Hotline Miami and My Unclean Spirit

Drew Dixon plays a game that puts him through the ringer spiritually, and comes out better because of it.

Written by Drew Dixon / Published on November 1, 2012

When we speak of demons, we almost always speak of them in metaphor. We don’t have a barometer for anything close to the New Testament description of demons. We think of demons as personal weaknesses, past failures, or destructive ideologies, but in the New Testament scriptures, demons embody people and corrupt their minds making emotionally grounded people into destructive monsters.

Demons in the New Testament had a physical presence that could enter and exit a person. In one instance, Jesus acquiesces to a group of demons who pleaded with him to cast them into a herd of pigs. The pigs go mad, rush off a cliff, into the sea and drown. The demons known as Legion had entered this man and made him so fiercely wild and dangerous that many men in the surrounding communities could not subdue him–even with chains. Consequently, Mark’s Gospel tells us that he was left to wail and cut himself with stones in the wilderness. According to Mark, when Jesus encounters this man, he casts out the demon and the man is returned to “his right mind“. A man whose life was in shambles, who struck fear in the hearts of everyone who came in contact with him, whose life was ruled by violence, finds peace instantaneously.

The opposite happens to me every time I check my answering machine in Hotline Miami.

It’s ‘Dave’ from Miami Pest Control. We need you. A client at SW 104 St. is having vermin problems. Try to handle it as quick and swift as you can. Someone else will clean up after you leave. Make sure not to bother any of the neighbors.

I get in my car, drive to SW 104 St. to find an urban apartment swarming with gangsters. I bust through the door, knocking the man on the other side to the ground. I grab the knife he was carrying and throw it at the man’s partner just as he turns to face me, lodging it in his chest. I then run into the bathroom punching the man at the urinal to the ground, knocking a double barreled shotgun out of his hands. I kick his face into the toilet, grab the shotgun and exit the bathroom. I walk up the hallway to the master bedroom where there are two guards patrolling and a third smoking a cigarette in the corner. One of the guards has a shotgun, the other has a lead pipe. I  open the door and step into the room just long enough to catch the man with the pipe’s eye. I back out of the room and back into the hallway. The moment he steps out of the room, I pull the trigger, ripping him in half. The other follows suite and I down him with the last round of the shotgun. The third man turns on me and right as he is about to fire, I throw the shotgun at him knocking him to the ground. I pounce on him and pound his head into the floor until his blood soaks the carpet.

And immediately there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit. And he cried out, “What have you do to with us, Jesus of Nazareth, have you come to destroy us? . . .” But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying out with a loud voice, came out of him. (Mark 1:23-26)

I walk down the hall, exit the front door, get back in my car and drive to the convenience store down the road. The clerk and I exchange pleasantries. He offers me a free snack. I grab it and head back to my car.

I am back in my apartment. Empty pizza boxes litter the hallway. The answering machine is blinking, reminding me that I have a new message.

Hello, it’s ‘Linda’ … I need as babysitter right away. Got a few kids that need to be disciplined here. I’m at East 7th Street. Make sure you have a long talk with them. I really need someone to get through to these rascals. And like last time … please be discreet.

I walk down the stairs and hop in my car.

The moment I step out of my car, my mind grows dull. I don’t think, I act. I don’t question the consequences of my actions. I kick, swing, push, shoot, and dodge for the sole purpose of killing. When the last Russian lies dead at my feet, I sprint back to my car. I stop at my favorite pizza joint on the way home.

And when Jesus saw that a crowd came running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You mute and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.” And after crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out, and the boy was like a corpse, so that most of them said, “He is dead.” (Mark 9:25-27)

A glance around my apartment would tell you that I am youthful. I wear a letter jacket and have neon colored T-shirts scattered around the room, I eat lots of pizza and play Nintendo. I have friends who know me well enough to give me free food, drinks, and movie rentals.

The action is so frantic, so furiously brutal that I shut everything else out and enter into trance-like state that coincides with the game’s pulsating synth-laden soundtrack. After completing the first mission, my character is confronted by a homeless man armed with a baseball bat. After killing this man, my character vomits in the alley before getting back in his car. As the game progresses, my two lives begin to meld together into an indistinguishable blur. Friends who once gave me free stuff are replaced with the faces of my victims. They stare coldly at me and ask me to leave.

Teacher, I brought my son to you, for he has a spirit that makes him mute. And whenever it seizes him, it throws him down, and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid. So I asked your disciples to cast it out, and they were not able. (Mark 9:17-18).

After finishing the game, there are a handful of missions chronicling another assassin on a quest to get to the source of the messages. When he finally finds the men who have been leaving these messages and forcing him to kill they have the following conversation:

“You think this is a game, don’t you?”

“You mean you haven’t enjoyed it?”

“It’s all been pointless?”

“If you say so.”

The truth is that I have enjoyed it. I enjoyed the moments when I escaped insurmountable odds, managed to kill a dozen guards without taking a hit, managed to kill everyone in a room without being detected. I have been playing a game and perhaps, at the end of the day, it is pointless. What haunts me now is how much I enjoyed it.

And they brought the boy to him. And when the spirit saw him, immediately it convulsed the boy, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth. And Jesus asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. And it has often cast him into fire and into water, to destroy him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” (Mark 9:20-22)

About the Author:

Drew Dixon is editor-in-chief of Game Church. He also edits for Christ and Pop Culture and writes about videogames for Paste Magazine, Relevant Magazine, Bit Creature, and Think Christian.