My kids are experts at videogames, as are their peers. I don’t know anyone of my generation that plays the kind of games that the teenagers do, so I took on The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. My daughter is my tour guide through Zelda’s lands, and she coaches my battles with the bosses, but she still thinks it’s strange that her fifty-something dad is playing Zelda.
I’m playing the game for several reasons, but I think God has other reasons. For me, I want to have fun, yes, but more than that, I want to understand the mindset of the games because it influences their culture and generation: I want to understand that influence; after all, that generation is already assuming the leadership of the Church in North America.
I’ve been learning some really interesting life lessons from video games. Zelda, at least, encourages values like teamwork, curiosity, persistence, loyalty. But did you know that Zelda is an excellent training tool for learning about spiritual warfare? I was stunned!
Think about it: these games – Zelda included – are all about moving into a new territory, overcoming the enemy in those places, learning lessons, discovering treasures, and finding weapons in the new territory, taking out the big boss (the stronghold), and then finally occupying the territory. Along the way, we get shot at, we overcome enemies; if we fail the test, then we go back to the beginning of the level (“Game Over”) and we try again. If we succeed, then (usually) we’re given back our “life points” (we’re healed) and we emerge a more formidable warrior.
That strikes me as a pretty good picture of the real world, or at least one aspect of the real world: As we grow, God brings us into new territory – like He did with the Israelites in Exodus, but the new territory has not been pre-conquered for us.
Our job – like in Zelda – is to run around discovering what is waiting for us in the new territory: what opportunities, what weapons, what enemies, what treasures. We capture the treasures, pick up and learn the weapons, overcome the enemies, and grow in experience and strength through the whole experience. Eventually we confront a substantial enemy (the “big boss” of the level) and it takes everything we have learned and every weapon we’ve found to overcome him, but when we do, his plunder is ours, his territory is now ours, and we are more formidable than we’ve ever been.
When Israel had conquered Canaan, they suddenly had a homeland for themselves that was among the richest in the world. When we conquer the enemies and landmines in the territory that God gives us, we have new wisdom, new strength, new influence. Obstacles and temptations that would challenge and threaten us are suddenly insignificant. Life blooms around us, and people and ministries are strengthened by our presence in their lives. It takes everything we have, but the reward is worth the cost!Besides, we have the Holy Spirit to guide us – like my daughter is doing for me – to help us find the enemies, to show us the weapons and the treasure caches, to guide us along the way. We can do this!