Monday, October 6, 2008

God as a Desktop Commander

I wrote this for an exam in my Bible/Apocrypha class at university, and thought it might interest people. It's a brief examination of God as a gamer. The (Harris) bits are from the text book.

---begin transmission---

“All that human participants do, all that they achieve by war, conquest, or any other means, is explicitly ascribed to Yahweh's actions.” (Harris: 82) Of all of the attributes of Yahweh found throughout the Torah, few of them remain consitant. The trait which appears to be singular in that it is found throughout the actions of Yahweh is that of his drive to manipulate both people and the world to means only he at the time is aware of. In this regard, he has the mentality and capacity of what is jokingly referred to as a desktop commander in the gaming community. A desktop commander someone that regularly plays PC strategy games in which one assumes the role of commander (God) over legions of relatively insignificant characters (Israel) and, in most modern strategy games, a small selection of hero units with powers and abilities far and above the regular masses (Moses, Noah, Jacob and so on).

Yahweh, similar to most desktop commanders, plays a series of games with his people. The primary game, that of regularly testing the faith of Israel and punishing them for failure, is supplemented by his metagame, or secondary/game-within-a-game; that of placing people and things into motion and seeing what will happen as a result. Although the Judaeo-Christian concept of God (Yahweh) partially relies on his being all-knowing and thus being able to see future events, this aspect of the godhead is not realized in the Torah, as Yahweh regularly makes mistakes (the Flood) and is unaware of all evens simultaneously (Adam and Eve becoming clothed/eating the apple). This, too, corresponds with the struggle of the gamer; an impossibility to know everything, and the inability to be aware of the exact results of a series of events, regardless of how well planned they may be.

In the game Black and White (Lionhead Studios, 200x [hey, it's a take-home exam, not a research paper]), the player lacks direct control of the great beast that is assigned to him. The player is permitted to slap, feed, play with and point to areas where he would like his beast to go, and as the beast grows in power he also becomes more receptive to commands issued. This is similar to Yahweh's control over Israel; although he cannot directly manipulate people, he can suggest locations and provide for them when necessary, such as instructing Moses to lead Israel from Egypt. Although Yahweh cannot control Ramses II, he does provoke him into chasing Israel into the sea, where they are destroyed – according to plan.

The final goal of the desktop commander is not victory, although it often appears, both to the gamer and the observer, to be the case. The goal is the lead up to the coordinated movements of people and events, regardless of the outcome,although specific ones may be desired. In Black and White, players may at specific times unleash a series of cataclysmic events, such as fires or torrential rains, to see what happens to both their beast and the beasts of other gods. This is mirrored by Yahweh's placing of the Tree of Knowledge in the same place at the initial seat of humanity. One would have to assume that Yahweh is stupid to not question whether he'd considered the possibility of Eve eating the apple, and one would have to assume Yahweh was blind to not be in grave doubt whether Zedekiah would retain his faith and trust in the salvation of Yahweh or if he would choose in the strength of man.

Whether he's deliberately testing the faith of his people by commanding the devout among them to build an ark, or giving them vague directions across a desert and into enemy territory to subjugate it, Yahweh is constantly playing games with his people. None of his other attributes are to be trusted for their consistency; his benevolence of food and fruitfulness can be destroyed by a mistake; his great rage (the Flood) and animosity can be checked by regret and Covenants; his fairness to aliens (“Do not oppress the alien (Exodus 23:9) is negated by them being a nation outside Israel (kill everything on the other side of the Jordan). The singular trait that Yahweh exhibits in any consistency is his inalienable drive to manipulate, coordinate, and game the system which he has created.

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