Intertain: Chapter 18
After a two-year hiatus, Intertain has finally returned with a proper group event. A lot has changed during this time, and so our session would serve as a reboot more than anything.
We gathered at Daniel and Jennifer’s place in Normanhurst for the special occasion. They have actually attended a few of our meetings back in 2015 when the ministry was newly born. Back then, Jennifer wasn’t even a gamer. That changed in recent years, however, and you would nowadays find her diving into point-and-click adventures or life and farming simulation experiences.
Robin and Angela also graced us with their presence. The two have truly been supportive of Intertain since its conception, providing vital help in getting things rolling. Even though the group dynamics have evolved over the years, they remained as pillars of stability much to my appreciation.
Then there’s KJ, who joined us from mid-2016 and has been a regular ever since. He was one of the few people that I could connect with at The Chapel Sydney. We’ve since both moved on from that community, yet recognised this meet-up to be a great opportunity to catch up.
Being a good neighbour and friend, Simon was willing to tag along and give me a hand carrying all the gaming equipment needed on this outing. He is a blessing to have around, for sure.
My gamer wife May was with us too, of course. She’s always been a fan of my creative endeavours — something that I don’t take for granted. Together, we look forward to fresh progress ahead!
You may have aptly deduced that this session was stuck as a work in progress for the longest time. Changes in my own life, as well as factors relating to the greater environment threw many plans into disarray. In the videogame industry, they describe this as being trapped in “development hell”.
Nonetheless, I bided my time and waited until God opened the way… and so here we go.
In my struggle, a piece of wisdom attributed to Plato urged me to stay the course:
Never discourage anyone who continually makes progress, no matter how slow.
That ain’t bad advice for someone like me, since I am often frustrated with my own glacial pace of productivity. But to make sure that I do not succumb to a complete halt, it is important to keep in mind this quote from the American author and life coach Tony Robbins:
There are only two options: make progress or make excuses!
Well, no more excuses now. Let us go forth and see what we played and discussed.
Have you ever adjusted your role for the sake of progress?
You would think that in a game called Baba Is You, the player assumes the role of Baba. Well, that is only partially correct. For in this award-winning puzzle title, you are able to manipulate object identity and behaviour on the go through pushing around “rule tiles” represented in the area of play. It is akin to doing a bit of programming while attempting to solve each level.
Simon writes computer code for work, so we got him to test it out. Where Baba was surrounded by four walls, he broke up a “Wall-Is-Stop” command to escape. Then he reassembled a “Flag-Is-Win” rule and arrived at a flag tile to achieve victory. All seemed to be working well, though at that point he passed the controller to KJ for the upcoming challenges.
With half the group turning into helpful backseat gamers, KJ discovered more ways to progress in the game. In an instance where Baba was separated from the flag by two water tiles — yet only had one accessible rock tile to create a dry path — he reconfigured the win condition into “Rock-Is-Win” to overcome the level without having to cross the water. Where a stretch of lava blocked off Baba’s access, he established a “Lava-Is-Push” directive to enable shoving the boiling mass aside.
Perhaps the most memorable moment happened when KJ simply could not navigate out of a series of rooms, so he decided to put together a “Wall-Is-You” condition, abandoning his control of Baba and instead becoming the entire architectural arrangement. He moved the castle-like structure as one singular entity, ramming it into the flag tile for the overkill victory. What a way to win!
In the long journey that is life, we adapt to numerous roles and identities for progress.
Daniel pointed to becoming a husband and a father as major steps of progress in his once-lonely existence. On the work front, restructuring of the company also led him to take on different roles, though these decisions were much less voluntary.
Regarding May’s ministry at Mandarin Bible Study (MBS, Sydney University), she leaned more into the operational side of things in the past year. Consorting with the student executive team doesn’t quite match her job focus, but she filled a need and saw progress in the fellowship.
For myself, I realised that as a performer of music, I held back the progress I wanted as a composer and producer of music. Once I shifted my attention and started utilising services provided by various session musicians, my options opened up and the results speak for themselves.
It only took me a decade and a half to figure that out.
The Apostle Paul was a master of adjustment. From 1 Corinthians 9, he demonstrated how to become all things to all people in order to make extensive progress in the work of the gospel.
