Friday, June 29, 2012

Super-size Board Game Special! (SBU Podcast)

Friday, June 29, 2012 2:59 PM

A special Board Game episode, including an update on the development of The Spirit Blade card game, an interview with Tom Vasel of, some great free tabletop gaming options and a look at the question, "Is Gaming Evil?"

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Spirit Blade Card Game Update

The first round of playtesting for the Spirit Blade adventure card game finished last week, and I want to thank everyone who participated in that, especially since it was probably a pretty rough experience for you.

For those who don't know what I'm talking about, I'm currently developing a non-collectable, self-contained card game based on the characters and world of our Spirit Blade audio drama trilogy. The setting is mostly sci-fi, but with some strong supernatural elements, as the players work together and fight cyborgs, soldiers and demons, while avoiding automated security systems and trying to recover stolen data files.

The card images above give an idea of the game art, even though the layout and info on the cards will be changing as I move forward.

The feedback I got from the first round of playtesting was very helpful. There is a lot to fix in the game, but thankfully, it almost exclusively involves making the game less complicated, which I'm finding easier than I think I would if I needed to add complexity to it.

Even before playtesting ended I began experimenting with some changes and I've really been enjoying the results. The entire experience is being streamlined, and I suspect the rules will be at least 75% shorter, resulting in a game that you can begin playing very quickly without near as much reading beforehand.

Despite this, I've also implemented some changes that increase the tactical options available to each player, and the difference between characters are more clearly defined by their special abilities.

I think the best suggestion I got was to take the various elements of the game that the good guys encounter and put them all in an encounter deck that players draw through as they progress, eliminating the need for an opposing "game master" type of player.

With the game master role removed, I took inspiration from games like Thunderstone that use a victory point system to determine a winner and added something similar to the game. So while players will be working together, they will also individually collect victory points from enemies they defeat and resources they keep until the end of the mission rather than using them. I suspect the end result will have some things in common with a game like Cutthroat Caverns, though far less competitive. And of course with a very different theme.

Once I get the semi-cooperarive rules of the game ironed out, I'm going to also look for alternate co-op rules where the players combine victory points to achieve their goal and have to fight much more intensely for survival than in the normal game.

I'm TERRIBLE with projecting dates and things, and I'm also working on this game mostly outside of my normal work hours so that it doesn't slow progress on the production of Spirit Blade 3 or anything else, which makes seeing the future even more difficult. But my hope right now would be to have another round of playtesting in two or three months and then see what things look like after that.

Stay tuned!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (Movie Review)

(Oops! Forgot to post this last Friday before the podcast!) -Paeter

Last Christmas I saw a movie poster that I thought must be a joke. "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter", with Tim Burton attached as a producer. I'm a big Tim Burton fan, and I dig vampire flicks, but the title screamed of B-movie badness.

Still, I thought the same of "Cowboys And Aliens" but ended up really enjoying that movie. And like "Cowboys And Aliens", it looked like director Timur Bekmambetov (director of "Night Watch", "Day Watch" and "Wanted") was aiming for a serious vampire flick rather than a comedy. I'd heard the same was true of the book the movie was based on. So I entered the theater not knowing quite what to expect, but still hoping for a good experience.

Understandably, the story is centered on Abraham Lincoln, who (in this story) lost his mother at a young age because of a vampire. When he grows older, he vows to kill her murderer and meets a mysterious man who trains him to hunt vampires. He learns along the way that vampires are using American slavery as a tool to provide themselves with an unending supply of victims. So along with hunting vampires by night, Abe also enters the realm of politics to end slavery, both to deprive the vampires of easy victims and y'know... because slavery is wrong.

There are a lot of things about this movie that make it worth watching. The performances are all very nice and engaging. And small pockets of human drama added to the vampire slaying serve to emotionally ground the film and give us a reason to care about people that the vampires might kill (some of whom they do). There were more than a couple scenes that made my eyes well with tears, both happy and sad ones. But I suspect this was because of the thoughts of my wife and boys that I brought with me to the experience, rather than because the performances and script were truly exceptional.

The genre mash-up works very well. After the Underworld movies took vampire hunting into a world of cutting edge weaponry, it's fun and gripping at times to see people trying to fight vampires with the earliest fire-arms, which are good for about one shot many times, requiring significant fumbling to reload for another shot. And with a modern visual combat style, Abe's silver-lined axe spins around in a dance of death that's a blast to watch.

I don't ever remember being scared, although there were times that I felt tense. The movie sits much more in the realm of action vampire flick, rather than a vampire horror movie. Lot's of cool slow-motion action and green-screen. The fake backgrounds were pretty easily identified, but after a bit they didn't bother me and I just enjoyed the experience for what it was. (Although there was one scene involving a ton of stampeding horses that looked painfully fake at times.)

Despite being fun to watch, my chief complaint is a massive hole in the script. When Abe begins his training, he suddenly becomes capable of supernatural physical feats, like chopping a tree down with one swing, killing with a weapon in his teeth while hanging upside-down, or pulling off wire-fu combat moves that would make Neo proud. There is never any explanation offered for these sudden abilities Abe possesses. And without clearly established rules regarding the limits of his powers, I never once feared for his safety. As the movie progresses, Abe's friends join the fight and gave me cause to be concerned for their safety, but Abe was never in danger in my mind, and this robbed the movie of a tremendous amount of tension.

Near the beginning, as Abe is first being trained, it seemed as though the movie wanted to explore some ideas that time just didn't allow for. The vampire lore of the movie has clear roots in Christianity, or at least in Judaism. God is referenced several times by vampires as a being who truly exists. It is implied that somehow "truth" is what gives Abraham his power, although no further details are offered.

There is also indication that vampires cannot be seen in mirrors because, as a part of their curse, God has taken away their ability to bear his image. Granted, I don't believe our physical appearance is what the Bible specifically means by "the image of God", but it was still an interesting idea. However, before the thought could be completed by the character giving exposition, a bit of action distracted the characters and ended the conversation almost mid-sentence. So I may never be completely sure if this idea was what the script intended to present.

Fans of vampire flicks should put this on their list of movies to watch, though I don't think it's urgent to see it in the theater. The cool action visuals and nice performances, grounded in some real human stories, make for a well rounded experience. Though the lack of concern for Abe's safety keeps the experience more casual than it should be. There are spiritual matters to bring up or think about if you really want to, but they'll probably be easily forgotten or missed by most.

Rated R for violence throughout and brief sexuality.

Quality: 8.5/10
Relevance: 7.0/10

Scoring System Information

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Free Tabletop Games!

Most of what we tend to highlight for The Summer Of Free focuses on entertainment experienced online or on your computer. But this week I want to showcase some free, geeky entertainment options that, although starting on your computer, will quickly find their way to your tabletop.

Board Game Geek

This is easily the biggest, most exhaustive website about boardgames on the web. And while there are certainly a number of free "print and play" options on the site, paper and ink cost money. The TRULY free entertainment found on this site is in the numerous variants for games you already own.

Go ahead, take a quick look at your game closet. If you're a tabletop geek of even the slightest degree, you've probably still got some games that you used to enjoy playing, even if they've been collecting dust for awhile. Now go to, enter the name of your game in the search field, and when you find it in the database, scroll down on its page until you see the "Forums" section, or scroll down further to the "Files" section. With just a little bit of browsing you're almost guaranteed to find a rules variant that will add spice to your game, or flip it upside down into a whole new experience!

Here are just a couple variants for one of the most popular geek games that totally breathed new life into my experience:

1. Magic: The Gathering, Cube Variant (Allows you to create a balanced, self-contained version of Magic that makes great use of all those old cards you have, while ditching the never-ending, costly "collectible" aspect of the game.)

