Gaming For God

UPDATE: We now have the Top 10 Facebook responses to Gamestop’s coupon stealing.

Gamestop regularly makes Satan look good. Just walking into one of their stores to be assaulted by the aggressive staff, intent on shoving magazines and pre-played games and pre-orders for Modern Warfare 18 down your throat, is enough to make me wish for a holiday outing to the bowels of Hades. But this week they’re making His Lord of Heinousness look especially good.

From Kotaku:

“GameStop tells that they have been removing the codes for free copies of the OnLive PC version of Deus Ex: Human Revolution from the new PC copies of the game they sell at their stores and selling the game, without the free bonus, as new.”

Um, say what? Letmegetthisstraighmkay? So free stuff in the new Deux Ex, i.e. coupons to play the game using the PC service OnLive, have been physically removed from the game by Gamestop employees, and then the games have been bundled up and sold as if they were new, untarnished products. Yes, Gamestop? Did I get all this straight?

The company reached out to its fans (aka brutalized victims) on its Facebook page with the following message:

“Regarding the Deus Ex OnLive Codes: GameStop’s policy is that we do not promote competitive services without a formal partnership. Square Enix packed a competitor’s coupon within the PC version of Deus Ex: Human Revolution without our prior knowledge and we did pull these coupons. While the new products may be opened, we fully guarantee the condition of the discs to be new. If you find this to not be the case, please contact the store where the game was purchased and they will further assist.”

What I love about this response is that they’re not even trying to spin this in a “we really do care about our customers” sort of way. Seriously – what other business could get away with something like this? What if Best Buy opened up all of its televisions and removed the remote controls because they had their own proprietary remote control that they insisted on selling to you instead? Or what if your supermarket opened up that cake baking kit and removed the icing because they wanted you to buy their icing instead? “Trust us. Even though the cake mix appears to have been opened, we PROMISE that we didn’t spit in it. CROSS OUR HEARTS.”

Bravo, Gamestop. You made Satan look good this week.

Yesterday was a great day – the 20th anniversary of the Super Nintendo.  The 16-bit behemoth dominated the ’90s, only being touched by the (also awesome) Sega Genesis.  The SNES still houses some of the greatest games of all time, and it’s best games have art that is still unrivaled today.

The Super Nintendo, like the NES before it, had a lot of games that got censored on their way to America.  Mortal Kombat, you might remember, had it’s signature blood replaced with sweat.  It wasn’t just violence and alcohol though, religious references were removed as well.  This included crosses, statues, references to God, and really anything that you might think of as being remotely religious.  As usual, there were things that slipped through the cracks, but there were also whole games that didn’t even make it over due to their content.

This list is a lot of different things – great games, terrible games, and games that never saw a release in America.  But, all important in the dual realms of Super Nintendo and religion.

Actraiser – Actraiser is one part Castlevania, one part Civilization, and all parts awesome.  As the plot goes, Satan has come up from the nether-regions to reek havoc on Earth.  What a jerk!  Naturally, you, AKA God, have to become a human in order to slay the mess out of Satan and his demons.  In America, this awesome plot was changed to something less religious-ey, but it’s still pretty obvious what is going on since your vehicle of choice is a floating heavenly palace and you spend a lot of the game helping the little humans have better lives.  The themes of this game were also expressed in other games by the same company, including the excellent, yet non-American released, Terranigma.

Super 3D Noah’s Ark – Okay, this isn’t awesome in a “what a great game!” sort of way, but instead in a “oh my gosh I can’t believe this exists” kind of way.  The game is basically a skinned update to Wolfenstein 3-D, right down to the often identical levels.  Instead of shooting dogs and Nazis, you get to throw food at the animals who are attacking you.  The whole thing is pretty surreal, especially if you grew up on Wolf 3-D.  The game wasn’t licensed by Nintendo so the company had to build a special cartridge to bypass the SNES’s security protection.  I guess breaking the rules is all good if you are making a Christian game.

