Intertain: Chapter 10

Welcome to 2018. Intertain turns three, hits double digits in Chapters held, and continues its quest to explore ties between videogames and theology in a communal setting.

Tony and Jennifer were the fresh faces in the latest session. As a newly-wed, Tony doesn’t have that much time to use the PC, but manages to get in a few hours each week leading a squad to survive the perilous PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds. Jennifer, who lived with a gamer (brother) all her life, has been more than happy to accommodate her husband in his virtual battles. What a great wife!

We were also blessed with Anthony’s enthusiastic return after participating in the ministry’s Spotlight debut. He, too, has lived with a gamer all his life — in this case, his old man. Since Anthony doesn’t really play anything, we suspect that his dad hogs all the toys in their household to this day.

Theme: PERSPECTIVE

The general goals of Intertain fit nicely with this main theme: while we aim to look at gaming from an enlightened perspective, we also consider other perspectives on life through people’s sharing, as well as examine God’s perspective by reading his word.

But first, we had some fun with one of the mini-games inside The Playroom VR. Jennifer donned the virtual reality headset and transformed into a giant reptilian creature tearing through a city in Monster Escape. The asymmetrical multiplayer event allowed four other players viewing things from the TV perspective to run from the monster while trying to rescue citizens along the way.

Mass evacuation.

Once they reached the coast, our guys retaliated by throwing stuff at the monster’s head. Jennifer worked very hard to dodge their attacks, to the point where we had to start pinning down furniture and relocating drinks before stepping away from the area to evade her rigorous manoeuvres. It paid off in the end when she survived and won the battle, dooming the city.

Anthony then gave it a shot as the monster and achieved the same result, though he was a lot more restrained in his movements. Whatever works!

Have you ever overcome an obstacle via new perspective?

Life’s journey is often bumpy and filled with challenges and adversity. It is immeasurably harder when one gets hampered by a persistent illness, as demonstrated in Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice.

The game simulates the afflictions of psychosis with knowledgeable input from neuroscientists, mental health specialists, and suffering patients. Senua’s life is one of chaos and deception. From her perspective, we hear the voices in her head, observe weird patterns in the environment, struggle against intangible enemies, and shift between perceiving what exists and what doesn’t, all the while trying to carry out the arduous quest of finding a lost friend in the mythical underworld of Helheim.

Step through the portal.

It is no doubt a tiring experience, so I don’t blame anyone for feeling relieved that we only watched Clement play it for no more than fifteen minutes on the evening. But from that encounter, we saw the power of having the right perspective as the method for overcoming obstacles, whether that meant discovering a new vantage point, correlating matching ideas, or simply keeping a rational mind in the face of illusive trickery on the senses.

The notion of seeing past what is before our eyes could also be known as faith. The beginning of Hebrews 11 defines the term:

Faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.

The rest of the chapter offers example after example of how people who had faith in God gained victory, purpose, and hope in situations where most would consider as dangerous or tragic. With higher perspective, even dead ends may turn into new opportunities.

Do you seek understanding through the eyes of others?

Each person has but one set of eyes, one single perspective of the world. Nevertheless, if we share our views and learn from one another, our insight into reality would significantly broaden.

To practise seeing things from other people’s perspective, the boys played a game called Screencheat — the term itself describing the act of spying on an opponent’s screen to attain unfair advantage in a multiplayer setting. In this competitive first-person shooter, however, everyone is invisible. Therefore, players are forced to look at each other’s screens in order to study their rival’s perspective, deduce their location, and win by landing a hit.

KJ and Tony went into to a duel. They battled hard, using the geometry and colours of the arena to help orientate themselves and pinpoint the whereabouts of their hidden foe. They demonstrated that you can, in fact, fight against what you cannot see. In the end, KJ triumphed. Then we tried a four-player round with Anthony, Clement, Jimmy, and Robin. It was chaotic, to say the least.

A showdown of shadows.

