“I can’t do it!”
I throw down the controller on the couch beside me. The final boss of Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order is difficult. I’ve tried to beat her 10 times already and my reflexes are getting worse, not better (probably because it’s one o’clock in the morning and I’m tired). It’s frustrating.
But Fallen Order is one of those games where you need to fail in order to succeed. To get to this point, I’ve died and died and tried again. And then died some more. Every time I die, I get a little further in what I’m trying to do. I’ve learned that I need to grab that vine more quickly so I don’t plummet into a bottomless pit, or that I should jump instead of dodge when the boss pummels the ground with a fist. Each enemy has a unique set of attack actions that I have to learn in order to defeat them, and no two enemies are alike.
The challenging nature of this game is metaphorically appropriate considering the story takes place after the Jedi order has been destroyed. The galaxy is now ruled by the iron fists of Darth Vader and the Emperor. The Jedi order has failed. Cal Kestis, the main character whom the player controls, struggles with guilt over his Jedi master’s death. In a flashback scene, we learn that Cal was only a boy when the clones turned on them; Jedi Master Jaro Tapal died getting young Cal to safety. During the scene, I can do nothing but stand by and watch as Tapal is shot. As much as I want to jump in front of him and bat the blaster bolts away with my lightsaber, the game won’t let me. In my own helplessness, I feel Cal’s failure along with him.
Determined to honor his master’s sacrifice, Cal embarks on a mission to find a holocron that has information on the whereabouts of Force-sensitive children. He follows the clues and holographic recordings left behind by Eno Cordova, a Jedi master who had a vision of the order’s end but was unable to convince the other Jedi. Cordova hopes the holocron will help someone else do what he could not: save the Jedi. Cal is driven to restore the order, even though doing so would be dangerous not just for him but for the children involved.
Cal fails again and again at recovering the holocron, as his movements are constantly predicted by the game’s villain. As the player, I fail with him. My frustration culminates in my outrage as I’m fighting the final boss. Boss fights in Fallen Order are particularly challenging because of the way battles work; parries need to be timed just right to counter an enemy’s attack, but if the enemy glows red it means their next attack is unparryable. Often, you have less than a second to dodge or jump instead of hitting the parry button. I watch the screen as Cal parries instead of rolling away from an attack, and he dies as a result. I throw my controller down and I realize my irritation at my failure to beat this boss is couched in something deeper—a belief that I am valuable for what I can do and not simply because I am. Playing the game brought out some fears of failure associated with my career and life in general.
Fallen Order is one of those games where you need to fail in order to succeed.
Failure is something I’m practiced at, and yet I still struggle with it. When I make a mistake, I feel like I’ve lost a significant part of myself. I question my self-worth. I wonder why I tried this ambitious task in the first place. I’m tempted to give up, and I’m ashamed I’m not perfect.
Measuring my self-worth by my ability to accomplish things is a problem, especially considering I have a chronic illness and can’t always manage the same tasks others can with ease. It’s a problem compounded by an individualistic culture that idealizes self-sufficiency. However, my failure to accomplish certain things doesn’t mean I’m worth any less in God’s eyes. Perhaps failure is weakness, but often that’s where God does his best work. Contrary to our culture’s ideals, weakness is not only OK, it’s human.
In 2 Corinthians, Paul warns against boasting about our accomplishments and encourages us to rely on God’s grace instead: “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.”
God loves me just the way I am—not for my successes and accomplishments, but just because I exist, because I’m me. Whenever I fail, I try to remind myself of that.
Contrary to our culture’s ideals, weakness is not only OK, it’s human.
Did I mention Fallen Order is all about trying over and over again? True story.
There’s a verse in Proverbs that is great advice for games (and life situations) like this: “As a dog returns to its vomit, so fools repeat their folly.” I enjoy video games like Fallen Order because they force me, the player, to look at challenges from new angles and try new solutions. (They “force” me. Get it? I’ll pause here for your outrageous laughter.)
Failure is part of learning—another reason I shouldn’t kick myself when I make mistakes and have to try again. There’s got to be a reason God didn’t make us machines that manage things perfectly the first time we try them, right? Maybe failure actually teaches us something important, something we wouldn’t understand otherwise.
Persevering through failure while not valuing myself based on what I can achieve seem like ideas that are at odds with each other. After all, if I’m not defined by what I do, why should I try and risk failure at all? I’ve found the answer in mirroring myself after Christ, who spent his time on Earth in action—teaching, walking, living, loving—even though he was already beloved as God’s only son. Jesus says the greatest commandment is love, and love requires action of some sort. Love is worth the risk of failure.
“Failure is not the end. It is a necessary part of the path,” says Eno Cordova, the slain Jedi master who appears in holographic recordings in Fallen Order. “Hope will always survive in those who continue to fight.”
I could set down my controller and give up without completing the game, but beating this boss is well within my abilities. I could sit back and stop trying in other areas of my life, too—I could stop trying at my job, stop trying to make connections with my friends, stop caring about others and only focus on myself because I keep making mistakes anyway. But my failures aren’t the end of hope; they’re the birthplace for it.
Just as I use my failures in a video game to learn to look at a problem in a new way, God can use my failures in life so that I approach life in a new way. God has a history of using people who have failed. Moses didn’t stop trying to free the Israelites after Pharaoh said no the first time. David didn’t abandon his kingship when things got tough. Jesus didn’t stop teaching because not everyone listened to him. Hope survived. Hope and love will continue to shine through our failures—in Fallen Order and our actual lives—if we decide to look for them.