Impact Winter and the Limits of Our Created Bodies

Kevin Schut

If I’ve learned nothing else from survival games, I have learned this: we may dream of romantic comedies, perfect sunset beaches, and thrill-a-minute action stories, but we live in the mundane. Eat, drink, work, sleep. Every day the same, and every day, largely ignored. Sometimes it takes a game to highlight the importance of these things—and help us appreciate the goodness that God has given us in those mundane moments.

It may seem strange to learn such things from an entry in the relatively new survival game genre, but that’s one of the things I took away from Impact Winter. The apocalypse story here involves a giant meteor that has smashed into the earth (in Brandon, Manitoba, Canada, of all places), blowing so much dust into the atmosphere that it plunged the world into deep, permanent winter, killing billions. The game player controls Jacob, the leader of a small group of five survivors holed up in a church, waiting for rescue after receiving a garbled radio promise of help in 30 days.

The game consists of traversing a frigidly beautiful snowscape, looting buried houses, hospitals, airports, and cars for the stuff of life. Each character needs food, drink, warmth, and sleep. Assisted by the all-purpose floating robot AKO-Light, Jacob must explore further and further away from home base at the church as he exhausts the supplies of nearby locations. Trudging through the snow is itself an exhausting activity—never mind having to fend off attacks from wild animals. This is also a crafting game: if Jacob collects the right parts, the people back in the church can build, say, a better furnace.

The game is about constantly chasing things we take for granted in our daily lives.

What this means in practice is that the game is about constantly chasing things we take for granted in our daily lives. Those of us living comfortable lives in the developed world assume we’ll always have sufficient food, that we can get healthy running water whenever we’re thirsty, and that the central heating or cooling will keep us comfortable. We don’t give it a second thought. But in Impact Winter, the reality of the human condition becomes abundantly clear. I might want to hunt down components for an ice melter to supply hydration, but will my food supply last long enough for me to do that? This is a difficult game (and, I should note, a bit buggy right now; if you’re interested, you might want to wait for another game update to be released by the developer). Every act becomes a negotiation with the requirements of life, highlighting the things our technologically advanced society struggles to efface so that our lives can be a non-stop pursuit of less mundane experiences.

In a strange way, the constant attending to physical needs reminded me of how we are designed as humans. We are no angels, no pure spiritual beings. God built us with bodies, which became corrupted after the fall. And while the needs of our stomachs might seem at times like irritants or maybe even burdens, God made us to enjoy the sensation of a cool breeze on a hot day, to savor the taste and prickly bubbles of an iced orange pop, to delight in the sweet crunch of a crisp grape. As the writer of Ecclesiastes suggests, “A person can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their own toil. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment?”

Impact Winter also made me consider the role of hope amidst the mundane. As good as such things are, eating and drinking and sleeping with no end would, as we also learn from Ecclesiastes, be meaningless. In Impact Winter, hope means rescue from the unending snowdrifts and haunted houses of a destroyed town. This is a compelling element in the game, and one common to many of our popular narratives, but still of a limited variety. It is the hope of surviving another day, while the gospel offers hope of a new creation. The story Jesus told was and is one of heaven breaking into earth. We get a taste of it now—and Impact Winter reminds us to appreciate the value of such things, no matter how mundane—but when we see God face to face, then we will know the true joy of eating, drinking, and sleeping as they were always meant to be: free of suffering, free of pain, free of corruption. That is our great hope, to be saved from the mundane and met with the eternal.

Topics: Games, Culture At Large, Arts & Leisure