Even though I am a free man without any master, I have become a slave to all people to bring many to Christ. When I was with the Jews, I lived like a Jew to bring the Jews to Christ. When I was with those who follow the Jewish law, I too lived under that law. And even though I am not subject to the law, I did this so I could bring to Christ those who are under the law.
When I am with the Gentiles who do not follow the Jewish law, I too live apart from that law so I can bring them to Christ. Nevertheless, I do not ignore the law of God; I obey the law of Christ.
When I am with those who are weak, I share their weakness, for I want to bring the weak to Christ. Yes, I try to find common ground with everyone, doing everything I can to save some. I do everything to spread the Good News and share in its blessings.
Of course, switching around these roles paled in comparison to having his whole identity changed by the power of God, as he went from being a persecutor of Christ to becoming his faithful promoter.
Are you good at working with others to achieve progress?
My 2021 GOTY award went to It Takes Two, the fantastic co-op action-adventure game about the reconciliation of a married couple who had planned on divorcing.
The story begins when Cody and May — following yet another quarrel — decide to inform young daughter Rose of their crumbling relationship. Understandably, the girl is shattered by the bad news. She retreats into the garden shed, consults the Book of Love (a marriage therapy book authored by one Dr. Hakim), and weeps over two dolls she hand-made in her parents’ likeness.
The desperate tears of Rose’s anguish land on the dolls, trapping Cody and May within. As they awaken to their new bodies, the couple is greeted by the anthropomorphic form of Dr. Hakim’s bestseller book. He informs them of his intention to fix their marriage, with the first chapter focusing on the power of collaboration — the key to any successful relationship.
Daniel and Jennifer jumped in to test their own marriage, whether they’re able to collaborate and progress together in the game. They made their way through a level designed thematically around vacuum cleaners: a vertical gauntlet of obstacles forced upon them by a big old “sucker” seeking revenge after being broken and neglected by its irresponsible owners.
It was exciting to watch them play (without arguing, I might add). Daniel kept a cool head and resisted his tendency to become dizzied navigating through a 3D environment. Jennifer showed off some newfound gaming skills whilst their son Dylan shouted instructions next to her ear, mixed in with KJ’s generous encouragements along the journey.
Arriving at the peak, the pair was again confronted by the mistreated household appliance, now even angrier upon learning from Dr. Hakim that he had already been replaced by the expensive Turbo X2000, a pretentious French vacuum that can’t even suck properly!
And so a boss fight ensued. Daniel and Jennifer leaped and dashed, dodging explosive canisters and debris thrown at them. They utilised tubes and suction power to redirect some of that crap to strike back at the enraged vacuum. Victory was close after a few admirable attempts. For the sake of time, however, we had KJ subbing in to make short work of the showdown.
The collaborative effort by our friends served as a live demonstration of why “two are better than one” (Ecclesiastes 4:9). We also broadened our view into 1 Corinthians 12 and considered how members of Christ’s church coexist and cowork as one body in order to function:
Now if the foot should say, “I am not a hand, so I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. If the ear should say, “I am not an eye, so I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be?
God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all just one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.
Indeed, the body is useful only when each distinct part is performing what it has been created to do; and it must do so in unity and teamwork with all other parts. So it is by design that the people of God achieve progress as a community, for we wouldn’t get very far by our lonesome.
Angela said that when the going gets tough, she appreciates partnering up to share the burden. Daniel echoed the notion, stating that when given difficult projects at the office, he would much prefer to work in a group to find a way forward.
May likes working alone, but wouldn’t deny the potential for great progress in light of a good team. From decades of experience, she explained that diverse gifting and perspectives maximise opportunities, while being able to keep blind spots in check.
Does the tracking of progress play a big part in your life?
There has been a resurgence of interest in tabletop roleplaying games in recent years. The delightful, imaginative nature of the hobby is presented in RPG Time: The Legend of Wright. Robin was handed the mouse to get a taste of this splendid little title.
At the sound of a school bell, 10-year-old Kenta approached Robin with a rigorously illustrated notebook. The kid aspired to be a gamemaster, and so Robin roleplayed as protagonist Wright, stepping into a wonderful adventure devised by a passionate young mind.
Kenta put a lot of effort into worldbuilding, creating a 3D cardboard model of the aptly named Cardboardia, and rendering page after page of inhabitable environments, as well as using flip book animations and comic strips to deliver cutscenes. He also acted as and spoke on behalf of numerous characters like one would expect of any proficient gamemaster.
