The Messiah Next Door

What if Jesus hadn’t come back in ancient times? What if his earthly ministry was happening now in the modern world? What if you met him, believed him, followed him now, how would your world-view be different? How would you share his message? How would you bring others to meet him, to listen, to possibly believe? Although I know some people would find these questions headache-inducing, I find them to be interesting mental exercises into my own beliefs and the state of the world. I also find them interesting enough to try to make a storytelling game out of them.

I wrote about the DS9 episode Destiny, and Kira’s struggle to deal with Ben Sisko as both her commanding officer and as the Emissary, a Messiah-like figure in the Bajoran religion. While she’s convinced of his divine role, Kira still needs to learn how to navigate the complex waters of working at a secular level with the man while keeping her belief and reverence for the religious icon. Fascinating as that situation already is, there’s a detail in their relationship that flips the paradigm, as it is Sisko, the Emissary, who is the skeptic, the one that has to come to terms with being the Messiah, while the follower, Kira, is firm in her belief.

I found the movie Risen interesting because it was the story of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection told through the eyes of Clavius, a pagan Roman officer. Clavius is tasked with investigating the disappearance of Jesus’ body from the tomb in order to quell once and for all this revolutionary group that had been causing problems in Jerusalem. Clavius indeed finds Jesus, the resurrected Jesus, and goes through a crisis of faith, following the risen Messiah and his apostles while struggling with how his world is changing. In a way, it’s a reflection of what the twelve must’ve gone through when they first met the preacher from Nazareth, but it is also a window into what it would be to be faced with the miraculous and asked to believe.

There’s a point in the movie after Clavius has seen the risen Jesus and followed the group to Galilee trying to figure out what’s going on when Clavius and Jesus have a short but powerful conversation.

Clavius: I cannot reconcile all this with the world I know.
Yeshua: With your own eyes you’ve seen, yet still you doubt. Imagine the doubt of those who have never seen. That’s what they face.

The adage “seeing is believing” isn’t necessarily true, especially when believing means changing your entire worldview. Clavius, Sisko, and Kira have all seen clearly, unequivocally, with their own eyes. Will they then believe? And yes, I know that these are characters in fictional tales, but the questions they are asking of themselves are important ones that are turning a mirror towards you and me, forcing us to answer the questions ourselves.

It is that question that I would like my game to address. I want players to be characters interacting with a real Messiah, seeing the true miracles, listening to the true words, and ask themselves the question, how is my life different now that the Messiah is here? Is seeing truly believing? Will you help others see and believe? Or will you remain a skeptic and doubt? When they come pursuing, will you fight for what you believe in?

It sounds simple in theory, but it is a complex process to turn that idea into a game made to tell those stories. That’s why every time I see examples in media that ask similar questions I get excited, because they teach me little by little how to create my work, and how to help others ask those same questions to themselves.