2. Magic: The Gathering, Horde Variant (Allows you to play the game solo or in co-op with other players against an automated opponent deck! I modify these rules and instead of using any tokens I just use regular creatures, but otherwise use the rules described here to determine the behavior of the automated deck. I've really enjoyed combining this with the Cube variant!)

I've also tried out and enjoyed numerous variants/additions for my other favorite games like Thunderstone, Doom and HeroQuest (for which there seems to be an endless supply of material).

But how about the worst-case scenario? You like geeky things, but you've never actually purchased a proper "geek" tabletop game. Your closet is full of a bunch of "family" games. ("Family" being code for "the same old boring crappy games that everyone grew up with and liked for a few years before entering the 5th grade and forgetting they exist.") Is your situation hopeless? Far from it! Here are just a few cool, geek-friendly variants I found for games that are probably already in your closet!

1. Battleship: Search And Destroy (Either print and play the game sheets provided or just use these rules with your orginal Battleship game!)

2. Clue: Zombie Mansion (Requires printing just a few pages)

There are even some great Candyland variants including 2-Player Ninja and Saving Candyland, although I'm partial to the Nuclear War variant.

And if all you've got is a deck of traditional playing cards, (for which only the most boring, arbitrary, and pointless games in the world have been created, in my opinion) there's hope for you too at! They have a page dedicated to combat games, many of which actually pay attention to the images on the cards and construct a logical fantasy theme!

Currently, the most interesting game to me on the site is Card RPG, which uses normal playing cards to simulate the monster-killing, treasure-looting fun of an RPG!

So even if none of these examples float your boat, you can still put off blowing your cash for a little while longer. Just scan your way through these pages for a bit and enjoy the crazy ideas others have come up with. You may just find a gem to enjoy over the weekend!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

My Name Is Bruce (Movie Review)

Review By Ken From Honolulu


In "My Name Is Bruce", B-movie legend Bruce Campbell is mistaken for his character "Ash" from the Evil Dead trilogy, and forced to fight a real monster in a small town in Oregon.

He is abducted to help a small town fight a Chinese demon that protects a cemetery and kills people generally by chopping their heads off. (So if blood and gore really bother you, this is not the film for you.) Bruce thinks this is a joke and the people are actors. He starts being nicer and eventually helps them defeat the demon.

This was an independent film made by Bruce Campbell and a bunch of his friends. The acting is very good. The filming is very good with a clear bright picture. There is really no CG in the movie, it's almost all practical effects. 

For the first half of the film Bruce Campbell is a real jerk. He's a B-movie film star and thinks that because he is a star he should be treated like a god. Right after he finishes filming one scene he says to an assistant in a nasty voice, "Where's my lemon water?" The guy says, "We don't have any." Bruce says, "It's in my contract, you better get me some lemon water!" So the guy walks away, grabs a water bottle, pees in it, and then gives it back to Bruce. And that's the kind of "high-brow" stuff that's in the film.

The problem I had with the film is the profanity.  If you can get past it, it's not a bad film.

If you're a Bruce Campbell fan, this is a good film for you.

Rated R for language and some violence

Quality: 7.7/10

Relevance: 5/10 (My wife and I talked about how much of a jerk he was and how he came around.  Also we talked about the idea of a demon protecting anything.)

Listen to Ken's full review!

Monday, June 25, 2012

In Search Of Truth, "Is Gaming Evil?"

Adapted from the article "Questionable Content" at

Many Christians have grown up with the understanding that games with certain themes should be off limits and are sinful by their very nature. Role-playing games like Dungeons and Dragons. Tabletop games with violent or dark supernatural themes. The Bible seems to be nearly silent on the topic of entertainment. Is there anything in scripture we can use to help us navigate this issue and avoid problems while not hindering the freedom God intends us to have?

There's actually more than you might think! And God wants us to take this kind of time to discern the difference between what is harmful and what is not, rather than just assuming based on tradition or cultural influence.

1 Thessalonians 5:21-22 “but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil.”

The Greek word for “form” here means “appearance, fashion, shape or sight.” Paul is not saying to avoid anything that LOOKS like evil. He’s saying to determine what is good and what is not, and then abstain from evil, no matter what it looks like or how it shows up.

So attempting to use the Bible as our content filter, let's take a look at some apsects of gaming entertainment that are considered "questionable".


As tabletop games are increasingly designed for the adult and adolescent boy market, the sexual content becomes more evident. It's fairly common in games with a fantasy theme to see art depicting women (or female creatures that strongly resemble women) in a semi-provocative way. Some depictions of men and women are physically idealized portrayals of the human body, such as in many comic books, and others are clearly intended to have a sexual context.

Not many table top games have actual nudity. Even so, it isn't nudity that the Bible teaches against. (The human body is a wonderful thing!) Rather, it's lust that the Bible teaches against.

Matthew 5:28 “But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

Whether looking at an attractive human body, or an artistic representation of a human body, we are susceptible to lust, and as believers should avoid our "lust triggers".

It’s common in visual fiction for attractive people to have clothing (or lack of clothing) that draws attention to their physical attractiveness. People will have various degrees of sensitivity to temptation in these kinds of things. Individuals should not assume that others have the same degree of susceptibility to temptation in this area. This is a realm that many will have to judge for themselves, as lust is often an internal, mental temptation. But let's also use caution here and not allow ourselves to use "it's a personal judgment call" as a smoke screen for unexamined living.


God is the ultimate storyteller. Throughout the Bible, we see metaphor, poetry and graphic symbolism. It's natural that we would see some evil, distasteful things in the historical accounts of the Bible. But even in the parables, poetry and artistically symbolic words of the Bible, we see graphic and unsettling images.

Ironically, mainstream Christian culture has abandoned these elements of storytelling, opting for a "family friendly" philosophy that takes higher priority than dynamic communication of truth. We've decided that realistic or intense depictions of violence or evil behavior in a fictional context are almost always inappropriate. But in God's "fictional" writing, he often used elements that we would find offensive by these standards.

“Wait a minute. God didn't write any fiction! Are you saying the Bible is fictional?”

The Bible is not a work of fiction. Although it does contain fictional stories and artistic, metaphorical language. For example, Jesus often told stories called "parables". These were not stories about historical people that Jesus knew. These were fictional characters that Jesus created and put in a story in order to communicate truth. And some of his stories were pretty intense!

God also used one of his prophets as an "actor" in a sort of "street performance art". (One might almost call it "LARPing"!) God had him do some strange and disgusting things in his performance to make a point about something in real life.

We usually wouldn't approve of this kind of storytelling in modern Christian circles and you likely wouldn't see it being sold in Christian Bookstores.

Imagine a man comes to your church. He stands out in the parking lot. Or maybe he goes to the parking lot of a Christian bookstore. In any case, he goes to where Christians will see what he's doing. (Ezekiel 4:3) He takes a few common items and starts building a little model of a city. He's tied up with ropes and lying on his side in front of the model.

This guy also takes time now and then, in front of the model of the city, to bake himself some bread. And he bakes it over human poop. At least, that was the original plan. It got toned down a little. Not to avoid offending God or spectators. The human poop was actually God's idea. But God decides to go easy on this "performer" and let him use animal dung, since cooking over his own poop was a little too "intense" for him. (Ezekiel 4:1-17)

Jesus told a story that ends, not on a happy, positive note, but with a guy being handed over to torturers until he could come up with the money he owed. (Matthew 18:34) And this wasn’t the only violent story Jesus told with a dark edge. (Matthew 21:35, 38-39, Matthew 22:6-7)


Some might use Philippians 4:8 as an argument against enjoying any entertainment that isn’t constantly smiles and rainbows. It says:

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

First of all, even in dark, disturbing games, there is much of artistic excellence. And artistic excellence is worth praising! We shouldn’t assume that because something is dark and disturbing, or even promotes ideas counter to scripture, that there are none of the above elements present to enjoy. Even the apostle Paul validated the positive and truthful points of poetry from non-Christian sources. (Acts 17:28) He would have to have read a lot of untruthful parts by the same poets to find the nugget that he did, so we can't assume we should always avoid entertainment that sometimes promotes bad ideas.

