Open World Games and Bible Study

Posted by on Jan 6, 2016 in Visual Theology | 2 Comments

I love video games. Yes I’m a pastor, and I love video games. I bet there’s a bunch of pastors like me now that us 80’s kids are getting old and settling into their careers. Anyhoo, my current time sink is called Xenoblade Chronicles X on the Wii U. This game is a masterpiece in mood setting and Atmosphere. Vast country opens before you, mountains in the distance can be climbed, enormous beasts amble across the screen.

It’s all pretty overwhelming and wonderfully satisfying.

This is an open world game. Most of them work thusly:

  1. The map starts out mostly hidden from view.
  2. The player must make his or her way to a specific vantage point (observation tower, Mountain top, Mining Site, Cell tower, etc.)
  3. The player then claims this spot and a section of the map is revealed. HURRAY!

If you’re a player, you know what I’m talking about…

Xenoblade Chronicles X

Witcher 3

Batman Arkham Knight

Fallout 4 

The satisfaction that comes from discovering new areas, new quests, and new enemies has made this kind of game incredibly popular. The design is addicting.

I think we’re designed to be curious, and these games tap into that. The feeling of exploration, of uncovering the unknown, of conquering a domain, this is inherent in our souls.

If you don’t mind, I’d like to draw an analogy.

Studying the Bible can feel just like this.

For example, take Zechariah Chapter 3. At first glance it looks like one of those Old Testament passages a lot of people just skip over. We wanna get to the good parts, like uh… Samson! But you arrive at this text, and you stay there, like a synchronization point in Assassin’s Creed. You observe the terrain, and take in the details.

Zechariah 3:1–2

1 Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the Angel of the Lord, with Satan standing at his right side to accuse him.

2 The Lord said to Satan: “The Lord rebuke you, Satan! May the Lord who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Isn’t this man a burning stick snatched from the fire?”

Bunches of things are happening here. First, there’s the Angel of the Lord! He’s always kinda scary and mysterious. Here’s the thing, is he just an angel? He pops up in the Old Testament at least 54 times. More than a few times he identifies himself as much more authoritative than “just an angel”.

Exodus 3:2

2 Then the Angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire within a bush. As Moses looked, he saw that the bush was on fire but was not consumed.

When you look around the OT for the Angel of the Lord, and you find out that this is the one who spoke to Moses at the burning bush…

Wasn’t that supposed to be God? So God IS the Angel of the Lord?

Judges 13:18

18 “Why do you ask My name,” the Angel of the Lord asked him, “since it is wonderful.”

Yeah pretty much. At least usually, in the OT.

Zechariah 3:3–5

3 Now Joshua was dressed with filthy clothes as he stood before the Angel.

4 So the Angel of the Lord spoke to those standing before Him, “Take off his filthy clothes!” Then He said to him, “See, I have removed your guilt from you, and I will clothe you with splendid robes.”

5 Then I said, “Let them put a clean turban on his head.” So a clean turban was placed on his head, and they clothed him in garments while the Angel of the Lord was standing nearby.

Now Joshua, the one who is supposed to be the Holiest guy on the planet (he is the only one who can officially go talk to God in the temple) is dressed in filthy rags. The English translation kinda cleans him up a little, it actually means he’s covered in poopy, bloody, filth. The High Priest, the representative of humanity, is covered in poop.

Zechariah 3:4

4 So the Angel of the Lord spoke to those standing before Him, “Take off his filthy clothes!” Then He said to him, “See, I have removed your guilt from you, and I will clothe you with splendid robes.”

And instead of vaporizing him, The Angel of the Lord orders him cleaned and restored.

Zechariah 3:7–10

7 “This is what the Lord of Hosts says: If you walk in My ways and keep My instructions, you will both rule My house and take care of My courts; I will also grant you access among these who are standing here.

8 “Listen, Joshua the high priest, you and your colleagues sitting before you; indeed, these men are a sign that I am about to bring My servant, the Branch.

God sets up Joshua and his fellow priests, but He tells them this is only temporary. The priests are not meant to be God’s endgame. Why? Because they are just a symbol, a place holder. And look! The translators have given us a clue here by capitalizing the word “Branch”.

9 Notice the stone I have set before Joshua; on that one stone are seven eyes. I will engrave an inscription on it”—this is the declaration of the Lord of Hosts—“and I will take away the guilt of this land in a single day.

I’ll be honest. I don’t even know why there’s a stone with seven eyes here. It’s one of those rabbit holes you can go into and be occupied for days. But what I do see, is that God is planning to somehow take the guilt of the land away in a single day. What could that possibly be referring to?

10 On that day, each of you will invite his neighbor to sit under his vine and fig tree.” This is the declaration of the Lord of Hosts.

And here, finally, is a picture of perfect peace. God promises an end to conflict. A time where people will sit and chat, a time where the World will be made right.

If the Bible is an Open World, we’ve just surveyed a tenth of a hundredth percent of it. There is a vast land of discovery waiting for the eager student.

But unlike the video games I adore, this pursuit is far more worthwhile, and the benefits far more lasting.


  1. Nathaniel
    January 25, 2016

    So it’s like each new detail understood is like unlocking a new section of the map, and once you do that several more details/sync points become visible, enticing you to unlock more sections of the map.

    • Miguel
      February 25, 2016

      Yes! The more you know about the Bible, the more fascinating it becomes, and the more vast its field of knowledge grows.


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