The whole Gamechurch operation works under the belief that Jesus is totally cool with games and that maybe, given the opportunity to play them, he would actually enjoy them. In that spirit, we’ve come up with a list of ten games Jesus would genuinely love. Yes, we’re speculating here, but we think it’s an informed kind of speculation.
These aren’t just any games. More than merely “fun,” they resonate with the life, message or values of Jesus himself. We think that’s worth celebrating.
1. Brothers (PC, Xbox 360, Playstation 3)
There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendors. This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously – no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption. – C. S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory
Jesus came from heaven to earth to change the fate of the world. He did this by waking us up to the reality that C.S. Lewis was struggling to articulate in his famous sermon, The Weight of Glory: we are not mere mortals. Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, perhaps more than any game I have played before, illustrates this concept. It is a game about the spiritual impact we have on one another.
In Brothers, players control two brothers with one controller. Initially, controlling two avatars at once is difficult and confusing and this coincides with the brother’s relationship which is strained and arduous. Early on the two brothers find each other cumbersome–they see each other as obstacles to their joy. As players guide them through various adventures, however, their relationship is tested by trials. The two brothers are forced to lean on one another and recognize each other’s personal worth. In the course of our short time with these two brothers, we see them learn to see each other as more than mere mortals and this changes the way we play.
At the end of the game, the two brothers relationship is forever changed by fate and yet, they continue to lean on each other. No matter what life may bring, each is better because of the influence, impact, and love of the other. Thus, Brothers reminds us that everyone around us is eternal and though we may not always be together, the time we spend together has an impact that will carry on into eternity. –Drew Dixon
2. Gone Home (PC, OS X)
But we first know the concept of “home” in our immediate families: you grow up with your parents, your siblings, and this begins to feel like home.
In Gone Home, you take the role of one young lady who returns to her home to find out that such a place as ‘home’ can never be again. The game puts you into a first-person perspective in a fully interactive 3D world filled with books, audio cassette tapes, and other trinkets that prompt voiceover narrative. The investigative story uncovers the tale of a father, a mother, an estranged distant relative, and a younger sister who has chosen a path that may put her at odds with the rest of the family. You’re all alone in the house for the entirety of the game, but what you learn is that this building where your family resides may never work as a “home” for anyone. Not because it’s haunted, or because anyone died, just … because. The circumstances of life made it that way. –Patrick Gann
3. Kentucky Route Zero (PC, OS X)
Today’s troubles are enough to make us crazy. We know it, and Jesus knew it too: “Do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” And yet, nothing is said of the past.
The reality is that so much of the damage done today is a direct result of the past. History, like the cave in which much of Kentucky Route Zero takes place, contains a vast network of passageways that connect and interact with one another. A loud noise in one place may result in disaster in another. And we’re still bearing the burden of the past, the ripples of a splash that began in the Garden of Eden when God cursed work and made it inherently tiring, exhausting, and just plain unfair.
Jesus tells us not to worry, not because he wants us to accept our situation, but because he promises to redeem it. “Come to me,” he says, “all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” He does this in the next life, and he does it in this one.
And Kentucky Route Zero, more than any game I have ever played, articulates that inherent need. Beyond that, it cultivates in the player the creative imagination that accepts the possibility of rest. A huge part of that rest is the sort of aesthetic beauty that is so stunningly present in Kentucky Route Zero. The world feels surreal because it is in fact a dream, but it is also, in this player’s opinion, a foreshadowing of a coming reality.
In much the same way as it happens in Kentucky Route Zero, we’ll be staring wearily at an old barn, desperate for answers, and slowly, thankfully, it will transform before our eyes into something otherworldly, something beautiful, something new. –Richard Clark
4. Space Team (iOS, Android)
Jesus’ story is one of a love that accepts all people, regardless of background. In a time when it was commonly accepted that one needed to be an Israelite to be beloved of God, Jesus openly ministered to Gentiles and Israelites alike – even to the hated Samaritans. All were welcome in God’s family. It is in this spirit of inclusivity that Jesus would love Spaceteam. The game mechanics are simple enough that there is little barrier to entry… All you need to play is an Android or iOS device and a willingness to frantically shout nonsense at your friends.
