A notice upfront: this article contains spoilers for Red Dead Redemption, Alan Wake, and Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End.
Our culture is saturated in sexual imagery, bombarding us with scantily clad actresses in movies and suggestive slogans in advertisements. Video games are no exception: female characters don armor that covers little more than a bikini would, prostitutes call for your attention on street corners in open world games, and romance side stories culminate not in any sort of commitment or genuine intimacy, but in a single act of sexual intercourse, as though sex cures all relational challenges and ensures that everyone lives happily ever after.
Despite all the relational brokenness on display in the world around us, however, God’s grace still finds ways to shine through, and it is important to recognize the goodness in culture that we find amidst the depravity. With that in mind, I would like to spend a few moments talking about several games that portray positive examples of marriage. The characters here face a variety of different challenges in their respective relationships—past baggage, selfishness, insecurities, and so forth—but their love and commitment to one another prove stronger than their weaknesses, serving as powerful testimonies to the beauty that God intended for husbands and wives.
Red Dead Redemption
Set in the Wild West in 1911, Red Dead Redemption tells the tale of John Marston, a former outlaw turned family man. John and his wife Abigail came into their marriage with a complicated and messy past, to put it mildly. Abigail, orphaned as a child, was a prostitute for the Van Der Linde gang as a teenager, sleeping with all the various gang members, including John. She and John fell in love with one another and had a son named Jack when Abigail was just eighteen years old. John and Abigail married and eventually left the gang for good, intent on starting a new life together.
But their new life doesn’t turn out to be as simple and worry-free as they had hoped. Government agents kidnap Abigail and Jack, using them as leverage to get John to hunt down the members of his old gang. John puts his life on the line time and again to secure his family’s safety. He stays faithful to his wife along the way; prostitutes solicit John during his travels, but he always turns them down because of his marriage. When he finally completes his task, he heads home and immediately sets to work restoring his ranch and picking up where they had all left off. John reassures Abigail that they have changed and set a new course for their lives. Abigail, too, shows how much she has grown over the years; when John receives a letter from Bonnie McFarland, a woman who had saved John’s life while he hunted his gang, Abigail is jealous of her husband’s fidelity to her and insists on coming with him when he makes a delivery to the McFarland ranch. Likewise, John makes a point of introducing Abigail as his wife when they arrive. Altogether, the story of John and Abigail’s marriage is an encouragement to anyone who comes into a relationship with a lot of past baggage.
On the surface, Alan and Alice Wake live the high life: Alan is a world-renowned fiction author, Alice is an accomplished photographer, and the two of them live in a swanky apartment in New York City. But beneath all the glitz and glamour is a marriage that takes work to maintain. Alice shows much patience with her husband, who has a short temper and a penchant for drinking and partying late into the night. When Alan wakes up with a hangover one day and snaps at his wife, she defuses the situation, pacifying him and providing encouragement. And when Alan finds himself in a prolonged case of writer’s block, she arranges a vacation for the two of them, far away in a cabin on a lake, hoping that it will clear his mind and allow him to write again.
The peaceful vacation takes a terrifying turn, however; dark forces drag Alice to the bottom of the mystical Cauldron Lake. It is in this moment of crisis that Alan shows his devotion to his wife, as he sets off on a quest to free her from the clutches of darkness. His commitment is unwavering—even as shadowy creatures threaten to tear him limb from limb and he questions his own sanity, he never strays from his goal to save Alice, no matter the cost. For Alice, this is her worst nightmare come true; she has a crippling fear of darkness, and the only thing keeping her sane is her sense that Alan is on his way. In the end, Alan rescues Alice in an act of substitutional sacrifice that should sound familiar to Christians: he takes her place in the lake, trapping himself in the darkness so that she can go free.
In Uncharted 4, Nathan Drake and his on-again-off-again love interest Elena Fisher have finally gotten married and settled down, buying a nice home and promising to one another that they won’t go on any more dangerous, life-threatening adventures in search of ancient riches. Before long, however, Nate finds his old life calling out to him once again; an opportunity presents itself for him to go on one more daring journey to find long-lost pirate treasure. Knowing that Elena won’t approve, he lies to her, telling her that he has picked up a temporary, legitimate job in Malaysia. In truth, Nate sets out elsewhere in search of the treasure. Elena figures out his lie and catches up to him. Nate makes excuses upon being confronted, and Elena, fed up with her husband’s dishonesty, plans to head home without him.
As Nate continues on his journey, he once again finds himself in danger with seemingly no way out. Fortunately for him, however, Elena has not given up on him; instead of going home, she follows Nate and saves his life. Now Nate finally begins to open up to Elena, acknowledging the insecurities that drove him to lie to her. She admits that she almost didn’t come back for him, and when he asks her why she ultimately did, she refers to the commitment she made to him as his spouse, the vow that she would stick with him “for better or worse.”
Key moments at 1:20-2:40 and 5:30-6:22
When their adventure comes to an end, Elena’s foresight and thoughtful planning lays the foundation for a bright future for the family. Recognizing that she still loves going on adventures with Nate, she tells him her plan to invest the fortune they acquired into a new, legal treasure-hunting business that they can run together. And in this moment, Elena says something incredible considering all that her husband had put her through: “Just say the word and I will call the whole thing off.” Even now, she wants to make sure that the two of them are on the same page, and that whatever they do, they do it as a team. Nate wisely agrees with Elena’s plan, though, and they go on to receive worldwide fame for their incredible finds.
While it might be easy to assume the worst about entertainment, positive stories like these stand out, showcasing the good things in this world that are worth fighting for. These games weren’t made exclusively by or for Christians, either; many non-Christians were involved in telling these stories, which only further proves how God can use anyone and anything to display the beauty he intends for our lives and the lives of those around us. I hope that you find this encouraging as you sift through the messy culture that God has called us to redeem for his glory.