The Worst Video Game I’ve Ever Played… And It’s NOT What You Think (James 4:1-3)

There are games that could have been great but had a few fatal flaws (Sorry, Fallout 76.  It’s just never going to happen between us.).  There are games that launched with the best of intentions that were simply under-funded or prematurely launched (oh my poor, sweet, overly ambitious Anthem you were too beautiful to live.).  And then there are THESE.  These unfortunate abominations of all that is good.  I choose to believe that nobody releases a terrible video game intentionally to cause hurt, pain, and disappointment… but then I am forced to acknowledge prosecution’s “Exhibit A”.  Broken, horrible games that simply hate the player such as the splendidly awful  “Superman 64”:

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All these years later, the disappointment still remains… and I will never be able to look at a green ring for the rest of my days without checking my watch to see how much time I have left.  (Spoiler alert – it is NEVER enough).  There are the epic horror stories of games like E.T on the Atari system that still occupy a landfill somewhere out in the desert, and there are broken monstrosities such as the recently released WWE2K20 that had every intention of being a great game… but just couldn’t escape the Egyptian plague level of bugs contained within.

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But as truly horrific as these games are, there is a different game that for me personally is absolutely the WORST game I have ever played.  Not because it possesses game breaking bugs, seemingly pointless level design or demonstrates random difficulty spikes.  After all of these years of playing a variety of video games, I am unfortunately accustomed to these disappointments.  I have played the garbage-filled physics disaster that was Bubsy 3D, I have laughed until I cried as I experienced death after pointless death in Vampire Rain, and I have suffered along side everyone else when trying to understand why it took SO long to make Crackdown 3 if it was just going to be terrible anyways.  But as awful as these games were…  they still did not achieve the distinction of the “worst” video game of all time for me.

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What makes a game “bad”?  When you think of the worst game you have ever played, what sticks out to you?   Broken mechanics?  Disappointing story?  Negative experiences?  Game-breaking bugs and glitches?  Perhaps… but for me the worst game I have ever played is heartbreaking because it is also one of my FAVORITE games of all time.  Confused yet?  Good.  I know this is going to be divisive, but the truth always is.  The worst video game I have personally ever played is… drum roll please…

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Halo 2.  Now, before you spam me with negative emails and comments let me explain.  I LOVE Halo 2.  Halo is definitely in the top three of my favorite all-time gaming franchises.  And I am not disappointed in the “Finish the Fight” cliffhanger ending, because I enjoy good cinema in a video game and that definitely left us wanting more.  No, the reason Halo 2 is simultaneously one of my favorite games as well as the worst game I have ever played has nothing to do with the story, the characters, the gameplay, or any other component of the game that Bungie created.  It was the worst game I ever played because of what we, as a gaming community, did with it.

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Before Halo 2 I was a naive, innocent noob in the world of online games.  I had very limited experience in online multiplayer, and all of my competitive interactions were typically through LAN parties and split screen setups where the biggest offence you could make was “screen-peeking”.  But when Halo 2 launched with its suite of multiplayer options, I along with my group of friends were eager to test out our skills with other Halo fanatics around the world.  We had NO idea the disappointment that awaited us.

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Match after match was completely ruined by cheaters who would utilize rudimentary lag-based cheats such as placing their modem in “standby” to disappear and then reappear behind us to unfairly kill us.  Others would intentionally “team kill” for no other reason than the amusement of trolling others, ruining competitive matches by either killing themselves or their fellow teammates repeatedly.  Even if we kicked them off our team, we would now be at an incredible disadvantage with our less-than-understanding opposition.  And then came all the offensive, abusive, hate-filled language and screaming as many of my fellow gamers seemingly devolved into the lowest version of a human possible.

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Night after night of “potentially” fun shared experiences with my friends would end with frustration and anger as we mourned the game that we loved being torn apart by the few who used it for a “trolling” outlet.  Eventually, we simply moved on to another game and left the game we had wanted to play in the hands of those who had ruined the experience for us.  We never looked back.  And when Halo 3 came out to repair the damage that had been done, only two of my friends returned to actually “Finish the Fight”.  And I completely understood why.

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Bungie gave us a good game… but those who selfishly abused it ruined the game for everyone.  And in life, one of the largest challenges we face is reconciling the discrepancy between knowing that our Heavenly Father only gives us good gifts and the incredibly challenging and difficult life that we end up enduring on this planet anyways.  The issue isn’t that God doesn’t give us good gifts, but that our concept of “good” is often  skewed by our perspective.  Halo 2 was an excellent game, but my experience with it was shaped by how others abused it for their own selfish gain.  They possessed the same “good gift” I had received, but they consumed it and manipulated it for selfish gratification and personal amusement.  James said it best…

James 4:1-3 Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members?  You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask.  You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.

Many times the prayers we pray are loaded with the best of intentions, but since we lack the foresight that the eternal God possesses we do not fully understand the ramifications of what we are asking.  We seek to give “good” gifts to others and receive “good” gifts from God, defining “goodness” to the best of the abilities that our finite minds can  comprehend the concept.   But regardless of our motivations or intentions the end result can often be pain and suffering when we fail to see the entirety of His will.  Much as Bungie made a beautiful game that was misused by many, we are all guilty of giving our friends, family, and others items we perceived to be good gifts that yielded unintended consequences.

For example, when a loving parent helps their child purchase a vehicle it is with the best of intentions.  (Editors note – that NEVER happened for me.  And if it happened for you then I am not sure we are still friends now.  I will try… but no promises).   But if that child is ill-prepared for the responsibility of driving the vehicle, the results can be disastrous as well as create unnecessary collateral damage.  One could not have predicted that result when giving the gift nor was it a desired outcome, and truth be told if the parent had somehow known this was the eventual endgame they would have certainly never permitted purchase of the vehicle in the first place.

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Our loving Father knows exactly what we need as well as what may seem “good” but is potentially harmful to us in ways that are imperceptible to us right now.  Only the One who is “truly” good can give a “truly” good gift (Luke 18:19), and the Lord who knows the past, present, and future has more than just good intentions.  He has a PLAN.  And the “goodness” of His gifts can only be interpreted and understood through the eyes of eternity.  He truly sees the pain and the struggle you are in right now, and He understands what is in your heart.  But as the ONLY completely good, omniscient, and flawless parent who has ever existed, He alone knows where that relationship, that job, that car, or that money you desire will take you.

My prayer today is that we all continue to lift up our requests to God, but we also do it with the understanding that we live in a broken and fallen world populated by those who would seek to do us harm.  Because of this, the way He answers our prayers may not make sense on this side of the pearly gates.  But it is not because He does not want us to have “good” gifts… rather He is the only One who TRULY understands what a GOOD gift is as well as the right time for us to receive it.

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When Halo 2 was re-released as the anniversary edition in the Master Chief Collection on Xbox 1, I finally got to experience this game the way it was meant to be played… free of all the griefing and cheating and negative behaviors that plagued it the first time through.  And it was everything I hoped it would be.  And no matter when (or if) your answer comes, the God who ONLY gives good gifts will, in due time, bring all who trust in Him safely to the place He has made for us… the place we were made for.

Philippians 4:6-8 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;  and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.

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