Jesus would also love Spaceteam because it brings people together in community. Gameplay is simple – your screen consists of a control panel containing dials, toggles, buttons, and sliders. Commands for piloting your ship appear on your screen, but the controls they tell you to adjust may appear on your friend’s screen rather than your own. Good communication is the key to success. Of course, “good” is a relative term as most sessions devolve quickly into chaotic yelling matches. Still, the point is clear: each member of your crew is essential.
One of the metaphors that the Bible uses for the Church community is a body. Just as a human body has many parts with different functions, all working together to form a whole, so a community has many individual members with different skills and passions who come together as a single family. Spaceteam’s simplicity and humor invites players who might otherwise have little in common to share in the experience of ridiculous space travel together. It’s even entertaining for spectators!
In short, Jesus loves hanging out with people, and he loves games that encourage community and teamwork. He would approve of a game where players must work together, or perish together… as a spaceteam! –April-Lyn Caouette
5. Cart Life (PC)
“I did not come to be served but to serve and give my life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). What makes the gospel scandalous is what makes Cart Life unique. Typically, games tend to serve the player. They exist so that the player can be entertained, have fun, unplug, and ultimately, win. Cart Life isn’t fun.
Melanie needed to open up a coffee cart and earn enough money to show that she was responsible enough to maintain dual custody of her daughter, Laura. In Cart Life, you don’t just lead Melanie in operating her street cart business. You live life for her. You have to decide between working late to make more money for the upcoming court date or meeting Laura after school to walk her home. When Melanie gets home, you have to decide whether or not to make a run to the store to purchase more supplies for the coffee shop.
The first time I did this, I found that the store was closed and had to walk back home. I didn’t get back until 2:00 A.M. Melanie overslept and missed the opportunity to walk her daughter to school. Melanie was failing as a barista and a mother and it was my fault.
I was determined to do better. I learned to watch the clock fastidiously so that I was on time to walk Laura home. I focused on making coffee faster and scheduled times to go to the store so as to make sure my supplies were well stocked to meet the needs of my regular customers. Cart Life made me want to serve. –Drew Dixon
6. Proteus (Windows, OS X, Playstation 3, Playstation Vita)
Proteus is a game about heaven, but not the kind of heaven you may have learned about in Sunday School growing up. It doesn’t have pearly white gates or chubby angels sitting on clouds strumming harps. In one sense, it’s about a heaven that requires a bit of imagination to believe — and yet one that feels as familiar as a walk in the park.
But don’t be mistaken: the world you inhabit in Proteus is not much more than an island of chirpy sounds, cheery animals, and mystical natural elements. You won’t find much in the realm of hidden religious imagery or carvings of Jesus into the wood. What you will find, however, is an awe-inspiring audiovisual portrayal of the heaven that exists in every person’s heart. Beneath personal critiques of religion and the overwhelming brokenness of the world is every person’s desire to see the broken world we call home transformed into one that fully embraces the attributes of beauty, peace, harmony, and justice (i.e. the kingdom of God). It’s a game about existing in a world where everything is in its right place. It’s about the restoration of Shalom — and that, my friends, is what Jesus is really all about. –Luke Larsen
7. Shelter (Windows, OS X)
Shelter casts you into the joys and terrors of single parenthood as a mother of six baby badgers. Jesus once compared himself to being a single animal mama who wanted to protect her babies from a hostile world. In Shelter, you forage and hunt for food for your young and guide them through high grass to hide from aerial predators. Jesus fed his disciples with spiritual nourishment and teaching, training them to overcome religious predators.
