Love Thy Nerd
Love Nerds + Engage Culture + Build Community

Christianity and Conservationism in Pangolin’s Puzzle

I have a confession to make: I hate mobile gaming. I hate the predatory nature of the “timed unlock” mechanics that plague the industry, I hate that they all have copy and paste artwork, and I hate the lack of story that most mobile games are missing. The only mobile games that I have ever enjoyed (besides the Super Mario Run) are games that first appeared on consoles (chief among them being XCOM: Enemy Within). I’ve argued for video games to be considered an artistic medium like film or sculpture, but sometimes it feels like mobile games represent everything wrong with the gaming industry.

Which is why Pangolin’s Puzzle feels like such a breath of fresh air: the game takes the traditional look and feel of mobile games but works to subvert them with its message that marries Christianity and conservationism. Pangolin’s Puzzle recounts the story of a little pangolin who is separated from their mother by poachers. The story unfolds via cutscenes that take place between levels, while the levels themselves are made up of puzzles on an isometric grid. Although I’m not very good at puzzle games, the puzzles themselves weren’t over-the-top difficult.

What elevates Pangolin’s Puzzle is its commitment to telling a meaningful story about complex subjects such as poaching and the need for concerted conservation efforts across the globe. I wasn’t just pushing through the puzzles to get to the next puzzle or (as other mobile games often do) forced to wait around until either (a) the timer runs out, letting me play the next level, or (b) I purchased gems/stones/hearts/lives with real world money to continue on without the wait. Here I learned about pangolins and their plight and thought seriously about my contribution to global wildlife. According to the makers, pangolins are “the world’s only scaly mammal.” Considered one of the most trafficked animals in the world, these creatures are often hunted for the supposed mystical properties of their scales. However, there are several organizations (a few of whom are supported by the gamer makers with 50% of in-game app purchases) that are dedicated to stopping the poaching of pangolins. The story draws heavily from this real life problem.

Pangolin’s Puzzle’s developers, a husband and wife duo that goes by the name Hero Factor Games, also blend their conservation activism with their Christian faith: “We believe that ideas and choices have consequences. Each choice we makes leaves an eternal impression on our hearts, minds, and souls. For us, the issue of environmental stewardship goes deeper than respecting our beautiful planet; it reflects what we believe about the God who made the heavens and earth.” At a time when there are many reasons to doubt the sincerity of Christians’ regard for the environment, Hero Factor Games acts as a helpful witness to the love of God for His creation.

While many mobile games attempt to exploit their user base, Hero Factor Games turns that formula on its head, using mobile games to both entertain and to inspire players to think about something outside of themselves. If other developers can follow in these steps, making games that aren’t simply meant to be slot machines on steroids but can actually help gamers to engage in real issues without being overly “preachy,” mobile games might just be able to be redeemed from themselves.

Daniel Motley is a product manager and freelance writer living in Washington state. He has contributed to a number of outlets, including the Art of Manliness, The Gospel Coalition, and Christ and Pop Culture.

Reader Comments

Related Content

Back Row 489 – 492 | What’s Killing Christianity?

Radio Matt & Mo take a look at 3 things that Christians are doing today that are making it so difficult to share the love of Christ. PLUS: Weird News, Games, Stories, and more!

Church Nerds 73 | Fantastic People and Where to Find Them

The Church Nerds use "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them" to launch into a discussion on how to discover people who may be misunderstood, but have so much to offer - in the world at large and in the church body.

Church Nerds 72 | Hawt, Juicy Gossip

With social media and news dominated by the Depp/Heard trail, it makes us think about scandal and rumors and why they fascinate us. The Church Nerds ask: How does our faith affect whether or not we watch, listen, or take part in these things?

Church Nerds 71 | Apologizing for Apologetics

We all know that one nerd who knows so much about their fandom that having a conversation with them is no fun. The Church Nerds ask if Christian apologists fall into this same problem? When and where are the best times to teach apologetics and how can we avoid weaponizing them?

Church Nerds 70 | The Importance of Telling Stories

The Church Nerds explore the importance that stories take in our lives, from the allegories we find in our favorite fiction to the inspiring testimonies of how Christ has transformed our lives.

Church Nerds 69 | Church Corruption

The Church Nerds discuss "Hillsong: A Megachurch Exposed", "The Rise & Fall of Mars Hill", and several other recent church scandals - including what could have stopped these scandals long before they even became scandals.

Church Nerds 68 | Non-Verbal Communications

This week the Church Nerds draw off of the real-life experience of Bubba losing his voice and not being able to communicate. They take a hard look at how we not only communicate non-verbally with each other, but also how God communicates with us when we can’t hear His voice as clear as we would like to.

Church Nerds 67 | Cultivating Meaningful Gaming Experiences

Bubba & Anna discuss disagreements within fandoms that, when you get down to it, aren't really all that important in the grand scheme of things. And, of course, if we tend to do this over our fandoms, we certainly get tempted to argue the same way over doctrine and faith.