Furthermore, Kenta integrated various items into the gaming experience. A tape measure represented Wright’s health bar, a calculator kept track of numerical progress (e.g. for a collection quest), a service call bell opened up the food inventory, a portable device blasted the background music, and a decorated pencil served as a sword — its markings dealing slash damage to foes.
Never underestimate a child’s playful inventiveness!
Like Kenta’s game, human beings do a lot of tracking in our lives; we eagerly determine time passed, weight lost, or money spent, just to name a few.
I mentioned to the group how hunting PlayStation trophies has always given me a good sense of progress, which remains a key reason of why I enjoy videogames. Getting into crypto gaming in the past year, I have also been able to tie the act of play to real-life results. For instance, a move-to-earn project called STEPN gamifies walking and has greatly motivated me to exercise daily for real coin.
Talking about finances, Daniel highlighted the satisfaction of chipping away at mortgage numbers. Getting married, having kids, and then buying a house are the major steps of progress in his life.
Angela remarked that being able to remember progress is in itself a gift. KJ agreed, admitting that time flies, and so we ought to slow down and take note on occasion. May added that by relaying people’s day-to-day testimonies, we gain focus on God’s ceaseless productivity all around us.
Life is complicated and messy; not everything can be gamified or even quantified, especially when it comes to spirituality. But since we live by faith, it is wise to put our trust in the Almighty Gamemaster who plans, empowers, and tracks our path of growth. Romans 8 reveals:
For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. Those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.
That doesn’t mean we remain ignorant of progress. The Apostle Paul demonstrated an invigorating mindfulness when writing to the church in Philippi:
I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
From this example, we learn that remembering and giving thanks for what God has done — not only within ourselves, but also in the people around us — are ways to keep note and celebrate spiritual progress. These acts of tracking initiated in the context of community also help with encouraging and motivating one another toward eternal glory as God completes his beautiful work.
Do you know when to leave progress to future generations?
It was the first time that the PlayStation 5 made an appearance at Intertain. To cap off the day, I gave a quick tour of Astro’s Playroom, which comes pre-installed on every console.
The platformer starts in a hub world (CPU Plaza) modelled after the inside of the PS5, and links to four levels themed after console components: GPU Jungle, SSD Speedway, Memory Meadow, and Cooling Springs. Each level is packed with Easter eggs paying homage to other PlayStation franchises from across 26 years of the gaming juggernaut’s history.
There’s also a showroom (PlayStation Labo) that displays all the collectible items, which mainly consist of representations of consoles, controllers, and accessories. This space bears witness to the entire PlayStation legacy, a monumental celebration of progress from one generation to another.
Our days on earth are numbered. There comes a time when we must learn to let go.
One iconic moment can be seen at the death of Moses (in Deuteronomy 34). For after spending the final 40 years of his life wandering the desert, the role that Moses had of leading the Israelites came to an end just before they progressed into the Promised Land. His body was still healthy and strong; nevertheless, it was time to rest and pass the baton to the young Joshua.
The Lord Jesus also managed a change of representation at the conclusion of his First Coming. Readers of the Gospel of Mark may examine how it ends:
Later, Jesus appeared to the Eleven as they were eating; he rebuked them for their lack of faith and their stubborn refusal to believe those who had seen him after he had risen.
He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptised will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. These signs will accompany believers: in my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay hands on sick people, and they will get well.”
After Lord Jesus had spoken to them, he was taken up into heaven and he sat at the right hand of God. Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it.
Post-resurrection, Jesus stuck around for forty days to facilitate this transition before ascending to heaven. The Holy Spirit would soon arrive to empower the followers who were entrusted to become the official ambassadors of Christ. It was their time to spread the Good News, with us benefiting from and sharing in the progress many, many generations later.
Perhaps one day, the ministry of Intertain may be left to one of the young kids present in our reboot session. But until then, it’s full speed ahead!
Attendance : Angela Sun, Ayk Iano, Daniel Lee, Jennifer Chu, KJ Jang, May Chien, Robin Zhang, Simon Wong, and four kids: Dylan, Riley, Samuel, and Nathan.
Giveaway: It Takes Two to Daniel Lee and Jennifer Chu.