Notice, in Philippians 4:8, the repeated use of the word "whatever" and the words "any" and "anything". God is the originator of ALL creative excellence and EVERY creative talent of EVERY person in existence was brought about by God. We shouldn't compartmentalize our appreciation of creativity to only Christian artistic endeavors, as though gaming experiences like "World Of Warcraft" owe nothing to God. "WHATEVER is commendable" we can and should think about and then recognize God as the source! (James 1:17)

For me personally, fantasy "PnP" RPGs or board games are exciting partially because they allow me to explore a completely different reality without any of the real danger and pain I would face if I were in those worlds for real. (The world of Terrinoth is captivating to explore and try to survive in, but I wouldn't want to REALLY live there!) Comic books and superheroes are exciting to me because they help to temporarily satisfy my hunger for justice in the world, and for the wrong things to be set right. Or they let me imagine for a moment what it would be like to never fear pain or harm. All of these elements of satisfaction I feel from enjoying these forms of entertainment are actually a shadow, a foretaste of what God will bring about and what those who place their trust in him will enjoy for eternity! These are all ideas that God has implanted in the human psyche and that point us back to a desire for him!

Secondly, the command in Philippians 4:8 instructs us on what we SHOULD think about. Not what we shouldn't. The meaning of this verse can’t possibly be that we should never think about anything that is evil, or terrifying. Otherwise God wouldn't have spent so much time talking to us about evil in his word and Jesus wouldn't have discussed hell so frequently with such vivid, terrifying imagery. (Matthew 5:29-30, Matthew 10:28, Mark 9:43)

We can’t assume that games should always be light and positive and leave us with good feelings, without ever exposing and reflecting on the reality and nature of evil. Jesus sure didn’t feel that way about the fictional stories he told.

Someone might argue that the imagery conjured by the words of the Bible is never as intense as some of the images or ideas contained in games, and I would agree. My argument here is not an effort to validate every depiction of violence or gore in every game. My argument is an effort to prevent them from being unquestionably considered harmful. I don't know of an internally consistent view of scripture that will allow us to assume that.

Often in games, a victory is felt so much more deeply when the evil is greatest. Salvation and justice shine much brighter when the brutal horror and injustice before it is severe. Dramatic depictions of evil can even stimulate in us a desire for the world to be saved from evil. Not only can we freely enjoy “unsterilized” games, but in many cases it can be a means of OBEYING Philippians 4:8.


Still, gaming is a mixed bag with both good and bad elements. Some games, due either to theme or a strongly competitive framework, can result in temptation or emotional trauma for one person, while having no negative effect on another. Some games dealing with the supernatural or promoting false worldviews can unknowingly guide the thinking of one person, while another enjoying the same game doesn't have their worldview influenced at all. What should we do, then? Avoid all forms of gaming that affect anyone negatively, anywhere, "just to be safe"?

I think 1 Corinthians chapter 8 and Romans chapter 14 are two very important chapters for us as we navigate these areas of life that scripture does not specifically comment on, such as gaming. These passages are not specifically about games(if you find any that are, please let me know), but I believe the same principles can be applied.

“Idol meat”, as discussed in 1 Corinthians 8, and games with dark, violent or otherwise severe elements have something in common: They are both centered on ideas that are not real, but can do harm if someone embraces them as truth. The idol meat promotes belief in false gods, and some games present an imagined reality we're asked to "suspend disbelief" to enjoy.

Idol meat, is actually the more severe issue in question since for many, it was involved in the worship of actual false gods, possibly real demons! Games only ask us to temporarily suspend disbelief for the experience being presented, and never assume that we will actually believe that the events portrayed are real. So whatever the Bible has to say about eating meat sacrificed to idols, we can applying to gaming in principle and still be erring on the side of caution.

At the time Paul wrote 1st Corinthians, Corinth was a city filled with idol worship. Animals were sacrificed to pagan gods and the leftover meat was often sold in the general marketplace. Jews and the young Christians of Corinth fell into two camps on what to do. One side said that eating the meat was of no harm to anyone, since the gods it was sacrificed to are not real. The other side said that eating the meat was in some way participating in pagan worship. Paul agreed with the thinking of the first group, but not their application of it.

In 1 Corinthians 8:4-6, Paul makes it clear that these pagan gods receiving sacrifices are not real. At best they're fallen angels, (1 Cor. 10:20) but they have no power compared to the one and only God. For this reason, those eating "idol meat" weren't taking part in any kind of worship just by eating the meat. It’s what was happening in their hearts, not their stomachs, that was the real issue.

In verse 7, Paul says that those who think of the idols as real gods, defile themselves when they eat the meat. This idea is supported by Romans 14:14, where Paul says "I know and am convinced in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself; but to him who thinks anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean."

In other words, if I think an action I’m about to take is wrong, even though it isn’t, but I do it anyway, I may have not technically sinned by that specific action, but I DID show a willingness to do something against the will of God, which IS sin. That action became something that made me “unclean” by doing it.

In areas of life where the Bible has no specific teaching or principle, our default should be freedom. In fact, Paul identifies freedom in these areas to be an indication of personal strength. Added rules in these areas are an indication of weakness.

Romans 14:2 “One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables.”

In these areas on which the Bible is silent, like gaming, we need to avoid passing judgment on each other. This is the focus for much of Romans chapter 14. If someone is able to enjoy games that you believe will cause them to sin, consider for a moment that maybe what you need to admit is that they may cause YOU to sin, but not everyone else. There is a huge, silent element of pride we have to face in ourselves when navigating issues like this. It may be unthinkable for us to admit that we are not strong enough to enjoy some forms of entertainment without it negatively affecting us, while others have no trouble at all.

For example, I'm weak when it comes to watching sad, realistic dramas. I have vowed to never watch “The Notebook” again. (And not for the reasons you might think.) The Alzheimer’s plot thread was extremely sad and depressing to me, and I noticed that for a long time after the movie was over, I had a dread inside me over the thought that me or my wife might suffer a similar fate. I began worrying over the future, something that Jesus taught against. I was susceptible to being manipulated in a negative way by this completely fictional story. So I do what I can to either avoid stories like that or trust in God rather than fixate on those kinds of thoughts.

I’m probably missing some good movies because of my weakness. So I hope to overcome it more as time passes. But that’s where it is for now.

Rather than passing judgment on those who like those kinds of movies and saying “we shouldn’t spend time thinking about the terrible things that might happen to us in life”, I want to try and say something more like “Oh, no thanks. In my experience those kind of movies aren’t good for me.”


Now let’s look at the other side of the issue. Say you’re a person enjoying “unsterilized” gaming that causes problems for others, but it doesn't cause problems for you. Kind of like some of the Christians in Corinth who were just fine with eating “idol meat”, while others thought it was harmful or wrong.
Paul says in 1 Corinthians 8 that if someone who is weak (who thinks idols are real gods) sees a Christian eating idol meat and concludes that idol worship and following Christ are compatible, or “not a big deal”, they'll be in a serious mess. They'll either join in and begin to believe things that will take them away from the truth and into any number of harmful lies, or they will silently fume and judge their fellow Christian. So Paul allows for eating "idol meat", but cautions those who understand the truth to not let the freedom their knowledge gives them become a point of confusion, misdirection, or temptation for someone else. (The temptation being to either disregard God or to judge others.)

So we’d be wise to avoid socially obligating others (who are susceptible) to participate in our “unsterilized” games and instead play something else in the meantime, while making a long term relational investment in them that will strengthen their knowledge and faith. Eventually, they may be able to enjoy "unsterilized" games as well!


