*NOTE: This article may contain an ending spoiler for the video game “Starfield”.
We don’t really have a measure for realizing whether or not the things we do matter. Most of the decisions we make in the day-to-day feel light and without consequence. Wouldn’t it be great to know if our decisions made a difference for the future of the world? Playing a game may seem like one of those decisions that doesn’t have much consequence. But what if that game helped bring an understanding of our personal decisions, their consequences, and the Divine plan in action in the world?
WHAT WE FIND IN “STARFIELD"
In my 38 years on this earth I’ve never had a video game capture me as quickly as the much-anticipated and newly-released (September 2023) "Starfield" has. It’s hard to write about something as huge as this game in just a few paragraphs, because it wrestles with so many things. After over 40 hours of gameplay, including lots of side quests and adventuring with space pirates (The Crimson Fleet) I finally came to the end, an end that required a choice that was filled with emotion and uncertainty.
At its core, this game is about making decisions. These decisions have consequences and affect everything around you, including the relationships that you have with the characters throughout the game. Some choices lead to love and commitment, while other choices may ultimately result in the death of another character.
Our lives are filled with decisions: what we will become? Who we will share our lives with? What is our calling? In "Starfield", players are sent on missions to accomplish certain goals and objectives, but have a choice on how those missions are completed.
As a United Methodist Pastor, what stuck in the back of my mind throughout the journey was the way that we are sent into the mission field as itinerant people. We work in a system where we are sent by leadership to new places where we have certain goals we are expected to meet based on our talents and the needs of the church. What we do with the time we’re given is up to us. We go with a purpose, with a plan in mind, and something we hope to accomplish. The worst part, often, is leaving behind the places we’ve served in the past, wondering if we’ve made a difference, or if anyone will even remember us when we’re gone.
"Starfield" is a journey to discover something called “the unity”. Through encounters with the Starborn and by chasing down artifacts, players come to find that “the unity” isn’t about unity as we know it, it’s an end and a beginning all at the same time. Eventually what you find is that stepping into it offers a chance to be reborn, to be spread across the galaxy, to enter into a multiverse where you have the opportunity to start all over again and experience every possibility. You have the chance to relive what you’ve already been through and make different decisions, for the better, or even for worse.
In the game, players wrestle with science, religion, and the nature of the Divine. It presents questions like “is everything divine? Is something driving our decisions? What is our purpose, where are we supposed to go and what are we supposed to accomplish?”
KNOWING WHO WE ARE
The more I played the game, the more I realized that knowing my purpose made decisions so much easier. If I went out on a mission knowing that I wanted to be an empathetic “good guy,” then it changed how I entered a situation. If I knew I wanted to side with pirates, I would take a different approach.
And then I remembered one of my favorite scripture lessons, Micah 6:8 which says, “Seek justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God.” What if that core scripture prompted how I make decisions in life? What if, in every encounter I approached my decisions with that goal? Whether we’re talking about life or a video game like "Starfield", knowing who we are changes how we live.
Throughout "Starfield," there is a wrestling for purpose and morality. And in the midst of conflicting religions we find that the end goal is really the same, even if it comes with different intent and purpose. How do we spend our lives searching for the Divine? How do we live like good people, seeking justice and mercy in all that we do? For some characters in the game what they are seeking is clearly power. For others, it’s doing our best to protect one another for the sake of a better world.
In the end of the game, players are given a choice: to enter the unity, or to turn back and live life as you already knew it. When I say I struggled with my decision, I mean I really struggled. And while I realize that may sound silly, there were hours and hours of my time put into relationships, friendships, and eventually even marriage to the amazing Sam Coe (don’t worry, I’m still in love with my real-life husband).
A LEGACY OF IMPACT
The best part, however, is that before you make the decision, struggling to decide whether or not to leave behind the people you love, you’re given a glimpse into what the world looks like after you and because of you. For me, it was seeing that Constellation, the people I had been working with, would share their experiences and research to advance science. Other Starborn that I had worked with would have a greater love for humanity and “doing good” in the world. And Sam Coe, my in-game husband, would remember me and miss me – but he’d also eventually choose to be reborn too. For some reason, this information was the news I needed to know so that I could move on. It was a comforting reminder that everyone would be okay without me, that the world doesn’t revolve around me, but I still left a significant mark. So I became reborn, a chance to do it all over again, to start fresh and make a difference once more. And even though the people I loved and worked with didn’t remember me, I certainly remembered them, and was overjoyed to continue the journey.
As an itinerant pastor, sometimes the end of our journeys feel the same way. We leave behind people we love, children we’ve baptized, couples we’ve married, and families we’ve been with as they said goodbye to loved ones. That departure is hard, and it hurts. Sometimes it’s hard to see the joy of something new when what we want is a chance to dwell in the beauty we already know. Yet, sometimes what we need is a glimpse into the future, to know it is not all revolving around us. But still, we made a difference, we left a mark, hopefully for the better.
We make a difference in this world by our choices, our relationships and who we choose to be. If we make up our minds to be people who seek justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God, perhaps that’s how we make our biggest mark. When we move on from this place, what legacy will we leave behind? How will we be remembered? Every choice has a consequence, so we should always live not just for ourselves, but for others…
for all, into the "Starfield"
Rev. Laura Wittman is the pastor of The Mills Church in Rocky Mount, NC and the Coordinating Pastor of The United Methodist Collective and Lighthouse Congregations for the North Carolina Conference of The United Methodist Church. Laura is married to another UMC pastor, Rev. Nathan Wittman, and together they have three boys, Cameron, Allen and Ezra (as well as three dogs, and numerous bearded dragons, geckos and snakes). Laura’s biggest loves are gaming, 3d printing, crocheting, and anything that allows for creativity.