Don’t be alarmed! Not every post will be about video games.
With that said, earlier this year I beat a Playstation 3 game called Uncharted 2. It’s a third person adventure/puzzle/shooting game with a plot that resembles an Indiana Jones movie. This game is absolutely gigantic in scope. The game begins with Nathan Drake, a handsome, rugged young man who reminds me of myself. He’s stuck in a train car. This car is hanging vertically over the edge of a huge snow-covered rock face in the middle of the Himalayas. You have to climb out of the battered train car before it falls into the white abyss beneath you.
The game only continues in this vain. It takes you through collapsing buildings, tropical jungles, urban firefights, humongous caverns, exploding trains, duels with helicopters armed to the teeth, and many other amazing experiences. All the while you are stuck in a love triangle with two (fictional, I know…) beautiful women, looking for ancient treasures known to impart incredible amounts of power.
What’s not to like about this game? In a behind the scenes video, one of the game developers says that in each frame of the game the PS3 is rendering about 1.2 million polygons. Most games run at about 30 frames per second. You can do the math. Just to create one individual character, the developers use 80 thousand individual tiny shapes all put together! I was astounded when I heard this.
Having stayed up too late to beat the game, I was a little ashamed of myself and I began to wish that my life were as exciting Nathan Drake’s. Why couldn’t I be out doing exciting, heroic things? Instead, I was just staying up late, playing video games, living vicariously through the creations of other people, manipulating a bunch of 1’s and 0’s. Interestingly enough, I’ve found that I’m not alone in this desire.
A little after beating Uncharted 2, I read a book called A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, by Donald Miller. I’ve always enjoyed whatever he’s written, especially his New York Times best-selling Blue Like Jazz. In this book, Miller explains that over time he came to realize that his life was boring. He wasn’t too content with many things about himself. If his life were turned into a movie, it wouldn’t be an exciting one. Throughout the course of the book, we see Miller take various steps to improve the story that his life tells. He shows us that God has a story to tell through each of us.
We all know what makes a good story. It has to have conflict. A character has to want something enough that they are willing to face difficult opposition in order to obtain it. You may disagree with my examples here, but some of the best stories told in books, film, or video games introduce us to people who face insurmountable odds and prevail, achieving their goals.
Look at Star Wars, Episode IV, for example. Just 30 Rebel fighters go on the offensive against the Death Star, a battle station the size of a small moon, to end the reign of the Empire. They fight against all odds to save others. In The Lord of the Rings a few Hobbits, men who are no bigger than a child, willingly journey past legions of Orcs into the bowels of Mordor, past a giant spider, to a firy volcano so they can destroy the One Ring, ending Sauron’s reign. We see this formula repeatedly in our most beloved stories: Harry Potter against Voldemort, Sarah Connor against The Terminator, Ellen Ripley against hundreds of flesh-eating acid blood-filled aliens, a few defenseless people against an island full of dinosaurs in Jurassic Park, and on and on…
Do I believe that our lives don’t have meaning unless we are about to die from wizards, Orcs, Stormtroopers, aliens, or terminators?
But there’s something we can learn from these stories, and even Uncharted 2.
Throughout the Bible we see God using the imagery of story. God knows how to create a good story. If you think about it, even the story of the Gospel matches the formulas of some of our best stories. It seems as though God is stacking the odds completely against himself. Why would he come to earth in the form of an ordinary man. Why not a powerful king? Why not the richest person alive? Why even come as a man at all? And yet God comes to us as Jesus, a man who hangs out with the losers of his day and tells us to serve one another if we want to be great.
And if that isn’t enough, Jesus dies at the end! How does this make sense? I thought God was the good guy, the one who wins? When we think all hope is lost, Jesus rises from the dead and conquers even the grave. Just like any good Oscar winner, Jesus’ story keeps us at the edge of our seat until the very end, wondering how things will turn out.
But story also matters in our lives.
Good movies, books, and video games ask us a question. Are we satisfied with the story of our own lives? Does the life we live excite us? Does it excite others? What is holding you back from living a life that tells an exciting story? What have you found that helps you live an exciting life? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that we all need to do daring things or work in dangerous professions to live an exciting life. However, these stories do teach us that when we live a life not just for ourselves, when we set goals that affect other people, when we take risks to serve others, our lives gain significance. When we start to make choices like these, we begin to see how Jesus is the author and finisher of our faith.