This week, we interview Christian game developer Daniel Hall, creator of the successful Super Mega Bob Kickstarter.
The first part of this interview will cover how being a Christian affects his life and work (along with advice for aspiring developers). The second part will focus on Super Mega Bob itself.
Video Games and the Bible: You’re a Christian video game developer.
How did you come to Christ?
Daniel Hall: When I was six years old my family watched some videos about the Rapture of the Church. They probably didn’t have very good special effects or tremendous acting, and it really didn’t matter. God used the videos to convict me deeply. I was terrified of being left behind and facing the wrath of God! The conviction was so great that I eventually went to my mom, who explained the consequences of sin and how Christ had died on the cross for my sins. I got saved that night. I suppose even early on technology was playing a part in my life, as it was a video that started the conviction process for me.
VGB: How has your faith affected the way you make video games?
Hall: That can be a difficult question to answer. My faith in Jesus Christ affects absolutely everything I do, so in that way my faith plays a huge role in making games. I tell people all the time that for me making games and serving God go hand in hand. The stories I write, art I make, games I design, etc. are all an expression of my faith in Christ and done for His glory. That being said, making games must be done professionally. A plumber can take care of your pipe problems because he knows about pipes (and may be able to jump extremely high and save princesses from castles). A Christian plumber does what he does to glorify God, but I’m certain you wouldn’t want him fixing your plumbing unless he was very skilled and learned at his job. In the same way, I don’t want to just be “good enough” to make games. I want to push myself to make professional quality stuff that is fun and engaging, and communicates powerful stories that really make an impact. Long story short, yes, my faith in Christ is the very reason I make games!
VGB: Have you had any difficulties being a Christian in the video game industry?
Hall: Nope. I’ve always been able to get along with everyone else very well and love working with the community. Sometimes people post images on Twitter that can be racy and all, but that’s just part of life.
VGB: Do you have any advice for Christians who want to become video game developers?
Hall: Get ready to work your butt off! Making games is a lot of hard work, and avoiding code, making your own art, etc. just makes you end up with a real piece of crap game. Don’t take shortcuts. Learn about games, learn how to design them, play lots of them, pick up a programming language, and understand that it takes years to learn how to make games well. I’m still learning and I still feel like my games suck a lot of times. So just be patient. Also, please don’t think that just because you’re making something Christian that you have the right to make something super cheesy or just poorly done. Quite the opposite, we are ambassadors of Jesus Christ and God the Father. Everything we do should be top notch!
VGB: Can you tell me a bit about Super Mega Bob [SMB]?
Hall: Super Mega Bob is an old-school 2D SHMUP (Shoot ’em Up) that sports 16 bit era graphics and some cool lighting effects. It also has an original 8-bit style soundtrack and focuses heavily on lots of shooting and figuring out dangerous enemy patterns. I’ve been working on SMB for almost a full year now, and I’m excited to release it on September 23rd.
VGB: Can you tell me a bit about the story as well?
Hall: Super Mega Bob is going to be a lot more story-centric in its finished form than it is right now. Without giving it all away, I can say that the story focuses on love, sacrifice, and forgiveness. I think it’s forgiveness in particular that I wanted to communicate. Bob gets really powerful during the course of the game, and instead of using that power to kill the one responsible for bringing him pain, he will instead choose to stay his hand and forgive. It’s a reflection of true forgiveness as shown by God for the world: “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
VGB: Has avoiding common, potentially unbiblical clichés been difficult?
Hall: It hasn’t been too difficult with Super Mega Bob since the game fits a very family-friendly style, but it is certainly something that I’ve thought about a lot before. The fact of the matter is, salacious content does attract people. My next project will really test the lines with this for me, because it is going to be a decidedly dark and mature game. But I don’t think mature has to mean sinful – it will deal with adult issues in a way that fits within Scriptural parameters. It’s definitely an issue!
VGB: Do you have some sort of deeper message you want to communicate through the game?
Hall: As I mentioned earlier, Super Mega Bob really focuses on forgiveness. In a world filled with vengeance driven media and games, I want the game to be refreshing and make players pause to consider what real heroism is. I teach the kids at my Church, and I am appalled at how many of them think “kill” is the solution to any problem. Almost every scenario they are presented with can be solved by “nuke” or “shoot” in their minds. That’s very disturbing, and I want players to finish SMB and ask themselves, “can I forgive?” Hopefully it will lead them to the answer: “No, not without the Love of Jesus Christ.”
VGB: What has been the greatest inspiration for Super Mega Bob?
Hall: Hmmm. . . aside from the obvious connection to my faith in Christ? Mega Man, Legend of Zelda, Binding of Isaac, Adventures of Lolo, and PC classic Jetpack have all played a huge role in inspiring me to make Super Mega Bob! Oh, and I shouldn’t forget Kirby, it definitely played a part as well. Overall I just wanted to capture the feeling of innocence and savage shooting (odd to hear those things paired together) that those games could exude so well!
VGB: Finally, what do you want gamers to think about/feel after playing SMB?
Hall: BUYIN’ MORE GAMES FROM JENITO!!!! No, no, I mean, that would be great, but seriously I just want players to think about the implications of the story. About forgiveness, and also about moving on from tragedies that happen in our lives. Bad things happen, but God always has a master plan. I know that when I submit to Him, I’m always amazed to see how things work out. I also want players to feel immensely satisfied. I want you to think, “yup, I really wasted the monster hordes!” That’s a good feeling 🙂
VGB: Thank you so much for your time.
Support the developer by picking up Super Mega Bob when it releases on September 23rd!