On Good Friday, Christians celebrate the greatest paradox of their faith—that Jesus’ death, His sacrifice of Himself on the cross, is good news as Jesus’ suffered and died out of love for us. While we try not to force Jesus into the conversation too often here at GameChurch.com, we thought Good Friday might be a good opportunity to share about some of the meaningful moments of self-sacrifice we have experienced in videogames.
1. Bleeding for your enemies in Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
It probably seems criminal to compare a private military contractor named Snake to the Son of Man, who bled for his enemies. Except that this Snake, too, bleeds for his enemies.
The revelation came as I (Snake) completed a mission where I hadn’t caused any permanent harm to any of the enemies I encountered, yet was covered in blood. It took me a while to realize that I wasn’t wearing the viscera of enemy combatants, but had taken a few hits of my own—all while searching for the right opportunity to lay a tranquilizer into my foe’s skin (and then gently extract that foe via Fulton balloon). I must have taken more damage than I realized to be so blood-soaked, but I felt good about it.
Unlike most military games out there, Metal Gear V: The Phantom Pain specifically incentivizes the preservation of your enemies lives, so that they might get a chance to hear your side of the story. Unfortunately, the game’s dealings with the “conversion” of your enemies to your side are fuzzy at best. But the ambition of the game is clear: win over your enemies by refusing to kill them. Snake just might need to take some hits—do some bleeding—before they’re willing to realize that there’s a better way. -M. Joshua Cauller
2. Giving up your game for the good of others in NeiR: Automata
Spoiler Alert: this post contains spoilers, you have been warned.
To see Nier Automata’s true ending, you must fight through an increasingly frenzied >bullet hell; when you die—as you inevitably will—the game taunts you and offers the chance to quit. If you persist, the enemy onslaught increases, and the task becomes insurmountable. There is no hope—until there is. Die enough, and an offer of rescue comes. If you accept, you are joined by a swarm of allies, circling you as a shield, joining their strength to yours and filling the oppressive darkness with a barrage of light. These strange allies die in your place, and when they perish, more allies are summoned to aid you until the enemy is vanquished.
I pondered the identity of my rescuers, but it was not until the game asked me to sacrifice something of my own that I understood: they were the deleted save files of other real-world players. Across the world, people had given up their save files—that record of gamer pride and accomplishment which is precious as silver—to aid complete strangers in the game’s ultimate and most hopeless battle. I had much left to do in Nier Automata, but when the game asked me to sacrifice my save file to aid others in their journey to the true ending, I accepted gladly and with wetted eyes. I have known the joy of giving up something of my own for the sake of others in the real world, but did not expect to find that joy—or even believe it was possible—in a videogame.
Godspeed, stranger for whom my save file will die, and may you know the joy I felt at the journey’s end! -C.T. Casberg
3. Showing mercy at your own expense in Undertale
Undertale is the antithesis of RPGs. Rather than vanquishing all your enemies, there’s a “Mercy” mechanic that’s prominently featured. It essentially tells any enemy that conflict is not the desired solution, and while the player is forced to resort to fighting or fleeing on occasion, every encounter always ends in choosing to forgive or destroy. Considering that some foes are so far gone, the former goal can seem impossible to the point where the player is challenged to shift to self-preservation. However, in suppressing this natural urge, he or she must be willing to accept defeat by firmly planting the flagpole of mercy whenever possible. In this unrelenting goal to uphold the value of virtues, there are opponents who are incapable of comprehending this when your vengeance is perfectly justified. In playing Undertale this way, the game becomes a profound expression of Jesus’ exhortation to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matt. 5:44), for those who do so without retaliation are filled with determination to show the world what true mercy means, even if it comes to sacrificing themselves. -Joey Thurmond
4. Beating back the darkness in Dark Souls 3
The world of Dark Souls is not a place for heroes. The remnants of failed kings and corrupted knights don its halls—there is little worth redeeming in this shadowy land. Regardless, by the time Dark Souls 3 appeared, your character had sacrificed themselves (twice!) to keep the world from falling into the Age of Dark, when the undead rule. DS3 opens with your character awakening centuries after a failed attempt to link the First Fire, which keeps the Age of Dark at bay. However, Prince Lothric, the next in line to light the Fire, shirks his duty. Thus, you are revived and charged with rekindling the Flame.
The denizens of Dark Souls have no memory of your character’s sacrifice. Your name is not sung in songs of remembrance. There is no glory associated with offering your soul to keep the First Fire burning. However, knowing that the alternative is darkness, you push forward, lighting the flame and keeping the world from peril. Without this sacrifice, the world is lost. Your loss is Lordran’s gain—until another bell tolls to signal the waning of the Fire and the need for another sacrifice. -Daniel Motley
5. Fighting for family Red Dead Redemption
John Marston longs to build a new life from the ashes of his past. Having spent his younger years under the influence of Dutch, the leader of a notorious gang, John did things that he’s now come to regret and just can’t seem to escape.
When we first meet John, he’s arrived in New Austin, looking to start over and find some peace along with his wife and son. However, his past still clings to him in the form of government agents who’ve tasked him with hunting down his old posse and eliminating them. To become a new man, he is forced embrace his old ways one last time.
Through bloodshed and violence, John is finally able to complete his task and settle down on a ranch to the normal life he craves. He begins rebuilding his marriage and spends quality time with his son, Jack, showing him how to survive in the wild west.
It is at this moment, when John’s redemption seems complete, that government agents and the US Army descend on his ranch, eager to tie up the final loose thread. John sends his wife and son out the back door of the barn to escape, then walks out the front to face his past. He’s quickly gunned down in cold blood, sacrificing the peace he’s earned to give his family a chance.
In a final selfless act, John finally finds redemption. -Lasse Lund