The Electronic Entertainment Expo is the biggest trade show for gaming and a spectacle for the eyes; game companies from all over the world attend to showcase their latest wares. This year’s show in Los Angeles was no exception: the show was one to behold, with rows of gaming kiosks and enough bright lights to put even casinos to shame.
One of the biggest companies present was Capcom, developers of such famous series as Megaman, Street Fighter, and Resident Evil. For those who aren’t familiar with the Resident Evil franchise (which has also expanded into several films), it’s about zombies and the undead taking over the world through a biological virus spread by the Umbrella Corporation. At the show, there were a few people walking around with signs warning of imminent doom and viral apocalypse. They were part of the marketing efforts from Capcom and fit right in with the booth babes, space marines, and cosplay attendees.
So when I stepped outside the show floor and saw people holding signs about repenting of sins and turning to Jesus, I thought they were part of a marketing campaign. To my surprise, they weren’t. Instead, they were from a religious organization warning gamers to repent of their sins in preparation for the end of the world. Not in a videogame. In real life.
I suddenly had a flashback to my high school years. I had a friend (whom I’ll call Mike) whose family was deeply religious. We used to play basketball together and talk about our favorite video games. He wore thick, square glasses, and he had really curly hair. One day, he told me he was going to move away. His family was going to sell all their belongings because Jesus was going to come and rapture the faithful away within the year. It wasn’t just him. Everyone in their congregation was doing likewise. Mike told me that he wouldn’t be able to talk to me anymore. Their family was too busy spending time in front of shopping malls and supermarkets, passing out fliers and holding up signs with Bible verses. Besides, even if I wanted to call, he’d have no phone. And then he disappeared.
I’ve always wondered what happened to him. Obviously, the end of the world did not come. What did that do for their family? It’s horrible to feel bad for someone because the apocalypse they hoped would come didn’t. But every few years, I see some news announcement about a church that believes it is time to get ready for the end as the members give away all their possessions while awaiting the annihilation of the planet, and I think of Mike.
At Berkeley, I took a History of Christianity class and was surprised to find that Revelation, the book of dreams that has been used to tell believers that Armageddon is going to happen in their lifetimes, was heavily debated when the Bible was being brought together and nearly left out of the canon. This was because the council members were worried the book was subject to abuse and misinterpretation, especially after it was used by “heretics” to back up their false claims. I also was surprised to hear that in the year 999, people were convinced the Second Coming was going to happen in 1000 and there was all sorts of craziness and madness in preparation.
As I looked at the protesters outside of the E3 conference, I wondered who they were and why they felt the need to be out here. Did they have families? Did their families have to sacrifice themselves for their beliefs? I don’t like to comment on people’s religious beliefs because that’s a personal choice and I’m always open to the possibility that I’m wrong about everything. At the same time, I see what a powerful effect these beliefs have on people and it gets my brain ticking. In videogames, the end of the world is a surefire way of triggering amazing journeys. Look at any popular title: say, Final Fantasy or Mass Effect. There’s nothing less than the safety of the universe at stake and retro gamers still look back fondly on those experiences “rescuing the world.” Many new friends I’ve made started with the conversation, “Remember when in this game and that game….” There’s some irony that the end of the world brings gamers together at E3, but outside the conference walls, it has a dividing effect, alienating many with the threat of hellfire.
Actually, they didn’t alienate many, as most people ignored them, or, like me, assumed they were part of the show, treating them with a sense of amusement and even respect. They were fueled by their convictions, and no matter what I might actually think of them, I still had to admire their passion for their beliefs. I guess it’s time to worry if they start hiring boothbabes to carry their signs for them.