Paul says that "if food causes my brother to stumble, I will never eat meat again, that I might not cause my brother to stumble." (1 Cor. 8:13) This is something to weigh carefully, but not apply rashly. Paul is not making a command here. And by comparing his words to Romans chapter 14, we see that Paul commands Christians to communicate with each other about what they believe is evil and what they believe is not.

Romans 14:15-16 "For if because of food your brother is hurt, you are no longer walking according to love. Do not destroy with your food him for whom Christ died. Therefore do not let what is for you a good thing be spoken of as evil."

That’s right folks. We have to actually learn how to talk about what we believe, in a humble, even-tempered manner.

In other words, if a Christian friend sees you enjoying “unsterilized” gaming and says "isn't that evil?", but you believe it’s not, don't just shrug and draw your next card. This could lead to your friend misunderstanding the truth! They might think that good and evil aren't really important to the Christian life! Or they might internally fume and pass judgment on you. Either will result in sin in their life, and if we love each other as we should, that should concern us.

In reality, what they need to know is why you believe eating your “idol meat” is not evil. Why, in fact, it is a perfectly good thing! (For example, protein is good for the diet and meat is delicious!)


So, is there a “bottom line” or a “filter” we can pass things through that scripture doesn’t specifically comment on, to help us determine if they're good for us or not? Well, it’s not quite that simple, but it would be good for us to look again at Luke 6:45.

“The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.”

This may be the most important verse we've looked at so far. What kind of things are we “treasuring”? As we follow Christ, and aim to lead lives with the purpose he intends, we have to be willing to examine ourselves and even let others tell us when we're off target. If our lives begin to produce habits that are counter to God’s will, we need to stop and consider what influences we are “treasuring” in our lives that may be feeding into those habits.

We should frequently monitor our thoughts during and after a game. If I notice that I start to view my wife as a tool for my gratification, I should start looking for areas of my life that might be feeding that lustful mentality, including gaming. If I start to be curious about magic, and whether or not there may be supernatural forces in the real world that I could learn to manipulate in some way, I should again look for things in my life that fuel those thoughts, and avoid them.

Creativity is a characteristic of God that he allows us to imitate and enjoy. But some forms of creativity, if we are susceptible and allow them to, can stimulate anger, lust, selfishness, or wrong thinking. What we produce in our day-to-day lives serves as an indicator of whether or not our “treasure” is influencing us negatively.

Chances are, the greatest danger gaming has is taking time from more important things. Recreation is great! But family and pursuit of a relationship with God and understanding of scripture are much greater. Sometimes you can combine gaming with those things. Many times each requires its own dedicated time. I don't think we need to make legalistic comparisons between gaming time and time with family and in biblical studies, but taking stock now and then is still a good idea. And it should be obvious to ourselves and those around us that we "treasure" relationship with God, understanding of scripture, family and friends more than gaming. (Whew! Challenging words for me to write and apply to myself!)

Monitoring and discerning the symptoms of our "treasure" is another reason why the Christian life is not meant to be lived in a vacuum or as social hermits. Flawed though it may be, the local church is what God uses to help us grow into the people he wants us to be. And though not a replacement, other communities of Christians can be helpful as well. (Shameless plug in 3…2…1) So consider this an invitation to come and lurk or strike up conversation in our online forums at We’re having a blast geeking out, and being creative. There’s also opportunity there to connect with me and others like you about the really important issues of life and faith.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (SBU Podcast)

Friday, June 22, 2012 8:08 PM

Reviews of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter and My Name Is Bruce! PLUS, Paeter rants about book covers.

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Thursday, June 21, 2012

Spirit Blade Special Edition Commentary, Part 2!

Part 2 of my commentary for "Spirit Blade: Special Edition" is available now!

In this segment, find out which updated scene is possibly my favorite in all of Spirit Blade! And get the details on how one of my LEAST favorite songs from Spirit Blade became one of the songs I now MOST enjoy listening to from the project!

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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Summer Of Free, Retro Gaming!

Philippians 4:11(ESV)- Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.

Hebrews 3:5(ESV)- Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you." 

The Summer Of Free is all about taking advantage of cool, free, geek entertainment options in order to be more responsible with the finances God has placed us in charge of.

As a geek, I often have to fight off the desire to buy up everything related to my current nerdly obsession. (Thundertone expansions come to mind...) I feel incomplete or somehow "behind" as I wait to purchase Mass Effect 3, which has been out for months now and is the culmination of a video game series I LOVE! But despite my hunger, I just don't have the money right now to satisfy those specific cravings. That's where The Summer Of Free comes in.

Usually, we're showcasing freebies you can find online, but today I'm going to try something a little different and focus on the stuff you already have. Specifically, this time, your video games.

"But I've played all of my games already! I need something new and shiny to hold my interest!" The truth is, with a slightly adjusted approach or perspective, your old video games can become new and exciting all over again!
Did you hang on to some of those favorite video games of long ago because you might want to play them again someday? That day is today! Proclaim this week "Retro Gaming Week", or this month, "Retro Gaming Month"! Make it official by having some friends or family over for a special night of potluck food and retro games! (Your dad or brother might think he's the master of Circus Atari and Burgertime, but he's about to be educated!)

Did you develop your callouses on an NES or Atari? ("Condor 64"? Is that an old Nintendo game, Grandpa?) Did you slay your first dragon on an SNES or Playstation? Maybe you're in high school or college and your idea of a classic is the first Lego Star Wars on PS2! (You young whipper-snapper!) Whatever you cut your teeth on that's just collecting dust in your closet somewhere can be pulled out and enjoyed all over again. And here are some tips on how:

1. Commercials And Reviews

Nearly every commercial ever made is sitting on youtube somewhere. Throw on your game's name followed by "commercial" and see what comes up.

Advertisements are designed to make us excited about a product so we'll spend money to get it. And revisiting ads for those old games of yours may help remind you of what you love most about them. (Or just make you laugh that people ever dressed that way on purpose.)

The same is true for reviews. Just type in your game's title followed by "review"! There are likely other gamers out there that love your game as much as you do, and they'll be happy to remind you why while showcasing great game footage!

2. Achievements

Ever look at some of the strange achievements available to complete in modern video games? "Eat 20 sausages. Kill 40 zombies with only a skateboard." Even if you're not interested in the bragging rights, tackling an old game with a new goal can breathe some fresh air into the experience.

For those classic games without built-in achievements, visit a site like (featured in the fantastic documentary, "The King Of Kong") and see if you can pull off even 1/10th of the highest achievement listed for your game. (Some games have no achievements submitted yet. You could become the reigning champ!)

And of course you can always come up with your own achievements for fun. Or maybe, for the first time, pay attention to those numbers in the upper right corner that keep increasing as you play. (In the olden days they used to call that your "score". At the end of a level, a higher number is better.) See if you can beat your own high score three times in a sitting, a day, or in one week of gaming. Plan a little reward for yourself if you succeed!

3. Cheats/Mods

Okay, you've mastered your game and no challenges remain because you are just that amazing. Or maybe you want to play your game again for the memories, but don't want to relive the frustration. Then why not have a little fun with cheats? You've already played your game to death and you've got nothing left to prove. Let go of that gamer pride that says you will NEVER USE CHEAT CODES and just have some fun.

Cheats can radically alter a gaming experience. Most often, they make the game easier. But almost as often you can find cheats that make the game harder, or just plain weird! If you've got a cheat device for a classic system, you're as good as gold. Just do a quick internet search referring to your game title and cheat device. You'll find that there are wonderful nerds all over out there that have still been developing cheat codes for these devices, long after they've gone out of production. I've played a version of the first Super Mario Bros. with my game genie where you can "fly" (swim) on every level and every enemy either shoots fire like Bowzer or throws a waterfall of hammers! Good thing everything I touch turns me into Fire Mario!

