“Brother Nephi’s ultra-fantastic point-and-click Adventure Chapter 1: Nephi’s Stake Out” was released in 2005 by Nick Pasto, known in the virtual world as BoMToons (BoM standing for Book of Mormon). The game was such a success, that in 2010 BoMToons released a sequel: “Brother Nephi’s ultra-fantastic point-and-click Adventure Chapter 2: Quest for the Plates.” As there is no information regarding the origins of the first game, Pasto’s interview regarding the sequel can provide critical insight into his vision for the series and intention behind its expansion.
The game series if based off of 1 Nephi 4 from the Book of Mormon (Universe). The game is meant to be a medium of entertainment that also serves the purpose of “attracting interest to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” (Universe). It is interesting that Pasto mentions this in his interview, because the website, www.bomtoons.com, does not include a mission statement regarding either the game or the content of the website. In the interview with Daphna Zohar, Pasto admits that his work is not “sacrilegious or mocking” but is his comical take of the scriptures (Universe). Pasto wants his audience to realize that his games are analogous to books--fun with a lesson to be learned-- as opposed to the “mindless, time-wasting, and violent” mainstream games (Universe). Consequently, the website offers an array of media cast in a jovial light.
Aside from the actual game, Brother Nephi and his family make a comical appearance in one of BoMToons’ cartoon sketches (Bom Warp). The sketch orients one within the larger picture of the narrative. Through the cartoon, the viewer learns of the historical context for Brother Nephi’s adventures. The cartoon is a comedic interpretation of the story of Nephi. It includes many liberties that Pasto has added to appeal to an unconventional, perhaps non-Mormon, audience.
The BoMToons store contains two items, one of which is a Nephi t-shirt (Store). As the website contains dozens of video games and cartoons, it is of significance that the store would carry a Nephi t-shirt. This would imply that Brother Nephi’s Adventure is a popular game, which is confirmed by the fact that the website has the first Nephi game listed as the game with the “Most Comments” (Index). When compared with other games, the original game is only surpassed in the amount of play by one other game on the website, BoM Beat Battle (Games). Nephi’s first adventure has received over 45,000 plays (Nephi). From the information provided, it can be seen that the Nephi series has much appeal and is buttressed by a variety of paraphernalia and media, showing its importance within Mormonism and its integration into a virtual world.
In ““Brother Nephi’s ultra-fantastic point-and-click Adventure Chapter 1: Nephi’s Stake Out”” Nephi is on a mission to get inside the locked gates of Jerusalem to retrieve the brass plates from Laban. It takes place around 600 BC. The game opens with Laban yelling “I kill you all, and take your money” and a subsequent chase through the city. Laban has stolen the brass plates and Nephi is on a mission to retrieve these plates. The short clip at the beginning of the game introduces all of the characters as stills during this chase and we meet Nephi’s cohorts Sam, Laman, and Lemuel. Nephi is the leader of the group and is the character that players control in his search to find a way into Jerusalem. The game ends with Laban climbing over the city walls, and never actually shows Nephi going to get the brass plates back from Laban.
The game is a mix between an adventure and a puzzle. The player controls Brother Nephi’s character and has five different tools of sorts, or modes of interacting with the game, which are used to walk, to inspect something, to grab/use an item, to talk to another character, and to pick something up. The basic premise is that Nephi must wander around the city talking to different characters in an attempt to collect different items and create certain circumstances that he can bring together to climb over the walls. The first play through the game can be very tedious because every time Nephi begins to converse with another character he is given a list of pre-scripted options for what to say that the player chooses from in order to direct the conversation. Many of the conversation-starting options do not actually lead anywhere or help the player reach the goal, and there is no way of knowing which conversations are useful and which are distractions until one completes the entire game. Nephi trades family heirlooms away, finds rope, competes in a marbles game, obtains both a stake and a steak, and eventually uses the rope and stake, in conjunction with the spring-like nature of Lemuel’s mid-section, to scale the wall into Jerusalem.
The game is certainly a Mormon game insofar as the spaces and characters that it creates. It does not necessarily teach any specific Mormon values or push an explicitly Mormon message. All this is clear from the actual game play is that Nephi is a central figure and the significance associated with the brass plates. If the goal of this game is to teach non-Mormons about Mormonism then it is not very effective. This would make it seem that the audience that this game is most directed at is one that has preexisting knowledge of Mormonism and its scriptures. In order to understand the game and the importance of the brass plates the player needs prior knowledge of the way that Mormonism was founded and the story of Joseph Smith’s discovery of the brass plates and subsequently tie this to the fact that the game is taking place in the same Biblical period of the brass plates. The game is of course still playable without this knowledge. There is no need to have knowledge of Mormonism and its doctrine in order to actually complete the game.
Interesting to note is the fact that Nephi is referred to as “Brother Nephi” in the title of the game which keeps with the title that Mormons confer onto men after they have completed their mission, but in the actual game he is simply referred to as “Nephi” by other characters. Nephi refers to everyone else by their names without any mention of the title “Brother.”
It is also interesting that Nephi receives little assistance from his friends/brothers in the game. It is clear that Sam, Laman, and Lemuel are familiar with Nephi and are essentially presented as his group of comrades. According to Mormon scripture (unclear from the game), the four characters are brothers (Bom Warp). At one point Sam tells Nephi that he has no real advice for him but that he has faith in Nephi. At the most, characters give words of encouragement but the player gets no real direction or help from the other characters. Laman even has a negative attitude and at times is an obstacle for Nephi (Nephi needs the crown that Laman is wearing and Laman refuses to give it to Nephi unless he can demonstrate his skills with marbles). In this respect, Nephi is presented as a lone hero, even though he has brothers accompanying him in the game. Essentially, the situation becomes one of Nephi pitted against the world (luckily, he is much taller and has massive muscles that are bigger than any other character in the game).