For each day of Twelvetide, Christ and Pop Culture writers will point to some of the cultural goodness that gives hope in the midst of life’s messyness. It’s our version of the “Twelve Days of Christmas” song, filled with things our writers have found to be life-giving. Some entries are 2018 artifacts, some are from years past. All of them point us to hope.
Toxic is the word Oxford Dictionaries used to sum up the mood of 2018. It’s a word that has been applied to cultures, workplaces, relationships, politics, and the environment. With the #metoo movement still snowballing from 2017, toxic masculinity is rampant; the danger of plastics and other environmental hazards have been a focal point; and America’s political landscape is considered poisonous by many.
In gaming, “toxic” is a word frequently used to describe player behavior that is demeaning to others; the word is defined by a lack of positive community. The four indie games I’ve chosen below, however, counter this attitude of toxicity in their own unique ways. Through community, acceptance, and paying attention to our environment, there is hope to be found, in 2018 and in the years to come.
Undertale is my number one choice for representing community in a video game. Tossed into an underground full of “monsters,” you can discover that these beings, creatures that seem so other, are really not that different. Your choices matter, and you can decide to accept this community or destroy it. The game is full of heartwarming (or heart-wrenching, depending on the path you take) moments that define what it means to be human.
The environmental message of Fe is clear: you can respect your surroundings by attempting to understand the world, or destroy nature out of ignorance instead. The game is full of gorgeous, polygon art and monochrome colors that invite you to explore the forest through the humming, singing, and howling of your controllable character. Metal beings called Silent Ones are entrapping the creatures of the woods, and it’s your job to free them and learn the languages of the forest so you can understand how to live in harmony with it.
Celeste is a whimsical platformer about a girl attempting to climb a mountain. As if ascending a frozen peak isn’t difficult enough, she wrestles with depression, anxiety, and an alter-ego that seems to want her dead. Her journey involves learning to combat her own toxicity and how to find peace through struggles with mental health—a tale I find beautiful, coming from a culture attempting to understand what it means to feel trapped by your own mind.
As you may have guessed, Hell is a toxic place. In Pinstripe, the underworld is a frozen land where inhabitants wrestle with depression and addiction. Protagonist Ted struggles to find help from any of its inhabitants as he searches for his kidnapped daughter. As the story unfolds, we learn that Ted is going through his own personal hell of regret due to addiction in life, and we are encouraged to appreciate the level of strength, discipline, and outside help it takes to overcome addiction and forgive ourselves.