Even without a cheat device, it's pretty easy to find cheats for both old and new games. A site like is especially helpful for this.

And if you're a PC gamer who has never explored the world of modding, you're missing out. Do a quick search using your game's title and "mods" and you can often find some great user creations, many of which greatly improve upon the original game! Some will be harder to implement than others, but I'm TERRIBLE with computers and I've gotten a number of them to work with just a little time and effort. (TOTALLY worth it!)

Now I'm not wearing rose-colored lenses. At the end of the day, your old-games, even with a makeover, may not feel as shiny as that new 360 title you've got your eye on. And the intention behind The Summer Of Free doesn't have that expectation. But you may still find that breathing new life into your favorite games of yesterday will scratch your nerd itch just long enough to save up some money and buy that new game more responsibly. You may even discover that you don't feel as strong a "need" for that shiny new game as you did before.

Not long ago I was feeling an itch to go get a copy of Mass Effect 3. Though it didn't last long. I'm a lucky gamer who happens to have games that are either incredibly long (Elders Scrolls, Fallout) or with immense, built-in replay value (Dragon Age, Mass Effect). So revisiting those games has already bumped back my perceived "need" to buy a game until sometime in the fall, at the earliest. But as I began to also re-explore some of my older games using the approach I've just described, I experienced an overload of geekery! I even set aside one of my newer games (which I LOVE and haven't finished yet) and am now puzzling over which of my older games I want to play the most! Final Fantasy Tactics? Baldur's Gate? Something tells me I won't be buying a new game until 2013!

Monday, June 18, 2012

In Search Of Truth, Acts 25:1-12

 After two years under the house arrest of governor Felix in Caesarea, governor Festus took Felix's place. It was appropriate for local governors to visit Jerusalem soon after taking their positions, and while Festus made this customary visit, Paul's case was revived by the Jewish religious leaders who wanted resolution. (In the form of his death.) They requested Paul be transferred to Jerusalem for trial, though they probably didn't tell Festus their plans to kill him. (v.1-3)

Thankfully, history tells us that Festus was a better man than his predecessor. He instructed the Jewish religious leaders to come to Caesarea to bring their charges against Paul there. About two weeks later, Paul was on trial again before a governor in Caesarea, with the Jewish leaders trying and failing again to make a case against him. (v.4-7)

Paul argued again that he hadn't done anything to violate religious or secular law. And although Festus was a better man than Felix, that isn't saying much. Festus recognized the political value of having a good relationship with the Jewish religious authorities. So he attempted to grant the previous request of the Jewish religious leaders and offered Paul the option of settling this dispute before the Jewish people, though still with Festus as the acting legal authority in the case.

Paul argued that it was obvious, to both himself and Festus, that he hadn't done anything in violation of Jewish law, and that the only thing left to settle was whether or not he was innocent under Roman law as well. Paul was on trial in a Roman court, which ultimately derived its authority from Caesar, the emperor of Rome. And as a citizen of Rome, Paul had the right to have his case heard by Caesar himself, or one of his assistants. (v.8-11)

We can't know what was going on in Paul's head, but he probably realized that the more his case was handled by Jewish religious leaders, the greater his chances of winding up dead. On the flip side, if he were to win his case before Caesar, it could be a tremendous victory for the rights of Christians everywhere in the Roman empire. Everything about Paul's appeal to Caesar makes perfect sense.

Festus seemed to think so, too. At least from his own perspective. Getting Paul into someone else's hands meant that he didn't have to hurt his relationship with the Jewish religious leaders by letting Paul go free (which he was probably leaning toward doing, given that the alternative would be an obvious injustice and serious stain on his record just a couple weeks after starting the job). So Festus decreed that Paul would be tried before Caesar. (v.12)

I look at this passage and see another example of God's absolute control over the situation, despite the completely free choices of selfish people. As a reminder, more than two years before this, Paul had been told by Jesus that he would not die in Jerusalem at the hands of the Jews who were so angry at him, but would instead act as a witness to the truth about Jesus to those in Rome. (Acts 23:11)

The idea of telling people about Jesus in Rome must have seemed so random when Paul heard it. He had been in Jerusalem to deliver a financial gift to Christians in need, when he was caught up in a mob and barely escaped with his life, only to sit in a prison. If I were Paul, I would be thinking, "Rome? I'm going to Rome? How about just getting out of this cell for starters?" But as we trace a path from chapter 23 to where we are now in chapter 25, we see a series of events that, although slowly, also inevitably lead Paul to Rome.

The journey for Paul wasn't over yet at this point. In fact he still had some pretty scary stuff to deal with before arriving in Rome. But after two years of waiting, even this little hint of his final destination must have been enormously encouraging.

God's agenda often takes a long time to play out. (At least from our perspective.) I think fiction has spoiled our expectations of life, given that even a hard-won battle that takes place over a lifetime can still be told in just a couple of hours with the help of some age make-up pasted on between scenes. An epic, decades-long struggle where good triumphs over evil can be read in just a few months in a paperback trilogy.

But the story God is crafting is much longer than a few hours in a theater and fills far more than a few hundred, or even thousands of pages. And as you and I are painfully aware, it involves waiting. But even while we wait, we can see those glimmers of hope, those small reminders that God's plan is still on track. We can celebrate those small bits of foreshadowing and know that when God says something will happen, we don't have to wonder if it will or not.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Transformers The Ride And "The Summer Of Free" (SBU Podcast)

Friday, June 15, 2012 6:44 PM

Summer Of Free Goodness Galore and a FIRST for the podcast, as we share a review of an amusement park ride!

Spirit Blade Card Game and Playtest Instructions-

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FearNet (The Summer Of Free)

In Celebration of "The Summer Of Free", we're highlighting 100% free, 100% legal geek entertainment options on The Spirit Blade Underground Podcast. This week, I'm showcasing

Feeling that itch to rent a movie, but you just don't feel like spending even a buck at Redbox? Or maybe you'd like to cancel your netflix subscription for just a few months to save a little cash. If you're a horror movie fan, I've got a great option for you!

If you're a Cox cable subscriber, you may have heard of Fearnet already, but you don't need to have cox cable to watch some of the free movies they make available. Every Monday they make a new set of three horror movies available to watch online.

Some movies are the cheap B-horror movies you'd expect. But they also feature horror classics and great modern horror flicks like "The Descent" and "Saw". (Yes, they're actually playing through all of them right now, but the first was the only REALLY good one, right?)

It seems that all movies have a hi-def viewing option, also free. So if you have an HDMI cable to go from your laptop to your flat-screen TV and home theater, this is some seriously rockin' free entertainment value!

I've discovered a few little gems through FearNet, and also saved money while doing it! So turn out the lights and enjoy some monsters, blood and terror on your PC... for FREE!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Adventure Quest Worlds (Video Game Review)

Review by Katyasha

Adventure Quest Worlds is a massively multi-player role-playing game that plays right inside your web browser. There is no software to download or install -- and this MMO is FREE! Battle monsters in real-time RPG combat alongside your friends.

There are some good things about this site and some bad stuff so I will give the low-down on this site for those who want to check it out and play there.

1. It's free
2. You can create your own charter(Warrior, Rouge, Mage, Ninja)
3. You can choose different armor, helmets, capes, ect.
4. Events on there are cool, from Holiday's to someone on the staff getting married
5. You get to go to some great places around "Lore" (the fictional world) battling monsters.
6. Story line is good and so are the quests.

