Video Games and a Lesson in Community

The last couple of months have been a whirlwind of events.

Put a full time job, driving to San Diego on the weekends, getting to know my housemates, attempting to write a mixtape, learning the ropes of real estate, visiting the Happiest Place on Earth, searching for gifts, and applying for a second job all together and you get a very tired Paul.

Luckily, I’ve learned that de-stressing is important and that time must be set aside to re-charge. Whether it be swimming, crushing 6 cpus on an Age of Empires map with my good friend Imon, or talking with my housemate Aaron about life and the Word, I’ve found ways to squeeze in some bits of relaxation.

This blog post is going to address universal truths about community using references that many gamers will understand. Even if you don’t game, I hope that you can still take something away from it.

Part I: Age of Empires

A couple of months ago I convinced Imon to try out this “new” old computer game with me. After acquiring a copy of Age of Empires from Wal Mart for nine bucks, driving to cerritos to get his old laptop out of storage, and troubleshooting how to set up a LAN connection for 3 hours, we finally were able to start playing.

Age of Empires, for those of you who don’t know is a 90’s game that basically pioneered the “build your civilization from the ground up” genre. Starcraft, Clash of Clans, and Civ all have some roots from Age of Empires, and it had been years since I had even seen the game. The premise is that you start with one town center and three villagers in the middle of nowhere. Your goal over the course of the hour long game is to collect resources, advance through technological ages (stone age-> castle age), build a society and army, and to dominate all other civilizations on the map.

Any who, when Imon and I played, we loved to team up and take on all the other civilizations together. Sometimes, we bit off a little more than we could chew and I would end up having my entire city razed as I ran to Imon’s city where we would attempt to hold off the enemy armies until he built a “wonder” and won the game for us. (A wonder is basically a recognizable monument that after being built causes immediate victory if it isn’t destroyed in a set time).

Maybe I’m reading into things a bit too much, but I couldn’t help but think about how important it is to have community when we played this game. Sometimes, I would spend most of that hour building a complex civilization that was advanced and had every reason to crush the enemy teams, yet their sheer numbers would push me to the point of abdication. It was then that I had to go to my teammate for protection and help.

Sometimes in life we can do everything right, but when it comes down to it, we all need help. Sometimes, we either ask for help or we are defeated.


Part II: Fire Emblem

Over the past three weeks I spent about 45 hours to beat a tactical RPG known as Fire Emblem: Awakening. For non-gamers, a tactical RPG is basically Chess with slightly more complex mechanics.

This game series is known for a couple of different things: tragic stories about the harsh realities of wars, ample amounts of dragons, and characters that when they are defeated in battle, die for the remainder of the game.

Now because the game systems have advanced and because the developers are innovators, this game has several new features that are pretty crazy.

First off, instead of just being an omniscient “tactician” who controls where everyone goes, you are actually a playable character. There’s something cool about being an active participant in a story that someone else wrote.

Secondly, this game introduced an updated “support” system. In previous games “support” referred to bonuses that certain units would gain when they fought beside certain other units. The more they fought next to each other the higher the bonuses and the characters could also get “married” to each other thus maxing out their support bonuses.

However, in all games prior combat was strictly one on one (much like chess). In Awakening, combat was no longer restricted to one on one. Imagine if in chess you attacked the opponents queen with your own queen, but you also had a knight right next to your queen. This game, basically added a percentage that the knight would also attack the queen with you.

It sounds like “eh whatever,” but it’s actually really cool. Now instead of just getting speed or defense bonuses, by building “support” relationships between your units, you can increase the chance that adjacent units will also attack or defend you from enemy attacks.

When units get married, they almost always attack together, and they stat boost each other to cover each other’s weaknesses. For example you could marry a highly armored knight with a poorly armored magic user, and if the fought together, the knight would get resistance bonuses from the magic user and the magic user would get defense bonuses from the knight.

Paul, get to the point.

Unmarried units, can become strong, but in order to survive more difficult battles, they need to have either strong friendships with other units and/or they need to marry another unit to cover their weaknesses.

The folly of perfecting one unit while neglecting the rest is made even more apparent in this game.

The final battle of the game is a never ending hoard of enemies that keep respawning on the map while the player must eliminate the dragon boss.

On one of my first attempts at this level consisted of a bunker strategy in which I slowly advanced towards the boss while protecting my weakest units by forming a box with my strong units. Ultimately the enemy overwhelmed me with sheer numbers. I watched my first unit die who happened to be the wife of one of my strongest characters. After she died, the husband who was strong to begin with, lost all the support bonuses that she gave him and he died within the next turn. The cycle continued and I had a skeleton of my team left after a single enemy turn.

My team was completely useless without the support system.


The Conclusion:

I recognize that games are a waste of time, however, I do appreciate the facet of storytelling that occurs in certain games. These two gaming experiences taught me a lot about the Biblical truth that is in Ecclesiastes 4.

Introverts, extroverts, religious, non-religious, guys, gals, kids, adults, college students, teens, seniors, whatever you identify as, we all need community. And Ecclesiastes 4 talks about exactly that. Together we can fight off whatever comes our way. When we fall down, we will have  friends  family that can help us get back up.

When we take those necessary risks and we fall flat onto our faces. When we are stressed out beyond measure due to studies or our way too busy lives. When we try our hardest and we fail. When that one relationship that was infallible falls apart. When our loved ones face death.

We need community. And one of the greatest lies that we actually believe in is that we for some reason are incapable of having community or that we don’t need it.

Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their labor:
If either of them falls down,
one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
and has no one to help them up.

Let’s help each other up instead of buying into the lie that the only way to succeed is to push ourselves up by pushing others down.



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