Deathbox: 2013

by Tylor


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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful:
All buddhists are damned!, June 13, 2013
by Victor Gijsbers (The Netherlands)

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.

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strivenword, June 13, 2013 - Reply
That's an effective, fair review. Thanks.

I wonder if you're familiar with C.S. Lewis's beliefs on this matter. He explicitly used a hypothetical Buddhist as an example of someone who might "belong to Christ without knowing it" in Mere Christianity. (Sorry, I don't have a copy of the book on hand, I remembered the quote and looked it up on the web, so I can't quote the page.) However, Lewis had a problem with the idea of universal reconciliation, demonstrated in The Problem of Pain and The Great Divorce. Near the end of The Great Divorce Lewis actually relates universal reconciliation with fatalistic predestination, implying that they are both variations of the same error.
Victor Gijsbers, June 13, 2013 - Reply
Thanks for your review as well! It is thoughtful and interesting.

I once read "Mere Christianity", but that was long ago and I don't remember the part about the Buddhist. I must admit that I've more or less vowed to never read a book by Lewis again, as I consider him to be cynical and intellectually dishonest. Noe that's obviously a controversial claim; and I'm not going to argue for that, as doing so would require me to reread "The Screwtape Letters", which is the most unpleasant book I've ever read. I'm not going to subject myself to that ordeal, but will of course accept that this makes my case against Lewis purely subjective.

Okay, I'll say one thing about it because it's not from "The Screwtape Letters" but, I think, from "Mere Christianity". Lewis tries to convince people that Jesus is God by giving his "Liar, Lunatic, Lord" argument. But I just CANNOT believe that Lewis, who was a historian, who knew about higher Biblical criticism, who must have known about theories like that of Renan, Schweitzer and so on, that Lewis really believes that his "trilemma" gives us exhaustive options. His argument is crap, and Lewis has the knowledge and intelligence to know it. And therefore I must conclude that he is a cynical manipulator of those who have less learning than he has.

Well, that might be true or not. :) But it ought to explain why I'm not going to run to the bookstore to read "The Great Divorce".
strivenword, June 14, 2013 - Reply
That is interesting, because Lewis has also been condemned for his lack of theology and for using the Bible too loosely. He did quote from the Bible, but I don't think he ever based his arguments on it. I don't think he cared all that much for the text itself. I'm guessing that he was equally disinterested with a systematic theology as with textual criticism. I think he did both believe and respect the Bible, but only because he was a Christian, not vice versa.

Lewis was a master of literature, a lover of mythology. He and Tolkien spoke of Christianity as "True Myth" -- a mythology contained implicitly in all the other mythologies, one that actually happened in real history. I suppose he probably wasn't a very dedicated philosopher; he inevitably had to venture into something like philosophy, but I don't think that was ever his main concern.
antsandaphids, June 13, 2013 - Reply
Hello! I am the author of Deathbox. Great review, and I'd say pretty accurate. I realized that the title may have little to no audience and this is in fact one of the reasons that it is so short.

The lack of choice is part of the design, but it also does make it a shallow experience.

Thank you for the kind comments, too.
Victor Gijsbers, June 13, 2013 - Reply
I'll second Jim: it would be great if you were to make a bigger and more ambitious game. :)
Jim Kaplan, June 13, 2013 - Reply
I agree with your comments. I'd add that the rather sardonic tone of the writing will make it even less accessible to those whom the author probably considers most in need of the game's message. Mockery is less effective a criticism of a system of soteriology than a sincere and human demonstration of how it fosters an unhealthy worldview. A more effective game would give the player a deeper emotional investment in a non-Christian PC to emphasize the unfairness of her fate.

There's also not much discussion of Scripture. After all, there's no single literalist interpretation of the Bible.
antsandaphids, June 13, 2013 - Reply
Thanks very much for trying it out. I tried to take a bit of a different point of view on it with each of the character branches. The branch for the child who dies is exceptionally bitter, I'll admit, but I did my best to take your advice with the branch concerning the European female character. I've taken out a couple (not much, but a couple particularly sardonic) phrasings in response to your thoughts as my intent wasn't really just to mock people.
Jim Kaplan, June 13, 2013 - Reply
Thanks for the reply. If you're planning on a release of a revised version I'd be happy to check it out.

I think really my core problem is that you're onto a good subject here, but it's worthy of something a lot longer and more in-depth. My recommendation is really that you craft a game around a single non-Christian PC and follow the PC's life through issues of faith. If you were to add a fantasy element to the story, you could even have characters from the afterlife interacting with the PC in some respect. Victor Gijsbers's own The Baron is actually a fairly good model of the kind of thing I have in mind when saying that.

I appreciate that that's the sort of recommendation which is tantamount to "Scrap this and start over" or "change this beyond recognition". It's just what I would do in your place. But obviously it's your choice what you do with your game.
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