What if this is a game? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
I’ve been speaking about my talk at Defend 2023 lately and the research I have done as a result has been fascinating to me. For those who don’t know, we had to bring in chairs for people to sit in during my talk and at the end, an organic discussion broke out among the audience. Something about this topic really hits home and connects people.
Before the talk, I went to the Unbelievable? facebook group and I asked participants to talk about a time they were emotionally moved by a game. Now in most threads there, you will see a lot of antagonism towards others. It’s Facebook. It happens. Atheists and Christians and everyone in between don’t always get along.
I didn’t see any of that here. If someone didn’t say explicitly and I didn’t know, I wouldn’t have been able to tell who was who since everyone was getting along amicably and sharing together their experiences.
I don’t count that as a bad thing.
But why was it happening?
Then I thought about being at a seminary and how our semesters go. You can remember this from your schooling times even if it was never higher education. You would often learn and study hard for that test, take it and pass, and then you would gradually just forget everything. Why? You never used it. It was never relevant. I love math and I enjoyed my math classes, but that doesn’t mean I can tell you how to do quadratic equations off the top of my head.
However, I do have two experiences from 6th grade I remember. One was instead of Math, I took computer keyboarding and used Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing and learned to type in that class. Today, I still maintain that skill and I can type about 80 words per minute.
I also remember free time in my Social Studies class which was also a lot of geography. I remember going to the GeoSafari system and I knew my state capitals already and so I decided to do the game to learn the South American capitals. I still remember a lot of them to this day.
And how did I know my state capitals? We played a game in the class regularly in 5th grade to see how well we knew the state capitals. We had a map of the states on the wall. Two students would see who could identify which state got hit with the teacher’s pointer first and the winner would progress. It was the goal to see who could have the longest streak.
Then I compared this to growing up gaming. You know how many times we failed at a game and yet we got up and tried time and time again? I learned a lot of perseverance with that. I played RPGs where you had to save up money to get the best equipment and I would regularly not progress forward until I had all the money I needed to buy what I wanted. You know what? To this day, I’m still a money saver and I try to get the most out of every penny.
As long as I can remember also, I have had good versus evil built in me. My DivorceCare leader explained it to my parents. I have played games all my life. I want the real adventure. The fantasy adventures I go on are meant to build in me a yearning and a desire to seek the real adventures, and that is the result.
Also when we were growing up, we didn’t have the internet. I didn’t have that until I was in high school. Want to know how to beat a boss or find a secret in a game? You have to go with word of mouth, read it in a magazine, write to Nintendo themselves, buy a strategy guide, etc. Did you hear that rumor about Mew being under that truck in Pokemon? Many people tried many rumors to see what was true and what was not. You couldn’t just go to GameFaqs or you couldn’t just watch a YouTube video.
In other words, we worked at play.
This isn’t just me either. Paul says the same thing in 1 Cor. 9. Every runner trains, but only one gets the prize. People training for the Olympics of their day would work to no extent to be the best. There were great rewards for them after all. They had great honor and sometimes their could be tax exemptions for them and their people as a result.
We still have similar today. People that want to be good at sports work really hard. I have heard that Michael Phelps swam several several hours every day and ate well over 10,000 calories a day to keep up.
Today, fans can be the same way. There are fans that know pretty much every statistic about the sports teams that they watch. I don’t understand this honestly. I think it’s foolish, but they probably think the same about my interest. I still remember Peter Kreeft saying sometimes he fears he’s a bigger Red Sox fan than he is a Jesus fan.
We had a speaker at Defend saying about our faith that what we are doing is not a game. I suspect the implication was “Therefore, take it seriously.” I get what he was saying, but here’s the problem. It’s often the things that we don’t really enjoy that we don’t take seriously.
I shared this on my wall last night and was told there are already people working on this and it’s called Gamifying. This is where we use the principle that game makers have learned on how people want challenges and to succeed and they will take on a big challenge if they think the payoff is worth it. As Thomas Sowell has said, it’s all about tradeoffs.
So what if we treated it this way? What if evangelism became a quest, a quest for the glory of God and He does promise a reward. Why would He promise a reward unless He wanted us to pursue that reward? Jesus regularly points to our own self-interest. What we do brings glory to God, but we benefit as well.
There’s a saying that if you enjoy what you do, you never work a day in your life. Think back to what was likely the best job you ever had, or maybe you have it now. Why is it the best? Is it because the pay is really great or the benefits are really good? How about this? It’s the best job you’ve ever had because you enjoy what you do.
I would honestly prefer a job with less money where I enjoyed my work than a job with more money where I hated my work. I suspect I am not alone. Work is something that we also do for fulfillment. We want to make a difference in what we do and if workers think they’re replaceable cogs in a machine, rightly or wrongly, they will not work as well.
What if we made our education enjoyable? I remember my first semester in Greek in Bible College and I did really well. What do I remember most? We had a computer program that was a game of sorts and I being a perfectionist wanted to get perfect on every single section of that program. I would not move on until I could do perfect three times in a row in every lesson.
Guess what? I did well in that class.
This could be especially so for men who love to compete for the most part. I am also remembering again in 6th grade that in my science class I had the top average for the first 6-week period. That kept happening and then the teacher gave an assignment so that you could increase your class average by 20 points. Did I need that to pass? Nope. Did I take that task on even though I didn’t need to? You bet I did. Why? Because I wanted to keep up my top average all year long, and I did just that.
So ultimately, this is all asking why do we do what we do and what can we do to make us want to do more of what we ought? For myself, if there’s something I enjoy a lot, it is a good debate. I have had gaming sessions when I lived with my parents where I had my laptop right next to me and then someone would respond to me on Facebook in a debate and I would pause immediately and jump in. As much as I enjoy gaming, I enjoy a good intellectual exchange even more.
I contend also that Christianity promises us this great adventure and this adventure extends even into eternity. Eternity is not the end. It is if anything the glorious beginning for us. I don’t know what work we will do in eternity, but we will do it, and we will enjoy it.
So the speaker here said this isn’t a game. I know what he meant, but I want to contend the opposite. This is one. You have to play it, but you better play it well.
When we have that excitement about the game and that this actually has a purpose and there is a great benefit, I think we can actually take it more seriously. I know when I have a big debate coming up, I certainly spend a lot of time reading on the topic and usually much more than for other things because I willingly take on the debate and can see immediately what the serious ramifications are. I know I will be before an audience and I want to do well.
So could this all be a great game the creator has made for us? Perhaps it is, and if so, we had better play it well. He does not allow any do-overs, cheat codes, or anything like that. (Although I hear he left us a great strategy guide.)
We are on the ultimate adventure. The plot is far better than any we could have dreamed up because God Himself is beyond it. There is no greater good in this world worth fighting for and if need be, worth dying for.
Play this game well. It is worth it.
(And I affirm the virgin birth)