Pascal's Wager

by Doug Egan

Religious
2008

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
What if God was one of six? Play this game and get your fix. Bleebleebloo, January 23, 2023
by Andrew Schultz (Chicago)

Pascal's Wager is an odd one, for sure. But it looks into something I dared to think when I was younger: if there are a bunch of gods, we're even less likely to pick the right one. Is heaven that exclusive? Did you get part-credit if you picked the right one, sort of? Limbo, at least? So many religions had ways to X you out if you screwed up the One True Faith anyway, and the "everyone can make it" ones seemed to give a nice afterlife as a participation trophy. I admitted I sort of looked at which gave the most potential reward for the least effort, which was probably not a paradise-worthy musing.

Pascal's Wager takes a different tack. It's decidedly funny. You can ask WHO IS GOD right off the bat, and there's also an item that shows you who the real God is. This requires some trial and error, but it's the sort the game invites. Then, you have to act in accordance with the deity's wishes. The result is a game with a lot of really irrelevant-seeming items or paths through, with a core of stuff to do right and NPCs who are, somehow, grounded in what's really what. I found the Bacchus path quite funny indeed. I care not how theologically accurate it may be.

Until then, it's not terribly clear what exactly to do (maybe this is just the confusion of youth,) although there are locked doors and such that dare you to open them. You'll probably hit the (generous) time limit, at first, resulting in a lot of being sent to hell by God, who usually asks you a trappy "didn't you consider X?" question. You lose either way. As if omnipotence isn't enough, he has to make you feel helpless one last time. I have to admit, after figuring who God was, he blasted me for being all prayer and no action. Ouch! Well, at least he told me what I should have done.

The basic run-through is as follows: childhood, teenage years, and finally adulthood. Who God is each time doesn't affect the run-throughs, but some items just don't matter. Mechanically, it's more a game about sneaking around than about any deep philosophical musings. There's nothing too intimidating, especially the second time through. It's a rather fun adventure to find the name of the True God.

So there's a surprising amount of subversion built into finding the True God, and I suppose that's what spirituality is about -- controlled, sensible good questions. Even unlocking the hints is an amusing trivial exercise. Each subsequent replay feels a bit more conventional, though, and what felt like subversion turns into checking off on details just to get through and not make mistakes. Which may be a mechanical weakness, but it also brings to mind the sort of person who thought they were very, very clever questioning God's existence and not letting you question their good faith asking the question. PW even seems to poke fun at straining too hard for spirituality--two characters seem to satirize the concept of a guru very lightly.

I have to admit, on winning, I got the five other scenarios queued up for later. In other words, not right away. PW is very funny, but replaying too much too soon is a bit of a slog, and I needed to take time to sit back and enjoy having so many different paths through what seemed like a samey story on the surface.