1. There is a subscription option for access to new weapons and armor, etc.
2. Not enough characters for non-members to choose from unless they become a member.
3. Can't access or buy some armor, helmets, capes and pets unless you purchase in-game money to get them, also you can't combine some helmets or capes(example my character is a fox and I wanted to equip the tail and a cape and I can't).
4. The events are cool but lag and take a long time to load your character. For example the Friday the 13th events.
5. There are places in Lore that are off limits unless you're a member.
6. Also members get to battle the bosses before anyone else and brag to non-members, which is annoying. Not to mention they started this mid-release thing for members only which is unfair.
7. Their message board is not a great place at all. Some of the Mod's there are rude and threaten other people who post threads that are not related to the game.
8. People often send you requests to join their group when you are in the middle of a battle with a monster.
9. Not enough space to store your gear unless you have to buy more space for it.
10. Getting kicked off in a middle of a battle.
In all this is a somewhat great place to meet friends or unwind after a long day at the office and kill something to release unwanted stress. So I give this site:

Quality: 9.0/10
Relevance: 7.5/10

Visit Katyasha's Website

Monday, June 11, 2012

In Search Of Truth, Acts Chapter 24

Although an attempt was made on Paul's life by some zealous Jews aided by the Jewish religious leaders (The Sanhedrin), God orchestrated events so that Paul would be moved to Caesarea to have his case put before the governor.

The High Priest and some of the elders of the Sanhedrin came to present their case against Paul before the governor, and brought a trained spokesman to represent them. (v.1-2)

The spokesman's praise of governor Felix was exaggerated, as Felix's record as a governor in history is one of corruption and his "reforms" are difficult to substantiate. The spokesman also exaggerated, even fabricated accusations against Paul, saying that he stirred up riots among Jews "all around the world" and "tried to profane the temple".

Although we can understand today the problem any government would have with riots, it might seem odd that the Jewish leaders bothered charging Paul with an offense against the temple in a secular, Roman court. But Roman law at this time protected the Jewish religion in many ways and prohibited activities that would be harmful to the free practice of the Jewish religion. So it was important for Paul to defend himself against both of these charges. (v.3-9)

As Paul began to speak, his opening praise of the governor was positive, though much more honest, and as a result, shorter. He simply remarked on the governor's experience and therefore his assumed capability to rightly judge the facts. And in Roman courts, judgment was based on logic and probability.

Therefore Paul simply appeals to the facts, which Felix could investigate and verify given his position of authority. Paul points out that the Sanhedrin has no proof of him starting any riots or attempting to profane the temple. He clarifies his reasons for being at the temple. He acknowledges that he follows The Way, a name used by the early Christians to refer to their beliefs and lifestyle. But he points out that it is not in conflict with Jewish scripture, which he still values. In fact he worships the same God described in Jewish scripture. (v.10-15)

Paul emphasizes that he makes every effort not to offend anyone, and that when he was seized he had been delivering money to Jewish people in need (highlighting his loyalty to his own people) and had been purified in complete compliance with temple laws. Paul then refers to the Jews from Asia who initially accused Paul and started the riot (see chapter 21:27-29) and says that they should be present to provide evidence of their claim. Paul states that the only thing he ever said that set off an argument in this whole mess was a statement regarding the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead, which he spoke in his own defense in a private meeting with the Sanhedrin, as opposed to a place where he might have stirred up controversy publicly. (v.16-21)

Watching Paul defend himself in this moment is both humbling and inspiring to me. When I feel like someone is judging or accusing me of something, that surge of emotion fills my core, brewing and bubbling faster and stronger until I feel like I'm going to explode in response. I want to pounce back with counter-accusations and point out the hypocrisy in their words. It takes everything in me to wrestle down visions of verbally "tearing them a new one" and quietly listen instead.

Heated arguments tend to obscure truth rather than reveal it. Aside from following the proper procedure for a Roman hearing, I think Paul knew that as well. Rather than become angry or emotionally reactive, he simply listened to his accuser and then put the facts out on the table for examination in response.

I'm a little jealous of Paul, because he had been trained in rhetoric and so knew how to handle himself in a situation like this. But it occurs to me that I can get "training" in how to respond better to others simply by choosing to regularly engage in relationships, rather than pursue the life of solitary geekery that I so often prefer. Interacting with others will inevitably mean some awkward or intense moments, but that's all part of learning how to connect with others more deeply and lovingly. I'm convinced more and more that the better I become at relationships, the better I can convey truth to others and benefit from the truth they bring into my life. But back to the text in front of us...

Evidently, governor Felix had some knowledge of the Christian faith. And he was curious enough to hear more. He delayed the trial, giving the arrival of the tribune who witnessed the whole thing as his reason for doing so. But this was likely just a stalling tactic in service to Felix's own agenda.
It was popular for Roman officials of this time to keep a philosopher around to dialogue with and it seems that Felix enjoyed talking with Paul enough not to hurry his trial. He also hoped to get a bribe from Paul, who had permission to see visitors who could potentially raise and bring money to assist him.

Unfortunately for Felix, Paul was not going to be bribing him any time soon. And once Paul started explaining and reasoning through the ramifications of who Jesus is and what he has done for humanity, including our NEED for what Jesus has done because of the judgment that will eventually come to all, Felix became uncomfortable. He sent for Paul a number of times to talk with him, but it seems the novelty of conversing with Paul was the most he was interested in. As a result, Paul waited in house arrest for two years before anything else happened regarding his case. (v.22-27)

If I'm not careful, I can find myself enjoying the analysis of truth without actually letting that truth engage my heart and my life. I've met some people and encountered some churches over the years that seem to live life in this mode. We can nod and smile while the man at the pulpit shares a series of nice ideas for 20 minutes. We can furrow our brows with "conviction" and say "mmm" as we hear a passage from the Bible. But if we don't allow truth to actually effect the way we perceive ourselves, our priorities and our purpose, we can just as easily spend two years actively going nowhere, and missing out on the amazing, wonderful things God wants to do in our lives.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Prometheus/Snow White Reviews And A Response To "Green Lantern Is Gay" (SBU Podcast)

Friday, June 08, 2012 8:35 PM

Reviews for "Snow White And The Huntsman" and "Prometheus"! Plus, my reaction to the announcement that Green Lantern is now gay and a quick scan with the "Christian Geek Radar".

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Prometheus (Movie Review)

I'm a big fan of science fiction and a big fan of monster movies, and franchises like Alien, Predator, The Thing, Jeepers Creepers, or anything else with a weird scary creature out to get people. And hearing that master director Ridley Scott would finally be returning to the sci-fi genre for the first time since 1979 was very exciting news. So I've awaited Prometheus with nerdly anticipation.

I've got more to say about this movie than I usually do in my reviews. I'll start by letting the cat out of the bag and telling you that this is a fantastic movie. If you're a fan of sci-fi and horror, don't waste any more time on my review. Go see this movie right now!

Having said that, I'll give my thoughts on why you should do so while holding back as much plot information as I can so you can experience it fresh yourself.

Near the end of the 21st century, archeologists discover evidence that our planet has been visited over many centuries by the same alien beings. These archeologists also believe these beings may be responsible for the creation of the human race. They receive funding from the Weyland Corporation to investigate a distant planet believed to be the home of these alien beings. A crew is assembled and they arrive at the planet to discover... something different than what they expected. Different and very deadly.


This film does almost everything right. Every actor gives a wonderful, interesting performance, and with the exception of Charlize Theron, there are no big stars cluttering things up and taking me out of the story. The fresh faces combined with engaging performances pulled me into this world in a way that is rare for me.

It's also a very character-driven story. Everyone has a personal agenda. But that's not to say it lacks in story. In fact the hidden agendas of multiple characters contribute to the slow unraveling of the plot.
You'd be hard-pressed to identify a central "hero" of this movie. It's an ensemble cast and specific focus on a few characters only sharpens significantly in the final third of the movie. This is great because it keeps us guessing until the very end who will live and who will die.

And yes, lots of people die in this movie. And they die badly. The alien life forms intrusively violate the humans they attack, making me want to shake something off myself while watching. Ridley Scott still knows how to create marvelous tension for audiences. And even though I found myself frustrated at the stupidity of multiple characters (keep your helmets ON you morons!) I surprised myself by accepting this horror cliche, realizing that foolish and predictable as it may seem, it does make the experience more engaging and intense.

