No Man’s Sky, Ocarina of Time, and Originality

Like Noah, I’m back at college too. It is common among my collegiate peers to find something to do to relieve the stress of homework assignments, upcoming exams, and having to balance that with relationships, jobs, and getting to class on time.

Or it’s just me. I don’t know.

One of my means of stress relief is to sit down and play video games. Currently, I’m on my first playthrough of Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, the next in a long line of Zelda games I want to play.

The game I’ve been hearing a lot about lately, probably because it’s the biggest release of this month, is No Man’s Sky, the procedurally-generated game of space exploration and…that’s it. Space exploration. (I say “biggest” using pre-Deus Ex: Mankind Divided information.)

I’ve mentioned this already; I don’t have a console that can run No Man’s Sky. I have a Wii U and a computer with a 2 GHz processor. Although this is probably for the best. When the trailers dropped for No Man’s Sky, I basically ignored them. When I found out what the gimmick was, I effectively said, “Oh, that’s cool,” and moved on. I didn’t take interest in the game until the metaphorical hype train blew past.

So, what can we learn from No Man’s Sky?

The thing I gathered from No Man’s Sky is that it’s an art game, created mainly for the purpose of looking pretty. While I see nothing wrong with that, it’s typically not the reason why I buy video games. I buy them for stress relief, not multi-colored, psychedelic stress inducement.

Another problem, which may be the core one, is that it was trying to be something new and original. While I see nothing wrong with trying to be original, I know that there’s a difference between that and being original in a good way. More often than not, the good original games are the ones that actually borrow the most from existing games. Take Ocarina of Time for example. It’s a good game and very original, but it borrows puzzle mechanics, items, and themes from previous Legend of Zelda games and the 3D action-adventure concept of Super Mario 64.

It’s probably because of this originality complex that we get so many games that are sequels, prequels, and reboots. It’s not that coming up with an original story and game is too hard. It’s that the original story and game they came up with ten years ago still works, they just added robots this time around.

I guess, at the end of the day, be content with the things that you have and the things the game developers release. You can keep No Man’s Sky; I’m trying to figure out how to get the great Jabu-Jabu to eat me so I can free the Zora princess.


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Back to School

Since I’m back at school, I thought I’d write about something school-related. Guess this Fandom: young people learn that they have incredible power within them and attend a special school to hone their abilities, but they are threatened by an old member of the community who has returned to finish a generations-old grudge match.
No, it’s not Harry Potter. I’m not using my first post after my hiatus to walk through the minefield that is witchcraft. I’ll get to that later. I was referring to X-Men.
I love a good origin story, but in the Marvel universe, there are some who are simply born with super powers. Since then – really, since Hugh Jackman, Ian McKellen, and Patrick Stewart helped popularize superheroes in general – stories like Heroes, Alphas, and Powers have used the concept of genetic mutation to populate their worlds with powerful people.
The Christian connection is pretty easy. Many people within these stories consider mutants or Evos or Alphas or Powers to be the next step in human evolution. Evolution suggests that people started simpler and stupider and we’re getting better. We supposedly don’t need God because we could eventually become god-like ourselves. The latest X-Men movie centered on that very concept – a mutant thought he was a god and had the power to give a convincing performance.
In reality, though, people used to be a lot better and we’re getting worse. There are skeletons of giants from early human history literally hidden in museum basements because they don’t fit the message those museums want to convey. This truth is a big reason why we do, in fact, need God. None of us will develop super powers to fight our ever-increasing problems.
The other connection involves human nature. There are mutants and Evos and Alphas who consider themselves superior to humans and assert that superiority through violence and property damage. And there are others who use their abilities to help and protect humans who don’t have them. The first group is actually more realistic than the second. Because of humanity’s fallen nature, if we had super powers, we would be very, very likely to use them for “evil,” either in the supervillain context or the everyday sin context.
With that in mind, why do you need super powers to be heroic? Why not just do what you can to help those who can’t?

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How the Media Portrays Angels

Well, I did Jesus and demons a while back, might as well go on down the list. The challenge with this one is that it’s my understanding that angels don’t appear too often.

I should also point out that it’s been a long time since I’ve seen any media with angels in it, and I haven’t seen enough Supernatural to get to where the angels are. (I’ve been slugging my way through Season 1 for the past few years.)

