By Anthony Casperson
In my decades of playing video games, I’ve seen quite a few different user interfaces to control my character. Often the controls depend upon the genre of game that it is. Adventure games require different configurations than tower defense or side-scrolling games. And there are only so many things that the buttons can control.
One user interface design that I found frustrating at first (which shifted more toward annoying once I understood the mechanic) is the auto-jump. Your character runs toward an edge, and without pressing a button, they leap. Hopefully, onto something that you actually want them to.
My first experience with this function was in the game Star Fox Adventures for the Gamecube. Originally released in 2002, this is the only game in the Star Fox series to be a free-roaming adventure game.
I enjoyed the game a lot, but when I started playing it, I tried to figure out which button allowed me to jump. I’d played a few adventure games at the time, and often I could jump in these types of games. But no press of a button launched Fox into the air. A? No. B? No. X? No. Y? No. Z? No. Right bumper? No. Left bumper? No. The C-stick? No. The D-pad? No.
“Well, I guess you can’t jump in this game. Weird.”
I played for a while. Fox ran, beat up enemies, talked with other characters, and even performed puzzles. But jump he did not. Then, I got to a point in the game where I was blocked. The place where it seemed Fox needed to go was beyond a small gap of water.
I tried everything I could think of. I looked around to see if this was some sort of puzzle. I searched for a place to climb, where I’d walk up to a ledge and a button command would appear, causing Fox to leap up the ledge. But there was no ledge. It seemed that there was no aid for this puzzle.
I wracked my mind to figure out this problem. A person could span that gap without needing to jump if it was in reality, but this space-faring adventurer, just looked longingly over to the outcropping just beyond his step. I walked him up to the edge. And in frustration, I pressed every button on the controller again, hoping one would make the anthropomorphic fox jump over this gap.
Finally ready to quit because my character would not do what I wanted him to do, what it seemed like he was supposed to do, I started talking to the pixels. “Look, stupid, all I want you to do is jump over this little gap. But all you do when I run you into it is hit an invisible wal…”
I had made Fox run up to the edge to force him into what I thought would be a wall, but Fox leapt over the water. “Really?!” This opened up the game a whole lot more once I realized that my character could jump automatically. But it also created a whole new problem.
More and more often, edges without rails cropped up. I’d be running along and accidentally get too close to an edge, and Fox would jump…right off of a high cliff and lose half his life. If not die entirely. It started to seem that once the avatar realized he could jump, it was all he wanted to do when he neared a ledge. Especially when I didn’t want him to.
The memory of this game and my frustration with auto-jump came to my mind this week as I thought about habitual sins, particularly my own. I’m not going to go into details of the sin, but after I rebelled against the commands of God, the words of Paul came to me.
“For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.” (Romans 7:19-23).
We followers of Jesus struggle with being new creations that currently dwell in sin-infested bodies. There are good things that we want to do, but the sinful nature of our fallen selves keeps us from progressing in the story God has prepared for us. And there are rebellious things that we don’t want to do, but we find ourselves automatically leaping to do them, which often leads to our own detriment.
The Apostle was speaking in that part of Romans about how the Law of Moses is good, even though it can only show us what sin is. It can’t save us from sin or its ramifications.
I thought about these words, feeling bad for my sin. But as I went to go look up the verse, I realized that I’d forgotten the best part of Paul’s writing. Just a couple of verses later (Romans 8:1-4), the Apostle writes that there is no condemnation for we who are in Jesus. Our Savior has freed us from the law of sin and death. He calls us to walk in his ways, to be controlled by the Spirit of God, but everything has been paid.
There’s no reason to beat ourselves up when we leap off of a ledge that we didn’t want to. God understands our weakness, our frailty as humans, and he paid for it on the cross. This, by no means, allows us to just keep on rebelling against God. But it does mean that when we fall into our habitual sin, God’s grace extends to us. And if he gives us grace, perhaps we should allow ourselves to accept it.