Majyuuou – This late era Super Famicom game, like the NES game Holy Diver before it, had very little chance of getting out of Japan in the age of censorship.  The plot is insane: Abel’s family is sacrificed by his former friend so that Lucifer can come back to life.  So, what is Abel to do but get super sweet demon powers and go into the bowels of hell with all guns blazing?  I know that we can never know too much about what Hell really is, but if it is anything like this game depicts it then it is full of elevators, huge eyeball plants, crumbling cities, and gigantic teeth.  It doesn’t sound very appealing, but the action in this game certainly is.

E.V.O.: Search for Eden – While the game may have “Eden” in the title, it’s main significance in the realm of religion comes from its subject matter.  The plot of the game is simple – you start out as a fish in the sea, and with each new world you evolve into something new.  Sometimes, you might become a fish with a wing, or a dinosaur, all depending on what you do in the game’s side scrolling action stages.  The ultimate goal is – you guessed it – to become a human!  While the game is unique and interesting, it didn’t fair too well on the Super NES and became a cult hit later especially in the emulation scene.  While maybe a stretch, I am willing to attribute this to parents largely being uncomfortable with the idea of evolution in the cultural and religious climate of the ’90s.  Those same kids though still saw the game in their copies of Nintendo Power, and may have managed to bring some attention to it as they grew up.  No matter the reason for its relative lack of success, it is an interesting game and maybe the strangest endorsement of evolution yet.

Super Metroid – You are probably wondering what Super Metroid has to do with religion.  Not much, I wager, but I can tell you that I had a religious experience while playing this game.  In my estimation there isn’t a 2-D game more immersive than Super Metroid.  I remember exploring the planet for the first time, finding all of the interconnected passageways, being blown away when I discovered the ruins from the first Metroid game, working my way back to the ship, and discovering the many secrets of the planet Zebes.  There are few video game experiences that feel so perfect that I would come close to calling them divine, but Super Metroid is that Super NES title for me.

When trawling through the Good Book for game ideas, developers have typically chosen the absolute worst options available to them. Case in point, Bible Adventures, where the player must carry baby Moses to the end of the level. Booooooooring. I had this game as a child, undoubtedly because my parents thought that as long as I was spending hours playing video games I could at least be reading scripture at the same time. Just an FYI, parents, kids can see through that stuff a mile away. Don’t give your kids Christian replacement entertainment unless it’s actually GOOD.

But on to the subject at hand. There are some awesome Biblical stories tailor-made for the world of video games. Christian developers, this is a freebie on me. You can thank me later. Preferably with free video games.

1. The War in Heaven – Real Time Strategy

Revelation 12:7-9
7 Then war broke out in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. 8 But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. 9The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.

This one says RTS all over it. And because the Bible has little to say about what angels actually look like or do, the subject is ripe for creative license. You could have different units, arch-angels, giant angels, angel lightning, etc., not to mention what you could come up with for the demon player. In fact, the more I write about this, the more I want to play it.

YouTube Preview Image

El Shaddai is an upcoming PS3/360 game based entirely upon the Amy Grant hit “El Shaddai.”  Apparently it is a really sweet rhythm game where you play along to different versions of the song on plastic video game guitars, drums, pianos, and ukuleles (the ukulele is huge right now y’all).

Alright, alright, that isn’t really the game.  In fact, the game looks pretty dang awesome.  As much as I can tell from the demo and the footage I’ve seen, the plot is based upon the apocryphal book of Enoch.  Apocryphal meaning, book that is sort of in the Bible but sort of isn’t and is really just weird.  If the game is any indication, what happens in that mysterious book (I haven’t read it) is that an angel wears really tight jeans, fights demons with crazy weapons, and does some 2-D platforming.  Did I mention that his clothes fall off when he gets hurt?

If that stuff were really in the Bible, witnessing would be a whole lot easier.

For real though, the game actually looks really, really neat.  It has style in spades, and a combat system that seems engaging enough.  Where it shines though is in the art.  Man, that art.  In the brief demo the combat seemed fairly engage as well.  There is a mechanic where you steal the weapons from your enemies and “cleanse” them.  Over time, they become “evil” again and you have to cleanse them.  It gives the combat an extra bit of intrigue and strategy.  But really, this game is all about exploring a fantastic world with some kind of crazy Biblical plot.

Check it out next week, it drops on August 16th!  ‘Til then, here’s another screen!