Machine Guns, Swords, and Portals

By Jaime Nava


What do Contra, Fable, and Half-Life all have in common? The best answer is echoed in children sermons across America: Jesus. “Hubba-wha-?” you say. Hubba-yup. What does A-B-A-B-Up-Down-Left-Right-Select-Start have to do with the Alpha and Omega?

Find any legend of any kind. What do you read? There’s always a problem, right? There’s an ideal couple, country, situation of some kind. Somehow this ideal is upset. Either Persephone is duped, or Gilgamesh has to build a wall, or John Wayne hops on a horse, or Rambo screws an explosive head to the tip of an arrow. Every culture and every generation has common motifs, archetypes that somehow, we all inherently know. As Dr. Montgomery put it in his magnum opus, “Common myths and folktales of the world manifest fundamental archetypal patterns and offer literary reinforcement to the scriptural picture of man as a creature in need of salvation.” The need for a hero does not occur in a small community of Americans or only among Western thinkers. This is a need that is found in every culture since there have been people. This need is reflected in any medium where a culture tells a story: orally, cuneiform, papyrus, print, or pixels.


As video games come out, the ones that truly do well are those that can connect our inner-longing for a story of salvation. (Halo anyone?) They touch on an ancient need that demands justice for a tumultuous existence. The difference in how video games tell the story lies in who is doing the action. I hop onto the horse and hunt down the bandits. I extend my mechanical arm to out-maneuver the evil-doer. In my hand I hold the controller and the story of salvation unfolds before my eyes, bit by bit. Eventually, though, the game ends. It finishes and for a fleeting moment I have a sense of satisfaction, like everything is made right. That feeling always goes away.

The life of a gamer consists of many games played. Some finished and some not. There’s always a new story, a new hero, a new way to save the day. Although shelves might be covered in skinny green or black boxes or hard drives filled to capacity with .exe’s or .iso’s, they are all begging for an end. They are all telling the story of a need for a savior, The Savior.

Religions all offer eternal bliss of some kind but what they provide to get there is a Slip n’ Slide angled at 90 degrees covered in oil, and then they tell you to make your way up. Did I mention you can’t use your hands or feet in the process? Everything is obviously skewed and our inherent need for what is right is lived out by Pfc. Bill Rizer and Pfc. Lance Bean (Contra), Gordon (Half-life), and the hero of Oakvale, but it’s not enough. They all look to Jesus Christ as the answer.


Jesus does not tell you to climb. Jesus does not demand perfect obedience before He loves you. The True and Greatest Hero became weak for our sake. This omnipotent God allowed Himself to be beaten so that you gain everything. Pathetically He was nailed to a cross, mocked, and He died. It’s what we deserve. In the story of good and evil, we are actually the bad guy. Even so, the entire price for our consistent selfishness is fully paid. Jesus offers it to us all for free. “It’s too easy!” some might say. For you, maybe. Not for Him. He paid the price for an infinite supply of Lamborghinis, and instead He got you and your mess because that’s the level of love He has for you.

He’s not dead, you know. He rose and is still alive today. Death doesn’t stick to Jesus. He made a promise too. He said that He would return. He will come back and set this tilted pinball machine of a world back to the way it should be. This is what every epic, every myth, every game that has a hero, this is what they all look forward to. Next time you load up that game, you will experience a story of good versus evil. It reflects the need you have for the First and Last truly Epic Hero. He died. He beat death. Jesus is coming back. End of story.