Upon a recent visit to a local game store, I noticed an older woman looking through the stacks of Nintendo DS games. Looking befuzzled and downright clueless she approached one of the merchants and asked if there were any ‘puzzle games for ten year old girls.’ The store employee immediately put up his index finger; “I think I know exactly the right game.” He approached the games, looking through the sequence with said finger, then stopped in the P’s. “Plants Vs. Zombies. It’s very popular, and quite a bit of fun.” Upon being handed the case by the employee, the elder lady looked at it for a mere moment before handing it back. “I don’t want anything with dead, undead, redead, or whatever. Just a good puzzle game. We’re Christians, you see.” Your loss, lady; you missed an opportunity to talk about living the gospel with your ‘ten year old girl’.
So Plants Vs. Zombies is big. Huge, even. Let’s not confuse ourselves. Starting out as a mac and pc game, it has been on major consoles and handhelds, debuting back in 2009. The presentation follows that a house is being attacked by zombies, and the way to protect the house is a series of plants. The zombies may walk, run, jump, or fly to gain access to this house. The solution is to acquire a series of plants and grow them so they shoot, explode, or defend their territory.
The gameplay is easy enough. It’s another tower defense game that is easily accessible for both young and old. The comedy is well played and the animation works well. Cosmetically, the game makes for a great animated style experience. But I felt like the plant. The whole time. I was the one that needed to grow. I was on the front lines, I was the one standing on the lawn defending the house owner.
Similar to our discussion on Dungeon Defenders, the defense in tower defense can be analogous to the defense of the gospel. In an expansive move on the metaphor, the plants in Plants Vs. Zombies, reminds me of the believers here on earth, who stand firm in the midst of seemingly mindless hard times, that come at a moments notice. Many Christians have experienced hard times. At work, school, on the court/field, message boards, we experience waves of spiritual oppression. (Gentle reminder, you don’t fight against people, but against the oppressor, the powers and principalities of this world). For example, being unemployed, some of the most difficult thoughts a person can experience include what should be done or should we do anything at all. Do it all for the glory of God, but also stand firm. Don’t hesitate, but be patient. These are tough lines on the road of faith. Don’t falter between the two.
Plants Vs. Zombies is a perfect example of the relationship between the two. For one, the plants are a good reminder to stand firm. Jesus told Peter to put his sword down at Gethsemane. Stand firm. The plants can’t move in PvZ, but they can still defend. We are to be ready to give an account. We are told to be ready in season and out (a reference to horticulture). And the parable of the sower talks about the good soil that bears fruit once it receives the word. So it is with PvZ. As the holidays start revving up, take a moment to think not about what is on the surface, but the message that is conveyed and the opportunities as a result. Heck, at the least give Plants Vs Zombies as a cheap stocking stuffer that marks the beginning of thinking Christianly about video games.