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About the Story
Deathbox 2013 is a post-life destination determination simulation based on a literal interpretation of the Bible.
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The claim -- made by Paul and John the Evangelist -- that salvation can only come through Christ is of course deeply problematic, and has been felt to be problematic for a long time. For Christ is a historical phenomenon, with whom many have not been acquainted. How could their ignorance warrant damnation?
"Deathbox: 2013" wants to ask this question, but it runs into a problem of its own. For on the one hand, the only people for whom the question has any real interest are highly orthodox Christians. But on the other hand, the author's beliefs are so different from those of a highly orthodox Christian that it is doubtful there will be any serious communication between them. Indeed, it is doubtful that any of the real target audience would ever start up a game called "Deathbox: 2013 -- God's endless love."
So that leaves Tylor with people like me, who are already convinced that a theory which entails that virtuous Buddhists will burn in Hell is not a theory worth having. (I would add that, obviously, only universal reconciliation makes sense.) People like me will not be particularly challenged or surprised by the game's message. That leaves only the game as game, but unfortunately, it consists of little more than a single choice in the beginning and some mostly non-interactive sequences leading to an often pre-determined end. So there's not much here.
Two stars for the writing, which is competent and fast-paced.
There is a semblance of constructive argument, but that goal is not entirely reached. For some reason, the "game" doesn't seem excessively sardonic to me. I've tread this ground before, as a child and teenager, fearing eternal damnation, unable to believe that I was really on my way to heaven because I said a prayer to receive Jesus Christ as my Savior. The scenes constructed to challenge Christian belief on soteriology seemed only slightly challenging to me, and I wish they could have been more useful.
The disclaimer on the bottom of the main page says that the work is "singularly and only a microgame response to the literal interpretation of the Bible...." A critique of what constitutes a "literal" interpretation of the Bible, and of the ramifications of different kinds of "literal" interpretations, is something I could understand and applaud whether or not I ended up agreeing with it. Unfortunately, that is not what this game really attempts to do. It is yet another anti-Christian apologetic piece, using the well-known tactic of shoving the horrors depicted in the Bible in the faces of the Christian community. Since there is no single "Christian community" except in the deepest spiritual sense that is meaningless to unbelievers, "Deathbox" tries to generalize, mentioning Catholic tradition and Calvinist theology in different branches.
A secondary theme is a cynical condemnation of any notion of a "grand design." The Twine layout has five different threads representing different people that the player can "become" (in the shallowest way possible -- you only ever get to pick between a couple mutually-exclusive pages, which is probably part of the theme). So, the player sees through the eyes of all these lives, woven into God's grand design, a design that incorporates them only as meaningless vapor and seals their destiny in eternal torment. The game is more ambitious than its disclaimer indicates. Many people of diverse religious and spiritual leanings have believed in some kind of benevolent destiny.
So, literal belief in the Bible is immediately associated with belief in eternal damnation for all non-Christians, which in turn is associated with nihilism. Maybe those aren't unfounded associations. That would be an entirely separate discussion, one that "Deathbox" is too lazy to engage in. It also can't resist the indulgence of using racial, ethnic, and political stereotypes.
Since it quotes the Bible a few times, an examination of whether or not the Bible really leads to the inevitable conclusions that this game assumes is relevant. "Deathbox" quotes Saint Peter's defense to the Sanhedrin, in which he said that salvation was found in "no other name under heaven given among men" (Acts 4:12). Christian Evangelists even more frequently quote Jesus' exclusivity claim: "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me" (John 14:6). In any case, Jesus also said "many will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 8:11), and the apocalyptic prophecy depicts the host of the redeemed singing, "...for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation....and they shall reign on the earth" (Revelation 5:9-10).
One of my dirty secrets is that I think it highly probable that people from every identifiable group that has ever existed in human history will be redeemed. There have probably been tribes, languages, peoples, and nations that existed when John wrote Revelation that have since died out, without the Christian story reaching a single member of the population. I don't know how salvation could have come to them without their hearing of the Gospel.... but I don't know how salvation can come to me, either. I reject the notion that I can earn it by the work praying for it, and many Christians rightly condemn the un-Biblical notion that the facts that you believe in your head determine your eternal state. If that were true, I would be saved one moment and then damned the next, as my doubt and belief inevitably trade places throughout the day. (James wrote, "You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe, and shudder!" [James 2:19]) Christian doctrine is that we can be saved through faith, and not for it (Ephesians 2:8), and faith clearly has little to do with the facts that someone mentally assents to. I do believe in hell though; I believe we create hell for ourselves by rebelling against the nature of the truth that God has ordained, and that heaven would be a worse hell than hell itself for those who don't want it.