My 18-year-old son is an avid gamer and at this point in his life, aspires to make some aspect of game design into a career. Whether he does or not, who knows, but I’ve no doubt about his excellent chances for success. One reason is his ability to bring the paradigms of epic gaming into epic reality and vice versa. One of those paradigms is that of the "backstory". My own history with gaming revolves almost solely around one racing game and I only got a charge out of the competition and sense of speed and skill that one can draw from it. First person shooters or RPGs, etc. have never held my interest and I suppose one of the reasons is that I’ve not "had the time" to really engage with the "backstory."
What’s a "backstory?"
Most of you probably already know, but I remember that the first context I heard that term mentioned in was in gaming (though wikipedia gives it a broader definition). It refers to the over-arching narrative that has been crafted around the action of the game that can give the player more understanding of what’s going on strategy-wise (the "practical" value of the backstory), but it’s also a tool that facilitates a more immersive experience in the game. Depending on how alive the imagination is of the gamer, they can really enter into what they are doing and what they are experiencing in the game. It enhances the experience.
The backstory to the Gospel of Luke
Imagine my surprise, having only a gaming context in mind for this word, to hear it come out of the mouth of "learned British theologian" NT Wright. In the this talk that he gave in 2010 as part of the British "The Big Read" project (various churches in Britain all reading through the same portions of scripture during the season of Lent), Wright gives the "backstory" to the Gospel of Luke. It is vintage NT Wright – especially since he’s all about "narrative." It brings together many of his best themes and lays a rich foundation for approaching the reading of the Gospels (and indeed the Bible) but with a focus especially on the Gospel of Luke. When he used the term backstory it really made me think of what a backstory does in gaming and how that applies to how we engage with God and His Kingdom and this incredible vehicle of communication that He’s given us called the Bible. My impression is that we are all too often stuck in the posture that I had with games. I didn’t bother with the backstory or anything else that is really necessary to engage with a game and plumb its depths as an immersive experience…and so it wasn’t.
Knowing and appreciating the backstory is a complete game-changer!