The tricky thing with this is that a lot of media is agnostic. Meaning that if God exists in that universe, He doesn’t matter or isn’t doing anything. This makes sense, until you do introduce angels and demons. In fact, it gets stranger, as when God or Jesus appears, the angels take a backseat. Seriously, I think there are more secular movies with angels than Christian movies with angels. (Unless you count the innumerable Bible adaptations.)

And the thing is, a lot of movies don’t get angels right. Instead of being the servants of God, they’re anti-heroes operating on their own wavelengths. Some adaptations even go so far as to defy God.

And that’s just when they’re the “good guys.” I can name several examples where the bad guy of a movie, series, or game was an angel. Final Fantasy VII, check. The Devil is a Part Timer, check. Supernatural, check. Doctor Who, they were stone, but check.

What, then, would be the best adaptation of angels in the media?

Show of hands: does anyone remember It’s A Wonderful Life? Yeah, that old black-and-white Christmas movie that beautifully combines existentialism and parallel universes. How is this angel any better than the others?

Well, think about it. He reports to a higher power and does said power’s bidding in order to benefit the life of one man. The angels in the Bible were kind of like that. They were messengers to the people, bringing words from God to mankind when God himself didn’t show up. When they engaged in spiritual warfare, it was behind the scenes, and when they appeared, they had something to say.

So, in conclusion, this could just be another case of the old one is the better one, but from my own, human, theological standing, I think It’s a Wonderful Life may be the only (or at least last) time there has been a Biblically sound angel.

Then again, I could be wrong. Feel free to discus in the comments below.


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Isaac Talks About Suicide Squad

I mean, seriously. How have I not seen Suicide Squad yet?

Oh yeah. Money. And time.

But still it is one of the most talked about movie this month. Despite getting polarized reviews both from critics and my own peers, it is still raking in more money than any other August release in the past, a time when summer movies typically wind down, not pick up.

But when you have a cast of bad guys ranging from good guys with criminal records to criminals who aren’t even trying to be good, it brings to mind the question, “Can bad people do good things?”

Without getting too deep and philosophical, I would say yes. Look at the Bible. We see hundreds of armies take over Israel by God’s will, then get kicked out later by God’s will. They did a good thing, following God’s will, without knowing it and still being bad.

Honestly, though, I don’t want to go too much into this, because I haven’t seen Suicide Squad. I want to give DC the benefit of the doubt that they can do something good, but they haven’t lately. Green Lantern, Batman v. Superman, even Suicide Squad are called out for being bad. It is my job as a critic to analyze a film for what it is, but it is also my job as a competent moviegoer to decide whether or not I want to spend eight bucks and two hours on a movie I might not like.

I remember sitting down to watch the first Pirates of the Caribbean with my parents and sister, and they told me going in that there is nothing redeeming about this movie. The hero is better suited as a villain, but is put in a place where you can root for him. The lawful men are played out as the awful men, pun intended. And, from the trailers and reviews I’ve read, Suicide Squad looks like Pirates of the Caribbean, but with boomerangs, assault rifles, and Margot Robbie. I won’t say that this movie’s advertisement campaign drove itself into the ground, but I will say it raised enough questions in me to decide if it’s worth my time.

I might watch it eventually, but probably not in theaters.

What are your thoughts about the movie? Have you seen it, or are you just sitting this one out like I am? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter.


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Are Sports a Fandom?

Well, the Olympics are in full swing. I personally haven’t been watching them, mainly because I haven’t watched the Olympics since 2004, and the last time I watched a major sports event based in Rio (the 2014 World Cup), it didn’t end the way I wanted it to end. I’m sorry, but Brazil totally paid the refs. Colombia should’ve won.

Sorry, where was I? Yes. The Olympics.

[Side note: I was also disappointed with last night’s game. (USA vs Colombia, Women’s Soccer; USA won. For perspective, sports fans, imagine your favorite NFL team being beaten by a local high school team.)]

To be honest, I’ve had a pretty love-hate relationship with sports. I like the idea of people coming together to compete, especially when it’s a global event, like the Olympics or the World Cup. But, at the same time, I feel like sports are something that is taken way too seriously, and there is too much cultural emphasis on it. I’m sure many of you can agree.

I realized, recently, that sports, were it a fandom, would be one of the most complicated ones of them all.