The creature effects in this movie are possibly the best I have ever seen in any sci-fi film. Either Scott used cutting edge animatronics that moved with incredible organic fluidity, or he finally figured out how to make creature CGI that I can't distinguish from practical effects. I suspect it may somehow be a combination of both.

The music does it's job well. The only time I noticed it was in a scene near the beginning when it suddenly occurred to me the intensifying effect it was having on an action sequence. In nearly every scene it served the mood perfectly without ever getting in the way by announcing itself with an obvious theme.

The visual design of the movie is almost overwhelming in its detail and incredibly life-like in its execution. There is so much to take in even in simple computer readouts and holograms. And the alien environments are creepy, wet and sticky, hinting at a world of other stories that could be told based on this material.

I only have a few small complaints. Strangely, Guy Ritchie was put in age make-up for the entire film. I'm puzzled as to why they didn't simply use an older actor for his part. Although he appeared as a young version of the character in an online promotional video, that hardly justifies this odd choice. There is also a scene opening the film that still doesn't make sense to me after watching the entire movie. Though I'm not ready to truly be critical of it, as I suspect this is a movie made for multiple viewings. There is also a line set up near the beginning of the film, involving Michael Fassbender's character and a clip from Lawrence of Arabia, that I thought for sure would return later in the film in a pivotal character moment. But this moment never came. I suspect these minor issues may all be the result of some scenes being cut. My hope is that on blu-ray we will see an extended version that makes better sense of these tidbits.

I'd also add that the chief "villain" alien of the story could have been scarier, in my opinion. But this may be because of my inevitible mental comparisons to the first Alien movie, which really shouldn't be made. Besides this, he wasn't the primary threat for most of the movie, so the creepy scares were no less scary because of his shortcomings.

"Prometheus" and "Alien"

I could have sworn that Ridley Scott went on record saying that, although Prometheus started out as a prequel to Alien, it evolved into a story that doesn't even take place in the Alien universe. Whatever he officially said, as far as I can tell, this movie easily fits into the continuity of the Alien movie series, despite not having an appearance by the creature from those films. (At least not technically speaking.)

The Weyland corporation, featured in the Alien films, is a big part of this story. And ships identical to the ship found on the alien planet from "Alien" appear in this film. And for Alien fans hoping this movie answers the question "who was the 'space jockey'", you'll be rewarded with an indirect answer, and walk away knowing with near certainty what the "space jockey" was doing before he died in the first Alien movie, and who he was.

I also did some quick research after getting home from the theater and found out that this movie takes place roughly 30 years before the events of the first Alien movie. So for Alien fans, Prometheus IS the prequel you were originally promised.

For those unfamiliar with the Alien movies, don't worry about all of this not making sense. Prometheus has almost no direct connection to the alien films in terms of its story, and you will enjoy the experience no less for being an Alien noobie. And if Scott, or another director, chooses to continue the story (which the ending leaves enough room for), it will almost certainly not become a reboot of the Alien franchise, but rather a story taking a completely different direction.
Even so, Alien fans may want to clear some time soon after seeing Prometheus to watch their Alien movies again!


The theme of this movie is very likely to stimulate thought on spiritual matters. Several characters take the journey to the alien planet specifically to find answers regarding humanity's purpose, and what happens to us after death. This is not just a theme, it's a driving force of the plot.

Unfortunately, the writers still seem to have very limited understanding of the relationship between faith, logic and science. One highly respected, sympathetic character is asked why he believes in heaven. (It's later indicated that he was a "Christian" character.) His response? "Because that's what I choose to believe."

While I would agree that, in the final analysis, belief is a choice, I'm tired of characters in fiction saying that they believe without providing any logical basis for their belief. In fact, one or two more times in this movie, a similar statement is made by another character under similar circumstances.
In one instance, a skeptical biologist asks the archeologist why she's willing to throw away thousands of years of Darwinism in favor of the belief that the aliens they are searching for are responsible for humanity's creation. Her response? "Because that's what I choose to believe."

For some reason, the popular mindset seems to be, "believe Darwinism, or believe something else despite evidence to the contrary". The problem is that a growing number of scientists are realizing that Darwinism has some serious shortcomings in explaining human life. Namely time. There just isn't enough time in the history of earth to account for our existence solely from gradual changes that started with a single celled organism. We also see sudden, giant leaps forward in the fossil record, where numerous new species suddenly erupt from out of nowhere.

I find it interesting that some of the most famous sci-fi concepts seem to result from trying to explain the failings of Darwinism and avoid divine creation. We grant incredible power to "mutation", resulting in sci-fi concepts like the X-men. Or we resort to theories of "seeding", wherein an alien life form is responsible for bringing human life to Earth. And that's where Prometheus sits.

But even in Prometheus, when this concept is discussed and it's suggested that a woman throw away her cross in light of their discoveries, it's pointed out that even if an alien race created us, we still have to ask "who created them?" So the "seeding" hypothesis doesn't help us avoid the need for God, it only slows us from reaching the inevitable conclusion that God is a perfectly reasonable explanation for the origin of life.

Prometheus ends on a similar note, with the surviving character saying that their search for answers continues.

Prometheus is an amazing, highly thought-provoking, intense and thrilling experience. Any fan of sci-fi and horror should see it as soon as possible, and Alien fans will also enjoy the subtle nuggets thrown in for them.

Rated R for sci-fi violence including some intense images, and brief language.

Quality: 9.5/10
Relevance: 9.0/10

For more information about our scoring system, click here.
Listen to this review this weekend on The Spirit Blade Underground Podcast!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Snow White And The Huntsman (Movie Review)

Written by Drew Rub

Hello, fellow Seekers. This is Drew, and I wanted to share my thoughts on the newly released “Snow White and the Huntsman”.

Not many trailers have had me on the edge of my seat wanting to see a movie with this much intensity. “Prometheus” is one which I will hopefully be seeing this coming weekend, and “Snow White and the Huntsman” is the other. When I first saw this trailer, it took a moment for me to realize I was dying to see a fairy tale movie. I almost turned in my geek card. Then I realized how incredibly NON-fairy tale this movie is.

(Warning, some spoilers ahead, but nothing too disastrous) In a twist on the Grimm brothers tale, a queen (the good one) wishes for a daughter with skin white as snow, lips red as blood, and hair black as ebony. Sometime later, the Queen dies. During a battle, the king’s army rescues a woman that’s beautiful enough to win the king’s heart in a day. They marry and Queen Ravenna murders the king. The queen then locks Snow up in a tower for the next few years.

On her 18th birthday, the Queen’s mirror informs her that one has come of age that is fairer than she. She is told that Snow is her salvation, able to give her immortality. When Snow escapes, Queen Ravenna seeks someone who knows the Dark Forest to bring back her heart. Enter Thor…uh, The Huntsman.

I’ll not give away more of the movie plot, but in a twist, the Huntsman doesn’t exactly fall in love with Snow and allow her to escape, he just realizes that Queen Ravenna isn’t going to keep her promise of uniting him with his deceased wife. Thor…the Huntsman becomes Snow’s guardian and teacher.

I give this film high marks for its technical production. From a fun, driving musical score to wide sweeping vistas, the production is worthwhile. One of the opening battle scenes is reminiscent of the opening battle scene from “Gladiator”. The visual design does a great job with making you sense the despair that the characters are supposed to be feeling. The drab colors of clothing, the muddy towns, and the Dark Forest all convey a sense of down-trodden, broken spirits.

For those of you who enjoy a good fantasy flick, let me assure you, this film will give it to you. All of the classic elements are present; good vs. evil, heroes and villains, magic and monsters, sword fights a plenty, and an archer on par with Hawkeye or Green Arrow (or Legolas, although that might be stretching it a little).

