Makai Toushi Sa Ga: Reflection On A Retro Video Game

As a child, when I first had a Gameboy, one of the games I enjoyed playing most was a game known in the United States as The Final Fantasy Legend. Although in many ways the gameplay was similar to Final Fantasy, with which I was already familiar, the design of the game itself was based on a tower that reached into several different worlds around which the plot revolved. Each of the worlds was different—one was land with Medieval weapons and armor, one was water, one was air, and the other a sort of steampunk vision with high technology. At the end of the gameplay one meets a Creator who created evil beings to be defeated by those seeking rewards, and the angry heroes turn on the Creator because of their anger over his supposed injustice in seeking to run his creation as he sees fit, and kills them with a chainsaw. I want to stop and park here a minute, because this will be important in a later discussion, but let us note that this game portrays a deity responsible for making a several worlds that are connected by a large tower and for doing what he wants with the world, which human beings object to who then kill him with a chainsaw. This is not to even get into the connection between human beings, mutants, and monsters affected by what they eat that are present in the game, and various mythological elements. It ought to be plain, from even such a brief description as this, that role playing games, which I have generally been fond of playing much of my life, have much deeper roots than the contemporary world of video games and text-based games from which they spring.

If this is not dodgy enough, the Japanese version makes it even more plain the high level of rebellion contained in this video game, for it outright calls the Creator of the tower and the various worlds God, and claims that he created the tower and the fiends as a test for the heroes. The Japanese title of the game: Warrior In The Tower Of The Spirit World, makes the nature of the game far more easy to understand. The game is part of a series of Japanese games where the player is designed to overthrow God in a world that in many respects has a close tie to what we would find in the biblical Book of Genesis—the huge tower in particular that reaches into heaven would appear to at least be an echo of the Tower of Babel, built by mankind for rebellious purposes. It is the hostility to God, though, that is the most remarkable element of the game, because it directly strikes against the legitimacy of the creator of video games like the role playing games these plots occur in. After all, those who create worlds, whether real or fictional, whether told in paper or captured in images or that appear in epic poems or movies or video games or any other such media, whatever they may be, seek a legitimacy that comes from being a creator. The joy of creation is a large part of what encourages us to create more, as we make real and tangible what had previously only been a figment of our imaginations. Yet to create creations where players are encouraged, and often even compelled, to defeat creators in order to complete the game is to attack at the legitimacy of creators themselves to govern worlds according to their pleasure. The fact that this tendency is not a one-off tendency among Japanese video game designers but a consistent pattern speaks to a deep ambivalence present among these video game designers, and perhaps a certain amount of moral blindness—on the one hand they want to be creators and to overthrow a God above them, and on the other hand they enjoy the power that comes from creating and from persuading and inducing others to act according to their own designs and plots. The ambivalence, or even hypocrisy, comes from a desire to gain respect at the cost of undercutting the respect due to the class to which the game designer belongs.

One sees this hypocrisy particularly clearly in science as well. One of the more poignant aspects of contemporary scientific thought, for at least half a century or so, is the creation of elaborate experimental apparatuses and computer models that are argued to render design superfluous and unnecessary when their very creation demonstrates clearly the importance of design and the legitimacy of the Creator’s agency in creation. After all, for an experiment that combines various chemicals together to get anything that is remotely useful for life, a lot of elements of design and optimization are required, all elements that demonstrate the agency of creation and not the randomness of the supposed conditions from which life sprang up de novo. Likewise, the fact that the much-hyped self-organizing models require a great deal of programming and world building in order to be viable also demonstrates the importance of prior design. Thus, like the efforts of Japanese game designers to use their own creations to attack the legitimacy of our Creator, the similar efforts of experiment designers and computer programmers to use their designs to attack the legitimacy of creation and intelligent design are ironic and hypocritical in the extreme, for the very modesty of their own efforts, despite their considerable skill at the design of experiments and virtual worlds, only serves to underscore the far more intricate and skilled design of our Creator that went into creating us and our universe. We, as a civilization, are caught in a trap, in that the best skills we have to prove our own agency only end up proving far more effectively our own design and the authority and legitimacy of our own Creator. Our own efforts to be respected as creators require a respect for design and a realization that we too are artifacts of skilled and creative design, which in turn requires that we respect in turn, which we do not want to do.

How are to resolve this tension, this contradiction? It would appear that there are a few basic and fundamental strategies that one can adopt. One can lower the respect that one demands as a creator by opening up game design to others, to allow the players of the game the freedom to design and the honor and glory that results from successful design. In so doing honor and respect are shared, and the player and the game designer approach a level of partnership and greater equality. A related solution to this one is to appreciate the skillful design we are made and to seek to honor our Creator by making the best possible use of our creative abilities to give honor and glory to Him, and to be fitting models of creative ability that serve to underscore how much greater God is than we are, no matter how good we may be. Alternatively, one can seek to create in such a way that brings honor and glory to the physical creator but that directly attacks the legitimacy of our Father in heaven. To do this, and to continue to do this over and over again, requires that we deceive ourselves as to the level of our own creativeness, that we attack the legitimacy of the creative process, of rationality and design, and so in the end no glory is given to us, for we impoverish the world in order to satisfy our own vain imaginations, simply that we may spite the one who created us in the first place. Either that or we must dangerously compartmentalize our existence, admitting the legitimacy of design only when we do it, and attacking it whenever we find its traces in our universe, or within us. To adopt this strategy is to be a spoiled and bratty toddler forever, unable to make even the simplest logical connections between that which we do and that which we seek for ourselves and the way in which we treat others. Who would want to be a toddler forever, even if one was a particularly bright one? Should we not all want better for ourselves?

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in Bible, Christianity, History, Musings and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Makai Toushi Sa Ga: Reflection On A Retro Video Game

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