Much props and appreciation to Syl (gypsy queen) for the idea of an advent-like blogging event involving posts from around the gaming blogosphere throughout the month of December. The full calendar of posts can be found here. Check them out, you’ll be glad you did!
If I’ve noticed one theme running rampant throughout the bloggy Christmas event, it’s that gaming communities are important. Important to the continuation and growth of the gaming industry, yes, but even more important for individuals. In an era where mainstream media gravitates towards the negative aspects of both gaming and gaming communities, the uplifting stories being shared by the Christmas bloggers is a welcome change of pace, an important way to balance the scales of perspective that can so easily go “out of whack” when we’re over-exposed to the more sensational side of things. I’ve read many personal accounts of people who’ve made lifelong friends, or persevered through an especially trying time in life due to friends made via a gaming related community.
Try though I might, I find it somewhat difficult to relate to those with fantastic stories of online relationships. I’ve made my fair share of online/gaming friends, but nothing that I would consider ‘life saving/altering’. I count myself among the blessed when it comes to upbringing, family life, and opportunities. I was born in a country that does not oppress me, into a family that is still intact (my parents are still together after nearly 50 years). I have a good job, a large family, and plenty of things to keep me busy. I have no disabilities minus a slight case of introvertedness and the inability to see things far away (and, more recently, close-up! Arrrgh!). In fact, I don’t even need this online community. Or do I?
Formation of the TGEN Community
We launched the Gaming and Entertainment Network this past fall; a merging of several podcasts of similar interests and values. While the external benefits of such were fairly apparent (ability to cross-promote, enhance discovery, grow our respective audiences with consistent, quality discussion on games and entertainment), I’ve often wondered why these things were important to us in the first place. I’ve done some self-examination, as well. Why was I moved to organize such an undertaking, and why is it important to me to carry it through? It’s fun, ok. I wanted to see if we could do it, sure. But those are very surface level answers and don’t get to the most basic question of why is it fun, why are we eager to see if we can do it? Is it a massive ego trip? Sometimes it is a confidence booster, but I have not witnessed a single member of TGEN who I would consider as having a large ego. Are we doing it to get rich? Hardly. At this point, we have no source of income, so simple math can answer that question. Even if we do eventually procure sponsorship, I don’t think anyone has grand visions of funding their retirement account. What, then, is our deep-seeded motivation?
The Community of Christ
As I see it, the answer lies in the man whose birth Christians celebrate in just a few days. Christ was born not only to bridge the gap between man and God, but to show us how to best live on this little rock in the meantime. Throughout the gospels, Jesus was described as being with other people. In fact, you’d be hard-pressed to find an account where he is not surrounded by people, including his seemingly solitary retreats into prayer, when he was in effect communing with God. Teaching at the temple, preaching on the mount, even traveling from place to place, Jesus is always surrounding himself with his friends and desiring for them to be with him. In Matthew 12, as he spoke to the crowd, somebody made mention that his family was waiting for him outside. Jesus responded “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” he then pointed to his friends, his community, and said “Here are my mother and my brothers. Whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” Jesus saw his community as family.
In another case, Jesus was in crisis. He knew that his death was approaching, that he would be betrayed to unimaginable torture, and prior to even pleading to God for deliverance, he gathered his three closest friends and told them “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” In Matthew 26. On the cross itself, Jesus was still thinking of others, this time the welfare of his earthly mother. John 19 tells us: “when Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her ‘Woman, here is your son,’ and to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’ From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.” He wanted to make sure Mary was cared for, and had someone to be with.
Possibly the greatest example of community building comes in the form of what Christians refer to as “The Great Commission” in Matthew 28. It includes both a command and a promise, both of which revolve around community: “Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’” In Isaiah’s prophesy, over 700 years prior to Jesus’ birth, Christ is referred to as “Immanuel”, which is Hebrew for God with us. The very name of Christ is community.
Whatever you may believe about the man, Jesus was all about community, because, as God noted early on, it is not good for man to be alone. From the manger to the cross, he promoted community through his words and actions for the entirety of his documented life. He understood creation better than anyone who has walked upon the earth before or since, and community is the means he used to explain and demonstrate our relationship with the creator. Community is important.
Why is Community Important to Me?
If your brain turned off when I started quoting the Bible, this is the part where I get personal again. After careful reflection, the benefits of being involved in these gaming related communities have started to become more apparent. While I haven’t yet had the opportunity to form any life-long bonds or survive the bombardment of a crisis in the trenches with online friend, I do benefit in some less-than-straightforward ways. Involvement allows me practice a style of servant-leadership that my real life job does not require of me. It forces me to hone my communication skills to make sure ideas and feelings are properly expressed and not mis-interpreted. It challenges me to consider the viewpoints of others within the community. It makes me a better version of me. Possibly even more important, it gives me the opportunity to introduce my beliefs and motivations to the rest of the community. The opportunity to (hopefully) provide a counter-example to the non-thinking, uptight, unintelligent follower of Christ that is so often portrayed in today’s mainstream media, and mocked in today’s social media culture. The chance to share this better version of me with others, and to perhaps challenge some of their perceptions, as well.
Community is important. Thanks for being a part of mine.
God bless you all, and Merry Christmas.