Hey, everyone! I’m filling on for Samuru for the “Gaming With God” post today! I hope you all enjoy, despite me not being the regular for this column!
I wanted to talk about the game Tales of Zestiria. Every time I’m playing Zestiria, I am reminded constantly of the big-picture story of Christianity. Frankly, if I didn’t know better, I’d almost argue that Zestiria was designed to be a thinly-veiled Christian game. Why? It is full of symbols that closely represent key components of Christianity. I’m going to point out bigger ones and explain them – there may be minor spoilers in this if you haven’t played the game, but none of it will be things you won’t find out within a few hours of gameplay (which, when you consider that the game averages 45 hours straight plot, no side quests, is not a lot). They’re also all going to be fairly general, not plot spoilers like “and after ___ battle, ___ will be killed!” or anything along those lines. So, as long as you’re not concerned about minor “spoilers”, keep reading!
Tales of Zestiria follows the story of Sorey, a young man who takes on the role of “the Shepherd” in order to save humanity. We follow him as he learns what this role means, what powers come with the role, and what responsibilities it entails. We watch him learn about the world (a place called Glenwood), grow in his powers, and gain friends to help him on his way. Or, that’s a very basic summary of the general plot. The actual story itself includes many clever writing moments, not to mention some feels-heavy spots.
Imagine Glenwood is Earth. Earth, like Glenwood, was once a beautiful, perfect place to live. Things like hatred and greed did not exist. Enter Lord of Calamity, who brings malevolence into the land, along with his “hellions”. This causes hatred and greed to spur up across the land. As they spur up, hellions flock to them, feeding off them, and causing further problems. All-in-all, this continually grows the power of the Lord of Calamity, who intends to use this power to destroy Glenwood. In Earth’s case, the Lord of Calamity is Satan – the hellions, his demons. Satan tricked Adam and Eve so that sin could enter the world. Since then, he has continued to feed off the sinful nature in every human, in the hopes of “killing and destroying” all.
Now, in all good stories, where we have a villain, a hero rises up. In the story of Salvation, this is, of course, Christ. In Zestiria, this is Sorey – the character you play as. Sorey is, in many ways, symbolic of Christ. Just as Jesus is our Shepherd, Sorey is the Shepherd (by title and task) of his people. Both Christ and Sorey are the only ones who can fulfill their task – but, they cannot do it on their power alone. Each acts on the will of a higher power (Christ the Son acts on the will of God the Father, Sorey acts on the will of Lailah). It is from this leader that they are given the additional power to fulfill their task. Just as Christ was fully man yet fully God, Sorey is also fully human yet fully seraph (though he undergoes a complete transformation when swapping to this “mode” – see image below). Both individuals face similar reactions from those they came to save, too – a mix of joy, fear, hope, and hatred. Sorey, like Christ, continues anyways – determined to overcome the Lord of Calamity just as Christ overcame death for us.
Every hero has a following that supports him. Sorey has the ability to take on “squires”, granting them his power to fight hellions as long as they are serving his cause. Those who are not Sorey’s followers, on the other hand, are either entirely unaware of the hellions’ evil presence, or they are simply unable to fight back against it. Christians, originally stemming from the 12 disciples, are the followers of Christ. Similar to how Sorey’s squires gain his ability to fight hellions, we, as we pursue a relationship with Christ, become better at fighting Satan (we just don’t get wicked-awesome transformation scenes and cool outfits, sadly). We become more aware of sins and find strength in God to fight them. Those who don’t know Christ, however, are either fully unaware of the spiritual world around them, or they cannot fight back against it. Though in Zestiria you play the hero, in reality we are all just the squires/disciples. We rely fully on the power of Christ to be able to not only follow God in our own life, but also to help others find God in their lives.
Now, I could go on for ages about more symbols I see (e.g. the symbolism of needing our “brothers” as presented by Sorey and Mikleo’s relationship), but then this would go from a blog to a book. If you play (or have played) the game, though, I’d encourage you to keep a lookout for other symbols and lessons the game holds. On top of being a visually and audibly stunning game, it is also full of things to make you think.
In life, we are never the “main character”. We never get the star role. We may have moments of “fame”, but the world does not revolve around us. That’s okay. In our big-picture story, Christ is the “main character” – as He should be. We, on the other hand, just need to make sure that we continue to use the “power” (strengths, talents, passions, and spiritual giftings) that God’s given us to support Him and His cause. Why? Spoiler alert: Satan loses. I can’t speak for you, but I know that at the end of the “Game of Life”, *I* want to be part of the winning team.