April 29
Video Games, God and Redemption

I’ve been a video game designer for fourteen years, and have had the privilege of spending over eight of those years at Retro Studios making games for Nintendo. I may be biased, but you’d have a hard time convincing me that there is a game studio in North America with more capability and talent than Retro. Designing levels for Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze has been the pinnacle of my career so far. I was honored to work next to those for whom I had, and will always have such great respect.

Even so, there were difficult days. Some of the hardest for me involved questioning how much I was accomplishing in the grand scheme of things by crafting experiences that merely entertained. I became increasingly aware that I had an even greater privilege outside my job. I had begun volunteering at my church where God was using me to speak hope into the lives of those who were struggling through incredibly difficult times. By sharing my own experiences, I was able to point them to the truth that God is able to bring beauty from ashes. He can write a plot twist like no other.

I caught a glimpse of God’s masterful artistry years ago when He redeemed my life from the train wreck I’d made of it. My attention was captured by the beauty and glory of His redemptive power. As a result, I began chasing hard after God in order to help others experience the same redemption I had. It became more and more difficult to go from the thrill of seeing God touch others through my personal testimony back to the comparatively mundane development of video games. To what end? For what purpose?

I probably should not have been surprised when I ran into TruPlay. It was the kind of divine collision that had God’s fingerprints all over it. I’d flirted with the thought of trying to combine two of my greatest interests into one career, but had not encountered a commitment to excellence that mirrored my own. The more I inquired about TruPlay’s game designer opening and interviewed with their leadership, the more it seemed to me that the culture and job description was something like: "Paul. Be the 100% authentic you. Do exactly what interests you."

What interests me as a game designer is not just putting a Christian veneer on top of a solid game (though that would be an accomplishment in and of itself), but weaving God’s truth into the very fabric of the game’s mechanics. In fact, “interest” doesn’t fully capture the sentiment. I’m fascinated by this design challenge. How can I help others take a step closer to experiencing the beauty of God’s redemption through a video game? How do I get all the elements of the game – from story, to art, to the gameplay itself – working together to create something with deep meaning and purpose? Am I up to this challenge? Can I do my part in helping a skilled and experienced team pull off this shared vision? God knows.

What I know is that I am having the time of my life trying!