Intertain: Chapter 07

Discovering one’s destiny isn’t easy. Growing up, I spent considerable years attempting to carve my way into the disciplines of music, architecture, and film. Each path was filled with lessons on life and creative work, but none led me to a place where I could settle. Only in the ministry of videogames have I relished in a sense of peace and persistent enjoyment, like I was created for this.

As for the latest Intertain session, God blessed us again with newcomers. We had Charles, who delights in simulation games and hopes to have the chance to run a game-related business one day. Han Sol, who used to lead a distinguished guild in World of Warcraft, was also with us. Back in the day, his character was among the elite in the server of Staghelm!

Theme: DESTINY

Videogame protagonists often inspire with their remarkable destinies. I highlighted Commander Shepard of Mass Effect as an example: a human capable of uniting members of various extraterrestrial species to nullify an ancient threat that endangered the entire galaxy. My wife, May, showed admiration for Ellie from The Last of Us, a young girl who learned not only how to survive in a zombie apocalypse, but also how to lay her life down for the benefit of others. Han Sol brought up the Big Daddies of BioShock, of the commitment and vigour that they have in protecting the Little Sisters. Perhaps he is yearning to become a father?

Other mentions included Mario, Kratos, and select characters from the Final Fantasy series. We then proceeded onward into an evening of games and discussions, thinking about what destiny meant for each and every one of us, and how to grasp hold of it.

Q: Does it take luck, fate, or wisdom to fulfil our destiny?

With the recent unveiling of Elon Musk’s interplanetary transport system, the interest and plausibility of travelling to Mars has risen to an all-time high. The spacefaring, dice-rolling game of Tharsis allowed us to simulate this perilous journey with a crew of Charles, Jimmy, KJ, and Robin.

The team started off ten weeks out from reaching Mars, hoping to survive all the challenges and dangers that come with being on board a fragile vessel darting through unknown territory.

WEEK ONE (Highlight): Systems in the medical bay were jeopardised, which threatened to harm everyone’s health. It was a tough fix, so they sent the guy who had the most dice to try and deal with the issue. Charles turned up to the scene and rolled an overall value of twenty-five, the exact number needed to get things back to order! Our whole group cheered at his luck.

There goes Bob’s room.

WEEK TWO (Lowlight): A meteorite strike did a number on the flight control deck. If left unattended, the ship’s hull would suffer damage. Jimmy made an effort to remedy the situation, but the work wasn’t without its risks, as rolling sixes would lead to injury. He went ahead and tried his hand anyway — alas, double sixes! We could only attribute such misfortune to fate.

WEEK THREE (Foresight): There wasn’t much respite between events, yet KJ chose to ignore certain hazards that weren’t immediately pressing. Instead, he prioritised healing his mates to increase capacity for facing upcoming obstacles, as well as invested in research projects to diversify options of response. Through his input, the crew gained much wisdom.

It was this very wisdom that sustained our travellers a lot longer than I had anticipated. Toward the end, however, they became desperate and resorted to cannibalism as Robin volunteered to be sacrificed into fresh meat. Their strategic determination got them within two weeks until landing on the Red Planet, an outstanding accomplishment for first-timers seeking after the Martian destiny.

Q: Has the pursuit of destiny ever led you against old ways?

We showed up to a family farewell in the point-and-click adventure of Broken Age. Han Sol was put into the dress of Vella, a girl chosen to be sacrificed to appease a great beast known as Mog Chothra.

Although Vella’s family expressed some melancholy, they were also mighty proud of her for being selected as one of the maidens to give her all for the sake of the village. As such, the gathering was celebratory with everyone excited for Vella — all except for Grandpa, who thought that Mog Chothra should be fought, not showered with tributes. In protest, the old man hid the knife that was meant for slicing the cake. But to move the story along, Han Sol managed to coax it from him.

At the actual Maidens Feast, a crowd gathered and cheered for the girls adorned as appetising treats. Vella rolled her eyes, yet she was surrounded by damsels desperate to offer up themselves for the ceremony. When Mog Chothra finally appeared out of the waters, Ms. “Hot-Stuff” attracted the beast with her candles, earning her first place among the devoured. She was soon followed by Ms. “Delish”, Ms. “Drink-Me”, and Ms. “Fun-Size”, who left behind a tasty drumstick she was chewing on to fatten herself. Han Sol snatched the leftovers and used it to lure a nearby vulture, lassoed its neck with a corset, and had Vella ride the giant bird to escape the gruesome destiny of becoming Ms. “Up-for-Grabs”, much to the dismay of onlookers.

Deliciously dressed.

Vella’s choice to go up against the traditions of her people would eventually lead her to a far better destiny, and that sparked recollections of our own life journeys. KJ talked about the struggles of breaking out of Asian stereotypes, Charles stressed the willingness to take risks, May spoke of the countercultural nature of biblical instruction, and Han Sol underscored the fundamental changes in transitioning from the “old life” to one that walks in the footsteps of Jesus. We then referred to the story of Abram in Genesis 12 as he was called by God to leave his homeland and search for a blessed destiny in unfamiliar territory.

The Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”

So Abram went, as the Lord had told him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Harran. He took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, all the possessions they had accumulated and the people they had acquired in Harran, and they set out for the land of Canaan, and they arrived there.

In going out of his comfort zone, Abram not only secured a name and future for himself, but his faith paved the way for all who have since been chosen to become part of God’s destiny for mankind.

Q: Who or what do you think determines your final destiny?

Unlike in books or movies, videogame stories often include various branches and endings that are navigated via player choices. The Stanley Parable is no different in this regard, except for that as you progress through the experience, a narrator reveals what he views as the canonical roadmap by which the tale must unfold. The player is free to deviate from instruction, but would always be urged by the narrator to return to the “proper” path. Such tension is what makes the game interesting.

So we nominated KJ to take on the role of Stanley as he went about a little stroll around an empty office building in an attempt to ascertain what is going on around the workplace. After sauntering past a number of vacant cubicles, he arrived at the first fork whereupon the narrator declares: “When Stanley came to a set of two open doors, he entered the door on his left.”

KJ, a man of humble obedience, did as he was told. The left option led him down a winding corridor, through an abandoned meeting room, and subsequently unto the second fork. The narrator spoke again: “Coming to a staircase, Stanley walked upstairs to his manager’s office.”

Awaiting command…

This time, however, our group became rowdy. Before long, peer pressure had compelled KJ to head down the stairs in rejection to the narrator’s guidance. He descended into a dimly lit basement constituting a series of enclosures that, to our surprise, formed an endless spatial loop. Trapped in the madness, the narrator began tapping into Stanley’s inner dialogue, exposing fears and insecurities, questioning the absurdity of hearing a voice in one’s head, and concluding that this predicament is but a perpetual nightmare that drove the man toward a destiny of insanity.

The premature and confounding finish made us wonder if things could have been better if we hadn’t encouraged KJ astray; and that in our own pursuit of destiny, whether we should favour wise submission over a self-determinate approach. The world we know would very much vouch for the latter, yet Ephesians 1:3-6 pointed us to a shining alternative:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will — to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.

As KJ would say of keeping in line with the wholesome, assured, definitive destiny that the Father has prepared for his children, and of the wider dialectics circling intricate ties between predestination and free will: God sets the path, we gotta walk it!


Attendance [9]: Angela Sun, Ayk Iano, Charles Lee, Han Sol Kim, Jimmy Wong, Kai Chang, KJ Jang, May Chien, and Robin Zhang.

Giveaway: Tharsis to Han Sol Kim, Broken Age to Charles Lee.