In the old days of video games, arcade games (the classic stand-ups, in cabinets that required the player to actually stand up while playing!) weren’t very forgiving. Running out of lives meant dropping more quarters (or tokens) into the machine to keep going. There were no save spots; no picking up where you had left off the day before (unless you had been playing all night – or were like that guy who earned so many extra lives playing a marathon game of Joust that he could take naps). Earning enough points would add another “life” to your account, but even those seemed to go quickly in the harder games.
With the advent of home consoles (the NES, and other early systems), some of the games were just ports of what could be found in a cabinet. With or without the legendary cheat code in the game Contra, losing one’s accumulated lives meant starting over (or, as I recall, stealing them from your buddy in multi-player mode).
Over time, though, games became bigger and were expected to take longer. In order to keep gamers playing, console and PC games added save slots, checkpoints, and the ability to continue indefinitely. In some games, one could quicksave and reload before a key battle, a single roll, or a challenging low-probability event. Those with enough patience could repeat this load/try/reload process until the enemy was defeated, a critical blow was landed, or the lock was picked successfully. Today, there are even games that allow for as many save points as one has disk space for.
More recently, a new trend has surfaced. More and more games offer a “hardcore” or “permadeath” mode. A few offer only this option, with no alternatives (and typically advertise this as a selling point). Meant for those who are nostalgic for the classic days of gaming, or for those who like the thrill of making every encounter count, these games require the player to pay attention, to choose one’s battles, and to evaluate the impact of key decisions.
In real life, though, let’s be honest: We get one life (not 3 or 5). There is no score we can reach to earn bonus lives. Even the Contra code won’t give us extra opportunities to re-live our past. Miss a quest? It may not be offered again. Break your favorite gear? You’ll need to earn new pieces the hard way. Offend an NPC? It will take work to build your standing back up. Lose to a boss? Expect to be looking for work elsewhere.
There is one key decision, though, which affects the ending – the final cut scene:
“But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats;
Matthew 25:31-32 NASB
Unless we’re intending to get a perfect score (and none of us do), the most important decision we make is whether or not to ally ourselves with Jesus. When we’ve fallen short of the final achievement – being perfect enough to live in the presence of the holy God – only Jesus’ payment (sacrificing Himself, and giving up His own rights) can make up the difference.
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.
John 3:16 NASB
In return, Jesus expects that we follow Him. This may limit the clans we join, the missions we run, and the words we use in the chat box. However, with one chance at life, you do not want to get the lame ending, especially after spending years “leveling up”.
Once you’ve successfully completed the “quest” (accepting Jesus’ offer and choosing to follow Him), though, it’s time to rack up the points. After you know that the final boss (Death) has been defeated, you can run up the score on the opposition. Fight against evil. Forge ahead into territory where others need to be rescued. Share your scouting report with allies, and win over those who oppose you to your clan. Fight the good fight.
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.
2 Timothy 4:7-8 NASB
Someday, when the credits roll, may we each be able to celebrate a Twitch-worthy run!