The Pause Button (Part 3)

Please Read Part 2 First!

I’ve said many times that video should, in some sense, reflect the struggle and hardship of real life; if there’s no challenge on a mechanical level, then what do you have other than moving pictures and sounds? Interacting with a set of rules and systems and working optimally within those systems make video games a compelling, and often wonderful, feedback loop of difficulty and rewards. Emotions like anger and frustration are often sidelined as “less artistic”, but I beg to differ; if a game elicits an emotional reaction like that, it means you invested into the experience, and those sorts of emotions remain wholly the domain of video games. I believe that pausing works to that very special aspect of immersion, heightening the skill, fortitude, and commitment of the player at all time. It works! I should know!

Why settle for a lesser game purely on the basis of convenience? I think of Jesus’ time in the wilderness for forty days; a dude’s gotta eat in that time, and yet Jesus resists every temptation thrown at him (Matthew 4):

And after He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He then became hungry. And the tempter came and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.’”

That takes some serious dedication to fast that long in the Middle East. Where the heck do you find water? The Bible even says Jesus was hungry, if only to emphasize the difficulty He had in human form. Jesus wasn’t willing to settle for less. One can guess that Satan knew that food alone would not tempt the Son of God, and so the tempter plays for a different angle:

Then the devil *took Him into the holy city and had Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple, and *said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down; for it is written,

He will command His angels concerning You’;

and

On their hands they will bear You up,
So that You will not strike Your foot against a stone.’”

Jesus said to him, “On the other hand, it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

Jesus isn’t even willing to summon angels to His aid. He will suffer as a human being in the same situation will suffer. He won’t use miracles and special powers for His own benefit. That would be cheating, and furthermore would diminish the crux of His own message and purpose. So Satan goes for one more:

Again, the devil *took Him to a very high mountain and *showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory; and he said to Him, “All these things I will give You, if You fall down and worship me.” 10 Then Jesus *said to him, “Go, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only.’” 11 Then the devil *left Him; and behold, angels came and began to minister to Him.

Jesus will not serve any other than God (who is…Himself, but different story for a different day). Jesus does not settle for the lesser; He seeks the best, and will not rest until He achieves it in the way God desires.

That is why I’m unwilling to back down on pausing/not pausing: the game designers often know how best to craft their games. What will make it the most immersive? Which one will put the player in the right head space to understand what we want them to experience? How best can we use interactivity to make the game interesting, fun, or exciting? Every facet of the design plays into this, from the aesthetics to even something as small and infinitesimal as a simple “pause” button. It’s not about what I want; it’s about making the best game possible, and that sometimes requires decisions and elements that displease the vast majority of players.

Gamers themselves have no idea how to create something enjoyable for everyone; they can only seek to fulfill their own personal predilections; just look at any MMO forum as they continually complain about how Class X is overpowered, or Boss Y is too hard. Making them active participants in the design process doesn’t help, but often hinders, the process of creation. They’re looking at one piece of a whole, one slot in a whole range of interlocking systems that need to work in a particular way to make things work. We often don’t know what we want until someone brings it into existence with the imago dei‘s creative juices, and turning game design into a community project of convenience and selfishness would hinder the whole. Why settle for less just for your own personal benefit.

In short: pausing just represents a larger facet of gamers demanding something they want, treating the game itself as a product catered to their whims rather than a carefully crafted curve of mechanical interplay and challenges. Same goes for literature, same goes for other media. We shouldn’t settle for personal interest at the risk of something wonderful never coming into existence.

About Zachery Oliver

Zachery Oliver, MTS, is the lead writer for Theology Gaming, a blog focused on the integration of games and theological issues. He can be reached at viewtifulzfo at gmail dot com or on Theology Gaming’s Facebook Page.