Think about it. It’s been running longer than Doctor Who, is aired on more channels than Star Trek, and has a global fanbase for some sports. Instead of conventions, they have the playoffs and finals. Just as we have ThinkGeek and Hot Topic, they have entire stores dedicated to sports jerseys and paraphernalia.

But is it a fandom?

I believe no. Fandoms typically spring up from fiction; sports fans arise from fact. However, I believe that sports should be respected as though it were another fandom, because the similarities between the two are striking.

Make what you will of it. I just thought this would be timely.

(And, for the record, I am Team USA, just in everything but soccer.)

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Should Christians Play Pokémon?

Disclaimer: I decided to re-write this post last-minute. Please forgive any fuzzy logic.

When I made the plans to spend the month of July looking at the Bible, I did that mainly because nothing nerdy or geeky was scheduled. Or so I thought.

Pokémon GO came out last month, and was met with open arms, becoming one of the biggest mobile games on the market.

Except, there’s one problem.

I don’t have a smartphone. I can’t play Pokémon GO.

But I am quite familiar with the games before, having clocked several hours into Fire Red and Emerald, and watched the first season of the anime. I won’t call myself an expert, but I think I know enough about it to have a stance on it.

And enough to get up in arms when Christians call Pokémon occult.

Why is this a problem for me? Well, simply put, I was in a family that didn’t allow Pokémon. I didn’t play it until I was eighteen. My parents didn’t even allow video game consoles until I was thirteen.

They had a reasonable explanation, though: they didn’t want me to spend every waking hour playing or wanting to play video games. My parents were wise in keeping me from Pokémon, but it wasn’t for spiritual purposes.

But it’s more than that. Pokémon, in my understanding, is one of two fandoms that is most hated by Christians. (The other is Harry Potter.) And, frankly, that bugs me.

So, what do I say to the parents who claim that Pokémon is evil?

Well, on the one hand, I see where you’re coming from. Ghosts, psychics, evolution, “summoning” the above—it has all the tropes of something occult. And I respect you not wanting your kids to play the games. Moreover, I appreciate the fact that you care about the media your kids take in. Parents like you are few and far between in the age where middle-schoolers play horror games starring possessed animatronics.

But, please, for the love of…anything, stop calling it occult. Stop calling it satanic. Stop calling it brainwashing. I’ve heard too much that. It’s a video game/anime that happens to be popular. Really popular, in fact. If it were satanic, occult, or brainwashing, then what does that make the people who watch the show or play the games? Satanists? Am I a Satanist?

Sorry. It’s hard to deal with this topic because it’s way too easy to deal with it in extremes. Hence the last-minute re-write. In fact, a lot of fandoms are either “love it or hate it.” Pokémon is just one of the few that has religious reasons behind hating it.

I’ve spent weeks in retrospect over this titan of a franchise, trying to come up with an answer as to whether or not Christians should play these games. After about three weeks, it dawned on me that I was asking myself if kids should play these games. Being a somewhat-discerning twenty-something who spends way too much time on the internet, I fell back on my philosophy that nothing is kid-friendly, and said no.

So, should Christians play Pokémon? I honestly don’t know. It has its benefits, but it’s not a game that needs to be played, unless you want to get in on this piece of culture.

Which is why I played it. Mine is the generation that plays (or played) Pokémon, and I grew up distant from my culture. I played Pokémon not just because I needed something to do in my afternoons, but because I wanted to play the games that all of my friends at college played, and in some cases were playing.

You may be thinking of Romans 12:2, “Do not conform any longer to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind,” or similar passages. By playing Pokémon, I am taking up a pattern of this world. But you know what I say to that? 1 Corinthians 9:22-23, “To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all means I might save some. I do this all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.” Unbelievers generally don’t have “No Pokémon” rules. Maybe because I play Pokémon, I can have a conversation with my unbelieving peers about the game, which could turn into a friendship, which could lead to their salvation, if the Lord allows. Remember, when Paul went to Athens and spoke in front of the council there, he cited their own poetry. (Acts 17:16-34) He knew their culture, so he could speak to them.

In conclusion, I believe there is nothing openly satanic about Pokémon (at least nothing more occult than other media we consume), and I can defend that statement. However, I cannot defend the statement that the series is wholly righteous. Though, to be fair, I can’t do that with anything or anyone, except God.

Don’t like my opinions? Hit me up in the comments. I could use the feedback.

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