The girls voiced some interesting thoughts in the subsequent discussion. Janice revealed that she used to observe and recognise the perspective of mothers to prepare herself as a future parent. Currently with a daughter of her own, she said that the exercise proved conducive to a relatively smooth transition into motherhood. Jennifer remarked on the cases of people who are grieving; how it was important to look at the situation through their eyes, even if their vision may be clouded by tragedy. In other words, there are certain times when the ministry of tears takes priority over the ministry of truth. And since this Intertain session was held on the following eve after Australia Day, Angela recited a slogan that has been part of our culture for decades: White Australia Has a Black History. It hints at white Australia’s long-standing reluctance to meaningfully acknowledge Aboriginal people and perspectives in the telling of our national history. All these points showed us the value and relevance of being open to mindsets beyond our own.

Still, we ought to have a filter, because not every perspective is reflective of truth, nor given to be helpful. How Different People See Christians (adam4d.com) is a comic strip that playfully exposes misguided and prejudiced views on the subject. In this instance, the Christian identity isn’t understood by his neighbour, the media, and the atheists in this society. But sometimes even what we know of ourselves may not be accurate or complete. Take, for example, God’s message to the church in Smyrna in the second chapter of the Book of Revelation:

I know your afflictions and your poverty — yet you are rich! I know about the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown.

This heavenly perspective must have greatly encouraged the suffering believers of Smyrna. Yet in the next chapter, the church in Laodicea seemed to have the opposite issue:

You say, “I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.” But you do not realise that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see. Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. Be earnest and repent.

Surely, if we are all about learning from different angles, it would be heedless of us not to contemplate the ultimate perspective of the omniscient Creator.

How might we perceive things beyond physical reality?

The whole of reality is more than what humans can sense and analyse. Even the top scientists in our world aren’t able to scratch underneath the physical fabric of the universe in any concrete fashion. At best, we are but blind men frisking an elephant — the Indian parable revealing the impossibility of true understanding when we are without proper means of perception.

Our group checked out Fez in this last section as an exploration of moving from “blindness” toward being empowered to perceive. At the start of play, the game looked like a pretty ordinary platformer as Anthony controlled a white anthropomorphic cat around a 2D village. But then, something otherworldly appeared in the form of an alien cube. It bestowed the iconic fez unto the cat, allowing him the ability to rotate the perspective of the world and experience the spatial layout of the village in three dimensions. The added complexity confounded Anthony at times, and very soon he was surrounded by folks shouting instructions at him, because that is what friends are for!

More depth than at first glance.

A similar discussion of 2D and 3D dimensions is found in a segment of Rob Bell’s Everything Is Spiritual DVD, where he went into the theological implications drawn from the concept of Flatland. Citizens in this 2D realm cannot fathom 3D geometry; they know what triangles are, but haven’t a clue about tetrahedrons. It also means that certain shapes are completely exclusive of each other: for example, a square can never be a circle, and a circle can never be a square. As a result, any Flatland person who wishes to fuse together these distinct polygons is only asking for trouble.

Entering into a 3D world, there comes a realisation of what seemed to have been unrelated or contradictory can, in fact, be connected and harmonious. The square and the circle are able to coexist as one entity in the 3D world, since the geometry of the cylinder encompasses both shapes when viewed from different angles. And what this implies is that while there are concepts we fail to grasp due to our existential constraints, it doesn’t necessarily preclude their possibility. We may struggle to wrap our brains around the correlation between predestination and free will, the perfect mixture of divinity and humanity within Jesus, or the consubstantiality of the Trinity. Yet that doesn’t stop us from taking these ideas to heart, trusting that it is God who has given us this wisdom, as it is written in First Corinthians, chapter 2:

What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, what no human mind has conceived — the things God has prepared for those who love him — these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit.

So don’t be blind, but open your spiritual eyes to the perspective of truth!

The anatomy of an elephant?

Attendance [11]: Angela Sun, Anthony Byun, Ayk Iano, Clement Kwok, Janice Lee, Jennifer Seo, Jimmy Wong, KJ Jang, May Chien, Robin Zhang, and Tony Song.

Giveaway: Fez to Janice Lee.