Updated: Mar 25, 2021
1 Corinthians 15:33-34, “Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company ruins good morals.’ Wake up from your drunken stupor, as is right, and do not go on sinning. For some have no knowledge of God. I say this to your shame.”
Little Nightmares, Tarsier Studio’s hit horror game, had left its signature on many gamers for nearly four years. Featuring grotesque oddities and a little girl in a raincoat, it captured players with its disturbing yet oddly captivating atmosphere and its beyond creepy story. In fact, because it’s lore is so enigmatic, players today are still trying to decipher it. Now, thanks to the recent release of Little Nightmares II, the burning hunger for answers have been stoked even higher. Gamers flocked to play the sequel and find more clues - just to end up as intrigued and perplexed as ever. What is this universe? Why is it the way it is? What’s the point it’s trying to make? Well, my curious readers, I’ve taken another stab at it myself, and I’ve brought Scriptural understanding with me to decode a rather poignant and sobering message that this apocalyptic universe delivers in spades.
First, in case you’ve never heard, played, or seen Little Nightmares or its associated media, let me bring you up to speed. The franchise centers on a horrifying universe that’s filled with giant human-like monstrosities who prey on children. The protagonist of the first game is a girl named Six. She’s trapped in the bowels of a fortress called the Maw, where she must avoid beings like a long-armed janitor and disgusting chefs to escape without becoming a meal. Its sequel, though, features a boy named Mono. He teams up with Six to get past the nightmarish adults of the Pale City in order to knock out a transmission broadcast that’s supposedly brainwashing the populace into being these misshapen freaks. That’s pretty much the long and the short of it.
Now, Little Nightmares is rife with mysteries. Why are the adults so ugly and huge? Why do they want to kill children? What caused this apocalypse? And what the patootie is up with those endings?!? There’s enough to spend hours on, but I found that answering the most stupid sounding and overlooked question might actually spell out the rest for us. Why is Little Nightmares called Little Nightmares? Some think the game got this title simply because it’s scary. Others think it’s because your avatars re-spawn by ‘jolting’ awake after dying, like from a nightmare. Personally, I’m not satisfied by either theory. The game’s creators mentioned in interviews that they swapped the initial game’s title from Hunger to Little Nightmares partly because its themes expanded beyond what they planned. That doesn’t sound like a decision based on genre or a game mechanic. That sounds more intentional. So what warranted a name like Little Nightmares? Well, my readers, I think the answer is staring us in the face and that is precisely the point.
Ask yourselves this. What are nightmares? They’re scary experiences our sleeping minds perceive to be real. They intimidate us. Then we dismiss them later. Now, I’m not ascribing to a ‘it’s all a dream’ theory for these games. (That’d be kinda lame, anyway.) However, I noticed that the Little Nightmares franchise likes to challenge our ability to perceive evil. The monsters we’re pitted against are indeed evil. They’ll kill kids on sight, but then there’s a certain character in these games that makes some pivotal yet very controversial choices too. So controversial in fact, that gamers were disturbed and left unsettled if any innocence exists or can exist in Little Nightmares’s world - even from the victimized children. (If you’ve seen either games’ endings, you know what I’m talking about.) You see, it’s easy to identify and try to avoid the big, immediate threats. But what about the smaller ones? Are we as aware of them?
Paul warned the church of Ephesus that the futility of our minds inhibits our ability to notice all forms of wickedness. Ephesians 4:18-19 explains how our understanding is darkened to the point of total ignorance thanks to the hardness of our hearts. Now, our innate knowledge of God makes it possible for all humanity to be aware that moral standards and wickedness exists. (Romans 1:19-20) However, without receiving a mind like Christ’s, we can’t hope to recognize evil in all its forms. (1 Corinthians 2:14-16) And that, my friends, is the frightening part. It means, on our own, we are open and vulnerable to the dangers we don’t see. That includes the ones we cause, particularly the actions that effect others more than ourselves.
You see, our focus on personal survival in a dog-eat-dog world often prevents us from noticing how our unkind words or actions, no matter how unintentional, sets off another. Don’t get me wrong. Everyone is fully responsible for their choices, but that one ‘harmless’ sin can become the spark to a chain reaction that builds and builds into something all consuming and uncontrollable. Consider history’s bloodiest wars. They didn’t pop out of the blue. They were predicated by a series of affronts that stemmed first from minor annoyances that were left unresolved. You can see this domino effect at work on a smaller scale too. A wrongfully fired man takes to thievery to get by. A careless comment throws someone into a harmful depression. An uninvested parent fails to correct ‘small’ misbehavior, and the child grows into something horrible. One thing leads to another. A drop of arsenic poisons the entire pot.
So as I pondered Little Nightmares, its vague and ominous tale made this message uncomfortably clear. One that God would want us all to learn. What’s the most dangerous kind of evil? Not the most aggressive one. Not the most intimidating one. But the invisible one - the one you perceive as harmless. For when the obvious danger distracts you, the subtle one can slip in uncontested. Its longterm consequences then grows under your radar, and by the time you recognize the danger you invited, the trap snaps shut. It’s too late. The ‘little nightmare’ has overshadowed the one before it and births more ‘little nightmares’ in its wake. Thus sin’s nightmare cycle continues. Round and round it goes. For without Christ’s Holy Spirit to unmask all wickedness, the chain won’t end in your life. It’ll flourish. Then, one day, you might wake up only to realize that the little nightmare causing misery around you . . . is you.
Hebrews 12:15, “See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no ‘root of bitterness’ springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled.”