Romans, James, and Fe
In Fe, a gorgeous game of polygon art and monochrome palettes, I play a fox-like creature who is lost in a Nordic forest. Though there is no dialogue, I’m able to hum, sing, and howl—doing so lights up some of the fauna around me in a fairy-tale glow.
When I first enter the painterly world I spot a deer nearby, but it is afraid of me, leaping away as I attempt to approach it. I get the impression that I’m not a regular inhabitant of this forest; I don’t belong here. Following the deer, I discover a new area, and the game suggests I try singing gently with forest creatures. I slowly approach the deer, humming at a low pitch, and it becomes intrigued, allowing me to sidle up to it. It sings a specific note at me, and when I match it, it is delighted and no longer afraid.
I’m reminded of Paul’s direction in Romans: “Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.” I could have continued on without bothering to sing the deer’s tune, proudly attempting to discover the forest’s secrets on my own. But in befriending the deer, in not letting my conceit take over, I made a connection—one that carried me along the terrain at a faster pace and made me feel less alone in the game’s alien world. What’s more, the interaction opened up an array of new possibilities for me. If I could sing the forest creatures’ songs, perhaps I could understand this place and my purpose in it.
I soon discover I am not the only new inhabitant of this world. Tall, two-legged beings that appear to be made of metal have invaded the forest, capturing any wildlife that their one-eyed gaze lands on and placing them in cages of twisted darkness. If they catch sight of me, it’s game over. All I can do is quiver in the tall brush as they pass by, hoping they won’t notice me. Fe’s developers refer to these beings as the Silent Ones, creatures who dampen the forest’s song as they pass. Like me, they are out of place here. But unlike me, they are not making an effort to comprehend their habitat, but instead are enslaving what they do not understand.
Fe struck me as an apt metaphor for how I feel when people refuse to listen to my voice: trapped, unheard, and alone. Sometimes I feel like I’m speaking a completely different language from other people, even other Christians. As a writer, I receive constant critique from commenters on my published articles. Some of this evaluation is valuable, as readers engage with my perspective and question where I’m coming from. Others dismiss what I have to say, closing the door to discussion because they disagree with me. How often have I been stuck in one of those cages when I’ve come into contact with someone who has a vastly different perspective on life than I do? How often have I put someone else in one of those cages, silencing their opinions when I should have listened instead?
Fe struck me as an apt metaphor for how I feel when people refuse to listen to my voice.
That passage in Romans goes on to speak about how to love one another: “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Sometimes that peace takes effort. In Fe, different creatures speak in different languages. The first new language I learn is the song of a mother bird whose eggs are stolen from her by the Silent Ones. When I return them to her, she teaches me her language, and this opens up other areas of the map and solutions to puzzles later in the game. She doesn’t trust me with her language until after I show her unconditional love.
I’m surrounded by companionship and beauty in Fe as I learn new languages, unlock more puzzles, and help creatures that are entrapped by the Silent Ones. At the end of the game, I even have the opportunity to help a Silent One. (Spoilers ahead.) It’s revealed that they aren’t machines after all, but an alien race bent on returning home. It’s unclear, but entirely possible, that I am one of their children. They progressed so far in technology and anger over a catastrophe that they forgot how to communicate or listen to those around them.
Instead of learning a new language, as I have been doing throughout the game, the process is reversed and I am able to teach the Silent One my language. It, in turn, is able to speak to the forest and repair a ship so the majority of Silent Ones can return to where they came from (or perhaps find a new home). A few of them choose to take off their armor and stay instead, living in harmony with the forest. When they finally acknowledge they were hurting others and decide to listen, they find peace, belonging, and companionship.
The advice we’re given in James—“Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry”—flows through Fe. It’s somehow appropriate that a game completely devoid of dialogue is all about listening. If we are truly to love and be at peace with each other, that is the place to start.