As we inch closer to the end of the year, we enter into a season of remembrance on the church calendar called Advent. Advent is the season leading up to Christmas when we take time to remember the birth narrative of Jesus in the gospels as a means to consider the second arrival of Christ still to come. During this time, we light four candles, each representing a theme of that remembrance: hope, peace, joy, and love. On Christmas, we then light the Christ candle to represent the birth of Christ and the faith that Christ lives and will return.
Growing up as a Pastor’s Kid, I’ve always been most fond of the Advent season. Not only did it serve as a countdown to every kid’s favorite day of the year, but it also felt a bit like a video game. There was a series of characters we would meet over the course of time, and we could trace the steps leading up to the eventual birth of Christ. It wasn’t unlike the hero’s journey in most fantasy storytelling.
As I’ve grown older and considered these games I hold dear, I now realize just how correctly my adolescent brain was interpreting these stories. Many games serve as excellent echoes of the story of Christ. In this article, I’ve highlighted three games, in particular, that exhibit well this overlap between the preparation and anticipation for Christ to come once more that we experience during Advent.
Also, probably bring tissues for each of these games. They’re all tearjerkers.
This is likely the most niche title on this list. “OneShot” is an independently produced game released in 2016. The story follows a cat-like humanoid character named Niko. The game's developers refer to this as a game where the world knows you, the player, exist, given its heavy usage of metafictional storytelling.
While the game itself is fairly basic and downright humble in appearance, the story being told in “OneShot” is anything but. By solving a series of puzzles, talking to the needed NPCs, and exploring different world zones, Niko is seeking to learn why he woke up in this mysterious world.
When Niko arrives, he is unaware of you as the player, even though you are directly controlling his movements and actions literally playing the game. The world within the game has lost it’s sun, which is held within a lightbulb. Niko happens to be the Savior of this world and is tasked with delivering a new lightbulb to the top of the central world tower to restore the world.
The parallels practically fall off the page, but it should be abundantly clear why this game is valuable. Aside from the titles of many characters being rife with religiosity, including ProphetBot and Lamplighter, the story alone of a humble character venturing across the land to deliver the fragile sun that will save the world should serve as more than enough to enlighten your Advent contemplation.
The Last of Us
“The Last of Us” has become one of those ubiquitous games in the last decade. Anyone who has considered themselves a gamer in the last ten years has some knowledge of this title. Not to mention, even if you aren’t one who enjoys video games, this entry will receive an HBO series adaptation in 2023, so it’s a story worth experiencing.
“The Last of Us” is a AAA video game produced by Naughty Dog and follows the story of Joel, a bedraggled smuggler who lost his daughter years earlier, and Ellie, a teenage girl that Joel is smuggling to an organization called the Fireflies. The world of “The Last of Us” is set in a post-apocalyptic wasteland that has been burnt up by a mysterious fungal disease that decimated the population.
Ellie is, for some reason, immune to the disease, and Joel is tasked with the responsibility of getting her across the United States to scientists who want to study her abnormality. While this may seem similar to the previous entry, “The Last of Us” is set apart by gorgeous art and gameplay, as well as the complex nuances of real-world relationships and trauma. For anyone unable to suspend disbelief to live in the cartoon world of “OneShot”, “The Last of Us” allows someone to experience the hero’s journey in another impactful way.
In addition to being an incredible echo of the Advent story, this game can double down as serving as a parallel for Lent and the crucifixion as well. If you can handle the brutal nature of this story, then this is one anyone and everyone should experience.
“Stray” is the most recently released entry on this list as the debut title from independent studio BlueTwelve in 2022. While it doesn’t excel in gameplay to quite the extent that “The Last of Us” does, “Stray” is a gorgeous and modern experience of a post-apocalyptic world inhabited by robots that have survived when humans could not after draining the planet of their resources.
Given the lack of human presence, the player controls one of the few organic mammals left - a cat. This experience alone is delightful and incredibly thought-out, with the developers even slotting one button on the control purely for purring.
While the game starts with the cat simply getting lost from its pack, the story picks up quickly, allowing the feline hero the chance to work with some of the remaining robots to open up the dark shell of the quarantined world to see how Earth has recovered years post-apocalypse. This game takes some unexpected turns and twists, but is ultimately the story of a new sort of Eden being created once humanity gets out of its own way.
What are your games?
What games come to mind when you consider these titles? Odds are, you’ve experienced a movie, television show, or video game that has evoked these same feelings. Maybe you’ve even played a game specifically designed around Advent, like Checkpoint Church’s "Not Another Advent Story" from 2021. Let us know what game you pictured as an allegory for Advent - thanks be to God for these stories that draw us closer to remembering the Christ who was born so long ago and who will return to us once again.