Podcast #37 – Identity

Zach, Jonathan Clauson, Eric Anderson, Andrew Crawford and fashionably late Guidance Counselor Pastor Person Michael Jones talk about identity! Also Josh Cauller gets name-dropped a few times for some reason!

Much talk about Acts 11, discipleship, narratives, being a gamer versus being a Christian, worship, Tim Keller, control, Star Wars Expanded Universe, KOTOR, role-playing versus escape, Tolkien’s On Fairy Stories, Spec Ops: The Line, Wrex, Munchkins and a whole lot of fun tabletop RPGs, Dr. Who, the acceptance of the gaming community, intent, the difference between actions and identity, idolatry, games are art, Sneak King is art, and a whole lot of “what are we playing?” right at the tail end (Dragon’s Dogma, Marvel: Avenger’s Alliance, Souls games), and our “Identity Game” Recommendations! Listen in to find out!

Podcast 37

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.
  • Matthew Eyler

    Zach why do you not by your own admission become immersed in games. It sounds like you hover above all story and characters and only enjoy mechanics. Have you ever felt immersed in a games story?

    • Zachery Oliver

      My immersion in the story, if it does happen, is totally separate from what I can do in the game. It’s rare that story has enough effect to actually make it worth your while to go down one path or another, at least from the perspective of the actual rule set underneath.

      Just dialogue trees, for example. BioWare dialogue trees present you with, fundamentally, three choices in just about every situation. Yeah, a character might die here and there (or all of them), but none of them will magically stop the game. I.e., all the decision in that game lack weighty consequences from a game standpoint. Any party member is just as good as any other one except for personal preference. Now, trying to get the optimal ending from your own standpoint would require some planning, but it won’t fundamentally change the actual game.

      This is also why I praise Dark Souls a whole lot: it immerses you with tension, fright, and the utter inadequacy of your own tools/abilities in an utterly hostile world. You must rise to the challenge and earn your victories. The nihilistic direction of the world design only contributes to it in a way that doesn’t rely on narrative tropes of movies/books/etc. Instead, it presents a world and lets you explore it at your own leisure, however little or how much you want to understand what you’re actually doing. The participation from the player is mandatory, active rather than passive. Each stat build presents you with entirely different options to overcome the obstacles, and it’s almost amazing how many things (especially story-wise) you miss on a first playthrough just because of things you did unknowingly. The world fascinates due to its obscurity, and furthermore intrigues many players into its lore. People have pieced together what happened simply through item descriptions and in-game information, which took years to compile. That is why it’s so effective as a game, and not a movie jammed into a game: this experience could not exist outside of this medium.

      So in sum: I like stories and narrative and such. The way that people have implemented them in games, however, continues to irk me with such a vast cleavage between the mechanical working underneath and the aesthetic appeal of the story.

      • Matthew Eyler

        I want go into a spiel about how you really need to immerse your self more in the game to have more fun but when it boils down to it I guess it’s mostly about personal preference. By the way I totally tried to keep my marines alive in halo. Playing a lot of single player games as a kid makes me look for companion ship in weird places. But to be fair Master chief is alone a lot.

        • Zachery Oliver

          Really, it comes down to what kind of games you want to see. If you can get into narrative-heavy stuff, and if the moral choice systems do work for you, then I guess those are real consequences. However, from an objective analysis of the situation, none of those techniques are unique to video games – they’re transplants from other mediums.

          You’ll have to talk to Crawford about that one. Join us on Theology Gaming University; we like talking about this stuff 🙂