?One of the most popular franchises of all time was almost taken down by a single letter.
That franchise is Alien, which spawned from Ridley Scott’s 1979 space-horror classic. James Cameron – he of Avatar fame – released a sequel in 1986 called ALIENS which was more of an action film – a bunch of space marines shoot a bunch of aliens.
Cameron’s version of the ALIEN lore went on to spawn a whole bunch of video games. SEGA released one in 2013 called ALIENS: Colonial Marines. The game is considered to be one of the worst video games ever made, in large part because of the AI that controls the aliens.
In the movie ALIENS, the xenomorphs are a lot like giant bugs – they run across the ground, the walls or the ceiling on four legs, lightning fast and hard to hit. In the 2013 game, the stand on their hind legs and just run straight at you. It makes the game really easy, and not really at all like the film on which the game is based.
Now, fast-forward to 2018 and the game re-releases on STEAM, which is an online platform. If you have any amount of computer coding skills, you can buy a game on STEAM and get into the code of the game.
Which is when one avid game fan discovered why ALIENS: Colonial Marines was such a huge failure.
Here’s the line of code they found:
ClassRemapping=PecanGame.PecanSeqAct_AttachXenoToTether -> PecanGame.PecanSeqAct_AttachPawnToTeather
You might notice right there at the end that “Tether” is spelled wrong. Because of the way the command is structured, this code didn’t break the game – it still runs. But this is the line of code that tells the game where to find the behavior AI for the aliens. When a xenomorph pops up, the game goes looking for “Teather” and can’t find anything. So it just defaults to basic behaviors.
That’s right – the big problem that ruined this game, that made it infamous as one of the worst games of all time – was a single typo. One errant ‘a’
If you’ve never worked with code, it can be hard to believe that such a small mistake can have such huge consequences. But it’s true!
Pretty much every coder I know has horror stories about having to comb through thousands of lines of code looking for a single typo that renders their whole program non-functional.
But when it all works, when every line is in its right place, well – we get the magic on which our whole world is built. Not just fun games, but life-saving machines, globe-connecting communications, even the software we’re using to worship together as a hybrid congregation this morning.
Hang with me here, but I think code is actually a really good metaphor for the kind of oneness Jesus sets up as the goal for all his followers.
So often in the Church we think of Oneness as uniformity – we all have to look, think and act the same. But the Oneness Jesus calls us to is more like the unity of good code – we all play our part, working together to execute God’s program of liberation for the world.