Editorial: Sin in Paradise and Messages in Bottles–An Open Letter to Dylan Barry

Selfie Screenshot 3 from Steam Store Page

*Sources of screenshots are listed in their respective file names.

*Mild spoilers for Selfie: Sisters of the Amniotic Lens follow.

__________________________________________

Dylan

We met on Beta Wave Radio a few months ago and now chat every few days, discussing everything from the Bible to Steam Trading Cards.
While I see you’re a believer in Christ (and a firm one at that), I’m still uncertain regarding your theology and its veracity. So, I chose not to cover your games on this website.

Until now.

In Selfie: Sisters of the Amniotic Lens [AKA “Selfie”], you’ve created something truly special. I’m afraid that if I speak about it, it will bring the unexpected safe haven you’ve made to the attention of the dark and frightening corners of the internet–and everything will be ripped away.

It’s clearly a fear you share.

Selfie Screenshot 2 from Steam Store Page

Part of the opening of Selfie:
…What tears do you cry that are worth bottling?“‘

I helped beta test Selfie. When I saw the question you ask of players at the beginning of the game, I couldn’t help but stare:

“…What tears do you cry that are worth bottling?”

It’s alarmingly personal, brought into even sharper relief by its disturbing context:

“Shed your skin, and tell me what lies beneath…”

You viewed my screen through Skype to watch for anything unexpected. I remember the dead silence as I gaped–not so much shocked at being asked this in your presence, but by the question itself.

I wrote down some trite, semi-religious response to ease the pressure, and moved on.

It’s one of the few things I regret.

Your games are filled with dark imagery, symbolism, and references pulled from across the Bible. You created an imaginary cult (complete with Biblical perversions to base their beliefs around) to frame the narrative of Selfie.

One of your titles features an insane giraffe firing black and white balls of death and screaming “WE MISSED YOU.” THAT element was emblematic of your feelings upon returning to the Church and hearing the same, somewhat disquieting phrase used over and over.

Your games connect with those like you who have had difficult experiences with faith and Christianity in particular. So, it’s unsurprising that you would open with such a question–confusing and intensely evocative. It’s also not entirely unexpected that the sequence following it can be described as nothing short of a nightmare.

Selfie Needed Article Screenshot from 3rd-Strike dot com

The aforementioned giraffe from one of Dylan’s previous titles, Uriel’s Chasm.

The player is trapped in a hazy room, with the hacked apart corpse of an unblinking woman sitting in a wheelchair just to their left.

After completing a series of actions, they are transported to what seems like a rudimentary wire-frame space environment.

Selfie Screenshot from Steam Store Page

The space portion of the game…

Some players complete the objective here without ever noticing how bright some of the stars shine, and so miss out on what makes Selfie so incredible.

These special stars gleaming in the darkness are Bottles–each containing an answer a player provided to the question asked at the beginning of the game.

I haven’t played the full version of Selfie, but you’ve told me about these messages. People admitting to the murder of childhood pets, or doubt of self. Players confessing that they want to die every, single, day.

Upon finding a bottle, players can choose to Condemn or Free the author. Condemning them deletes whatever amount of money they currently have in-game, with the risk of backfiring and deleting the accuser’s funds as well. After passing condemnation, the accuser can have no further interaction with the author.

However, if they FREE them, they can send a portion of their in-game finances and a message to the writer anonymously. The writer can reply–also anonymously.

In the past few days following release, players have offered each other kindness, encouragement and empathy. A pastor-in-training transcribes his sermons and sends them into the dark. Deep relationships are forming over simple white text sent back and forth on a black screen.

Some even witness, sharing their knowledge as Christians from an honest place of understanding without forcing their faith on the recipient.

Selfie Screenshot 4 from Steam Store Page

The developer speaking to someone about faith and doubt through the game.

This is unprecedented in gaming. People baring their very souls to the world, and receiving selfless love and kindness in return. It’s a virtual paradise in an environment increasingly filled with negativity and outright evil.

However, when we spoke about this, we found it wasn’t hard to imagine what would happen if darker elements seeped in. When sales on the title occur and more people see what’s happening in the world you’ve created, the sad, sad expectation is that abuse will begin to flood the community.

This is why I’m frightened.

I’m not afraid that this world has been left to the wolves and forces of darkness. That we’ve been abandoned by God. That he doesn’t listen.

I’m afraid for this world…Because he does. He knows every tear. Every example of abuse and internet “trolling” for laughs or “lulz.”

He sees through every nice image of ourselves we project to those around us, straight to the darkness within–the black, festering center of sin we hide from the world, that Christ died to save us from. The same evil some choose to spew on the internet.

We don’t have to be afraid, Dylan.

What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee.

In God I will praise his word, in God I have put my trust; I will not fear what flesh can do unto me.

Every day they wrest my words: all their thoughts are against me for evil. They gather themselves together, they hide themselves, they mark my steps, when they wait for my soul.

Shall they escape by iniquity? in thine anger cast down the people, O God.

Thou tellest my wanderings: put thou my tears into thy bottle: are they not in thy book?

When I cry unto thee, then shall mine enemies turn back: this I know; for God is for me.
In God will I praise his word: in the Lord will I praise his word. 

In God have I put my trust: I will not be afraid what man can do unto me.” (Psalm 56:3-11)

We know what’s going to happen, and can only pray God changes their hearts and the world we live in before it’s too late–for their sakes.

In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will.” (2 Timothy 2:25-26)

Keep making games, Dylan. Keep trusting Christ.

Keep praying for the people “taken captive by him,” and for those finding rest in your paradise.

I’ll be praying with you.

-Nelson

_____________________________________________

*Do you want to be saved?

*Do you want to make sure that you are saved?

*More articles from Video Games and the Bible.

About Nelson

Writer, amateur #gamedev, and Founder o' Video Games and the Bible. My interviews bring the boys to the yard. Featured from Kotaku to Rock Paper Shotgun. Dropsy.
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