In the end, Shelter’s lasting impact comes from dealing with loss. I still remember the horrific cries of the pup I named Trinity as she was snatched by a bird of prey. Jesus knows more than a little bit about what it’s like to lose somebody. All of his disciples turned tail on him while he was at the cross. And when he came back to life, he found that many of them had given up hope altogether. But there was a handful who remained true. Like the mama badger in Shelter, Jesus stuck it out for the ones who remained so they could go on without him. –M. Joshua Cauller
8. Papers, Please (Windows, OS X)
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
In Papers, Please, you play the role of a border-crossing inspector in the fictional Soviet country of Arstotzka. Your work is to examine customs documents and decide whether or not to let people pass into the country based on the legitimacy of these papers. But those who pass through your booth are more than paperwork – they are human beings, each with a story to tell. On your shoulders rests the weight of whether or not to reunite families, shelter refugees, assist conspirators, and protect the weak, all while trying to earn enough money to feed, house, and provide medication for your family through the cold winter. Illness and death are never more than a few citations away.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
Jesus teaches in his Sermon on the Mount that the kingdom of heaven does not belong to the wealthy or the powerful. Instead, it is the meek and the merciful who are blessed by God. Those who mourn, who are broken and poor in spirit. In Arstotzka, despair is an inevitable part of daily life. The faces of those who pass by your window are marked with fear and weariness. These are the faces of people to whom God’s kingdom is promised.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
In the midst of this climate of fear and oppression, you as a player-character have a choice. Will you show mercy, or will you follow the letter of the law? Should you risk the health and safety of your family for that of strangers? Will you aid idealistic rebel organizations, or you will stay loyal to the government that provides your means of living?
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Hope is hard to come by in Arstotzka, but just as Jesus’ mission on Earth was to bring a message of hope to a people who had none, Papers, Please teaches us that we find our humanity through our willingness to hope and to bring hope to others in the midst of desperation, regardless of how absurd that may seem. –April-Lyn Caouette
9. Tomb Raider (Windows, OS X, Playstation 3, Xbox 360)
In terms of plot you cannot get much more typical than Crystal Dynamic’s Tomb Raider reboot: The crash and the escape, the descent and the ascent, the lost and the found. But in terms of tone, no other AAA title this year (save, perhaps, close runner-up The Last of Us) was able to present so thoroughly heart-wrenching a tale of survival; of being and becoming.
Lara is a hero who is in pain. A hero who only truly becomes the hero by undergoing circumstances more horrible than most of us could ever comprehend. The animation team and voice actress Camilla Ludington did an incredible job of showing us a woman who is so strong, but nevertheless, so hurt. Despite the eventual dissonance of hunting through waves of foes mere hours after taking her first life, there were moments throughout Lara’s journey where her cries of pain seemed so real, I could hardly bear to see her continue suffering. Yet I pushed her onwards, and so she went.
As Lara makes her way from the blood-drenched depths of the island’s core upwards and upwards to it’s howling and craggy precipice, the mount becomes her Golgotha, and we the player the jeering crowd, demanding her further, deriving satisfaction from the suffering of another.
The Tomb Raider series is known for Lara. Strong Lara. Amazon Lara. But this entry shows us that she is human too.
Jesus would love Tomb Raider, because Tomb Raider shows us that even our heroes bleed. –Jordan Ekeroth
10. The Stanley Parable (Windows, Coming soon to OS X)
Jesus was of the mind that it’s always good to question religious tradition and the stories handed down to us. He often answered questions with questions not only because that’s what rabbis do, but because he really wanted to get at the truth of things.
The Stanley Parable’s narrator presents you with a story that may or may not be true. The player’s job is to test the parameters of that framework while questioning it at every end.
Jesus knows that the end of one thing isn’t the end of everything. There’s always more to the story. Since The Stanley Parable is about seeing multiple endings and using that to understand the overall framework of the narrative, Jesus might compare it to some of the endless circles the religious elite of his day would spin around in. Eventually, Jesus exposed the sinister hearts of those narrators until it led to his own bloody conclusion. But he still engaged with them, trying to find “good endings” as he did with Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea, two of the religious elite who followed Jesus in secret.
The Stanley Parable takes us down many branching paths. Trying to find the “one true path” might be an exercise in vanity. But the lasting impression that the game leaves with you is that it wants you to play, to engage, and question it. And despite the questionable motives of the narrator, spending time with him will make you a better question asker. And as with any great rabbi, Jesus loves when we ask good questions, even if they only lead to more questions. –M. Joshua Cauller