I love video games. Oddly, however, I don’t play many of them — I watch them. Owing to my distinct lack of any consoles beyond my laptop, I instead choose to watch walkthroughs on YouTube of games that I like the look of. A lot of the time, I love the storylines; I love the journeys which video game characters are taken on and the depth in which these journeys are explored, often going far deeper than many films.
One of my favorite franchises in the video game world at the moment is the Batman: Arkham series of games. I am somewhat obsessed with them, particularly their version of Batman as a character: his backstory and motivation for what he does (as well as all his cool gadgets and technology) make him a gritty, determined, and interesting character. Meanwhile, the villains he fights are entertainingly insane and wacky, whilst also devilishly evil.
Forward. Always Forward.
Recently, however, in one of the franchise’s least popular games, I have encountered an oft-peripheral villain: the Mad Hatter. Specifically, as he is depicted in Batman: Arkham Origins (you can see the video I will be referring to here or below). In this encounter, the Hatter — aka, Jervis Tetch, "inventor, entrepreneur, and part-time haberdasher" — kidnaps a girl whom he refers to as "Alice," and then he attempts to ensnare Batman’s mind to his will in order that he might enslave Batman as Alice’s bodyguard. As Batman’s mind deteriorates, he wanders through a sort-of Wonderland in his own mind, filled with traps and enemies which represent his struggle to maintain sanity as Jervis’ hypnosis takes effect.
Something about this battle intrigued me and gave me an interesting connection to real life (I know Batman’s real, but bear with me, all right? ). The Hatter speaks a great deal about his intentions: to bend Batman to his will; to force him to listen to only Jervis’ commands and to obey without question. As Batman struggles against this, Jervis becomes noticeably frustrated and, in one such instance of annoyance, cries out:
“Did you know time moves in seven different directions down here? But you’ve stuck to just one. Forward. Always forward. How boring!”
What intrigued me about this was why Jervis finds Batman’s insistence on moving forward so annoying. He even tries to remedy this by bending Wonderland so Batman has to move in another direction, but even after that, Batman continues to move in the same direction: forward.
In life, there can be a lot of Jervis Tetches. Maybe we don’t end up like Batman — trapped in a dream state by an insane haberdasher — but there are plenty of influences who would seek to pull us in seven different directions. The media, whatever form that may take for us. Friends. Family. Careers advisers. The government. Bosses. Well-wishers. For me, as a Christian, it is often the devil. Whoever. Some may have motivations for good; some may wish us to come to harm or ruin. Either way, a lot of the time we can feel like we are being stretched by grasping hands from every direction and — like Batman — feel ourselves going gradually insane.
The solution, Batman reveals, is to keep moving forward, no matter what that means for you. Life, I think, is often in pursuit of something. Paul describes life — in 1 Corinthians 9:24 — as a race in which everyone is running. Obviously, you can be running the wrong way in a race, so it’s important to know that what you’re pursuing is the right thing. But, no matter what people tell you to be doing, keep moving forward, if even for the simple reason that nothing is more maddening to someone who seeks to control you than to see you pull away from their grasp.
The mug on my sideboard at the moment reads, “Always be yourself. Unless you can be Batman. Then be Batman." In this case, it couldn’t be more right — when the Hatters in your life materializes and seeks to confine you to a life of slavery, shutting you in a box in which they can keep a close eye on you, fight back by pushing forward. Ignore the taunts, the voices that tell you that moving forward is pointless, hopeless, or foolishly optimistic; just keep going. Because you’re Batman.