in-Christ, in ways which are ungodly and unloving.  I know, because I used to be one of such men too.  We need to remember that all women are made in the image of God, and and reflect who God is.  They deserve better than this.  We should have done better than this.

This is an actual in-game screenshot.

I should have done better than this.