As is part of the story of Snow White, she does fall into a deep sleep and as we all remember from childhood, she’s awoken by Prince Charming’s kiss of true love. There is a nice little twist on that kiss, but I won’t give it away. And that’s another bonus to this film, there wasn’t a big play on any of the romance from the fairy tales.

This film isn’t geared toward children, and there are some scenes that, should you take a younger child, might be a bit disturbing. Queen Ravenna, in one scene, pokes a metal fingernail into the entrails of a dead animal, plucks out one of the internal organs and proceeds to eat it. I don’t remember a single joke or humorous scene in this film, helping to reinforce the dark undertone that this film wanted.

There was one thing that I noted that could have been developed more, and was a potential missed opportunity. When the King marries Ravenna, there is clergy at the ceremony, dressed in the traditional appearance of catholic leadership. Then, when we first see Snow as an adult, she’s in the tower, and recites the Lord’s Prayer. The next time we see a Christian or other religious influence is at the end when Snow is crowned as Queen (hope that wasn’t a spoiler).

Despite Snow’s apparent faith in a Heavenly Father, there’s no point in the film while she’s trying to battle the magical evil queen where she relies on that faith or that Heavenly Father. Those that fight against the evil queen and her magic are normal people with no “light side” or “good magic” involved. Evil is defeated through sheer human effort. Including the Lord’s Prayer in our introduction to Snow should have been a chance to add some kind of “good” spiritual force. The most you’ll see is Snow getting a blessing from White Heart, the giant stag that would make any true hunter drool.
However, as my wife pointed out, “where would you put it in the story?” I was hard pressed to come back with a good answer for that one, so a second chance to watch it to answer that question might be in the future.

The only other disappointment I had with this film was the quality of the acting. I enjoyed Chris Hemsworth as the Huntsman, and I haven’t been poisoned by Twilight to dislike Kristen Stewart. I did think that her performance as Snow White was solid, expect the rallying “battle speech” she delivers at the end. I suspect this was less Kristin’s fault than the script she was handed. I expected a little more from Charlize Theron as well. For an evil queen, I didn’t find her evil enough for my taste. In one scene, Ravenna goes on a supposed rage induced tirade against her brother for letting Snow White escape. But Charlize’s delivery is sub-standard, and her rage just isn’t felt. Or at least, I didn’t feel it.

Over all, I don’t see this film as winning any major awards for best actors or acting. However, with a great technical production, excellent use of CG (sorry, Paeter, I know you don’t like CG, but the Obsidian Shard creatures in the final castle fight are very well done), and a strong story, this is still a movie worth spending the money on. If you are looking for a good fantasy flick, this movie will definitely satisfy that desire.

Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, and brief sensuality

Quality 9.0/10

Relevance 8.0/10

Read more from Drew on his blog!

And listen to this review this weekend on The Spirit Blade Underground Podcast!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

In Search Of Truth, A Response To "Green Lantern Is Gay" OR Should We "Love" Our Hobbies?

I have to apologize, yet again, for delaying our continued look at the book of Acts. But I wanted to touch on this subject while the recent Green Lantern news was still on the minds of Christian comic book geeks. (Although I think it's relevant to geeks of ALL kinds.)

As geeks, we love our stories. Some stories and fictional characters we become so passionate about, so emotionally invested in, that it feels like a wound when we see them handled in a way we don't think they should be. The cancellation of Farscape, Darth Vader screaming "Nooo!" at the end of Episode 3, Vampires that "sparkle", and now Green Lantern being re-created as an openly gay character. You've probably got some memories of your own. Times when you felt personally insulted by the way a beloved fictional property was being handled.

Last week, I had three people, in less than 24 hours, ask me what I thought about the news that Green Lantern was now a homosexual character. They asked because they know that Green Lantern is my favorite superhero, and also because I believe the Bible when it teaches that homosexual behavior is not God's design for us. (If you're interested in my specific views regarding homosexuality, please read the post I wrote on the subject.)

So what was my reaction to the news? Confusion at first. Hal Jordan, the most well known Green Lantern and the one featured in the recent movie, has had a long history of womanizing, even in the recently re-booted DC universe. So I assumed the change in status referred to one of the other Green Lanterns: Kyle Rayner, Guy Gardener or John Stewart.

After some quick research I learned that the Green Lantern in question is actually Alan Scott, the first Green Lantern created for DC comics, but one who for many years has not been a part of the main DC universe, residing instead in a "parallel earth". As a fan, this made the news a little less jolting, though still no fun.

While listening to the podcast coverage of the DC Comics panels at ComiCon last summer, I heard one person after another step up to the microphone and respectfully demand that DC create more high profile minority characters, both in terms of ethnicity, disability and sexual orientation. Again and again I heard the writers and editors at these panels assure fans that they would be doing so.  And they have made good on that promise. (You can read my original reaction to that coverage in this post.)

Minorities of all kinds are popping up in various DC books, in some cases almost written as if to say "See readers? I'm a minority!" I think it's fine that the DC universe is becoming more culturally diverse. But I can't help but wonder if too much time in creative meetings was sacrificed to the cause of cultural diversity, causing the shortages I've been perceiving in truly well-written, character-driven stories. (I've dropped four books this week alone for the lack of these kinds of stories.)

I'm also bummed to see healthy family and marriage models vanishing from the DC universe. Clark and Lois are no longer married and Clark's parents are now both dead. The various members of the Justice Society (such as Green Lantern Alan Scott) have been made young in the reboot, deleting the wives and adult children in their lives and depriving the DC universe of wisened elders to look up to.

My weekly comic purchases are swiftly shrinking as I limit myself to those corners of the DC Universe still making story and character priority over demographic checklists. Let me be clear. It's not the presence of ideas contrary to my beliefs that is causing me to drop certain comic books. (I've read and enjoyed multiple ongoing titles with openly gay characters.) It's the lack of those things that I read comics for, that may or may not be falling to the wayside because of prioritization of other things.

So as I sit here, bummed at the general state of things in my beloved DC universe, what does the Bible have to say that might apply here and give me some perspective?

Apparently there are some conservative groups that have expressed great anger at the recent Green Lantern development. Usually this anger is vented "on behalf of the children". My first response is to notify them that mainstream superhero comics have not been written primarily for children for several decades now. My second response is to adjust my expectations based on what the Bible says to expect in life:

1 Corinthians 5:12 (ESV) For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge?

We shouldn't be surprised when our favorite properties are seemingly mistreated. We shouldn't expect that those in charge of them will treat them as they biblically should unless they have openly identified themselves as followers of Christ. I'd wager that most fictional properties are being handled by people who are not Christians. So it makes perfect sense, and naturally follows, that these properties will be handled in ways that do not reflect, and may even go against, the teaching of the Bible. We are not socially entitled to have our favorite fictional properties handled by non-believers according to biblical values.

1 John 2:15-17 (ESV) Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world--the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions--is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.

The Greek word for "love" here means "to love dearly or to be contented with". It's great to enjoy our hobbies and nerdly delights. After all everything good in life ultimately has its source in God.

James 1:15(ESV) Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.

But if we "dearly love" our hobbies, if we cling to them and view them as our source of contentment, we're failing to pursue a love of God. The more we love God, the more we'll constantly be reminded that this world falls infinitely short, and that we really shouldn't expect that much from it.

Don't get me wrong, I may still write a letter to the DC editors and tell them what potential I think they're leaving behind by completely reconceptualizing the Golden Age heroes of the DC universe (Not to mention the rocking potential if they would have gone with a World War 2 setting for the new version of Earth 2...sigh). But in the meantime, I'm content to let go of some of my comic book collecting and see what wonderful ideas God has allowed to be born in the minds of other creative types.