E3 2017

By Michael Mendis

The Electronic Entertainment Expo 2017 (better known as E3) has come and gone, which means a whole bunch of new trailers and announcements from some of the biggest companies in the video game industry.  I’d like to highlight a few of the things that stood out to me from this year’s convention:

 

Xbox One X

New game consoles always get special attention at E3, and the Xbox One X is no exception.  Microsoft’s newest addition to their console lineup (which includes the Xbox One and One S), the Xbox One X boasts much more powerful specs than its older siblings while still being able to play the same games and use the same accessories.  Many games running on the One X will be able to run at or near a native 4K resolution, and people with 1080p TVs will see improved visuals as well.  It’s an impressive piece of hardware that will run the best version of any Xbox game.  The biggest sticking point is the price: at $499, it’s definitely meant for people who want a premium, high-end console experience.

Anthem (Xbox, PS4, PC)

This new game from developer Bioware (specifically, the team that made the first three Mass Effect games) is an open world action-RPG that can be played with friends.  While there is plenty we do not yet know about it, we did get to see a gameplay demo, and it proved to be the most visually stunning game of the whole convention.

 

PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (Xbox, PC)

What started out as a mod for the PC military game ARMA 2 has become it’s own standalone game in which a group of up to 100 players drop onto an island, grab whatever weapons they can find, and fight it out to become the last person standing.  Battlegrounds has already made big waves on PC, including amongst our own community of gamers.  Now it’s coming to console (first on Xbox), and it’s getting new features (such as foggy weather) and a couple new maps.

 

Ori and the Will of the Wisps (Xbox, PC)

A follow-up to one of the most beautiful games of the last few years, Ori and the Will of the Wisps continues the story of the strange, cat-like creature Ori.  We didn’t get to see any gameplay in this trailer, but assuming it’s like the first game, we should expect challenging platforming and a story that pulls on the heartstrings.

 

Original Xbox Backwards Compatibility

Another one of Microsoft’s announcements this year was that original Xbox games will soon become playable on Xbox One.  It was a nice little surprise during the conference, and it’s a feature that diehard Xbox fans had been hoping to see since Microsoft first introduced backwards compatibility for Xbox 360 games.

 

Beyond Good and Evil 2 (Platforms unknown, but likely Xbox, PS4, PC)

The original Beyond Good and Evil game was a cult hit when it released in 2003, and fans have been begging Ubisoft for another entry in the franchise ever since.  Finally we have a cinematic trailer announcing a new BG&E game, returning to the imaginative world that sucked us in all those years ago.  It was an exciting and unexpected moment (in an E3 where we otherwise didn’t see too many unexpected announcements).  Two downsides to point out, though: first, this game probably isn’t going to come out for a long time.  Second, there’s an awful lot of foul language, which comes as a surprise considering that the first game was very family friendly (and in case you think I point this out just because I’m some sort of stick-in-the-mud religious person, I’ve seen people from secular gaming outlets and on secular gaming forums pointing out this same detail).

 

Shadow of the Colossus (PS4)

Normally one wouldn’t get that excited about the second remake of a game that came out over ten years ago, but Shadow of the Colossus is just that good.  The PS2 classic tells the tragic tale of a young man who, in an attempt to bring his dead girlfriend back to life, makes a deal with a demon.  Featuring cleverly designed battles against building-sized foes, Shadow of the Colossus is a game that shouldn’t be missed, and now that it’s being remade on the PS4 with a fresh coat of paint, it’ll look better than ever.

 

Marvel’s Spiderman (PS4)

Perhaps the single most impressive demo during any of the E3 conferences this year was the demo for Marvel’s Spiderman.  In terms of gameplay, it takes a lot of cues from the critically acclaimed Batman Arkham series (which shouldn’t be a surprise, considering that those Batman games stole a lot of ideas from Spidey’s traditional abilities), with it’s fast-paced combat and the ability to swing across the vast cityscape.  It also retains Peter Parker’s signature wit and one-liners, giving the demo a measure of levity.

What Motivates You?

By Jacob Toman

The best meal I ever ate was a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with a cold glass of water. It wasn’t the best because of the cuisine itself. It was the best because of how hard I had to work to get to that lunch break. More on that later...

Peanut butter and jelly sandwich.jpg

What motivates you?

There are all sorts of wonderful pleasures, pursuits, and passions that are offered in our lives. Some enjoy the bright, warm sunshine, and prefer to live in warmer climates (looking at you friends in California/Florida). Some enjoy the magisterial beauty of winter winds and snow (looking at you friends in Canada/Alaska/Russia). Some enjoy spending time with friends and family gathering together to share food and discussion. Some enjoy having a specific goal, game, or purpose for gathering.

What motivates you?

Do you have a personal goal, an unfulfilled promise, an earnest desire that you seek to achieve? Today you woke up for another day, living out a life that God has put before you. You have time and other resources to manage to achieve your purposes for today. Some of us have more money, more free time, more responsibilities, more opportunities, more motivations. Some of us have less money, less free time, fewer responsibilities, fewer opportunities, fewer motivations. One thing we all have in common, regardless of our resources available, is the day ahead of us.

I was recently chatting with Ken[1], a veteran of world war two fighting in the European theatre. We were sharing stories of our youth and Ken couldn’t help but share about the celebrations that were had when victory was declared over the Nazis in May of 1945. Ken described the scenes when he and his unit went into a British town. He said they were received like they had “won the world series”. Anyone and everyone from the town was in the streets celebrating. Ken said there were tears shed, and smiles shared. For years his goal had to been to win the war. Now what would drive him? Going home to celebrate!

Having a clear motivation drives our methods, our purposes, and our daily decisions as members of humanity. It allows for a feeling that author Jane Mcgonigal refers to as “fiero”: a sense of extreme pride, accomplishment, and unabashed joy that we get when we overcome obstacles. It allows for a feeling that author Jane Mcgonigal refers to as “fiero”: a sense of extreme pride, accomplishment, and unabashed joy that we get when we overcome obstacles[2]. A lack of clear motivation can lead to a life lived without experienced purpose. Sure, things may get done as one drifts through life, committing oneself for a time to one thing or another. Yet, despite checklists being accomplished and tasks completed, there isn’t a sense of achievement. Life goes on without a moment of fiero.

A celebration like what Ken experienced in May of 1945 was worthy of excitement, joy, and fiero precisely because of the effort that went into accomplishing the motivating task. Have you ever witnessed an adult playing keep away from a child? Perhaps the object being kept away is a ball or toy. The child endeavors with all their endless fountains of energy, yet the adult is simply bigger, faster, and more able to keep the ball than the child. Yet the adult may not take much pleasure in accomplishing this task. The challenge of the task is simply too low for the adult, and simply too high for the child.

For some daily life may be more like what the adult experiences playing keep away. Life is too easy, goals are quickly accomplished, there isn’t much investment or challenge to daily living. A complaint from this life is one of boredom, and the person caught here can often be dragged to the depths of depression. These seemingly unmotivated, unambitious people, come from every race, class, and religious background. Is this you? Is your daily life boring?

bored guy.jpg

For others daily life may be more like what the child experiences when playing keep away. Life is too hard, goals are unaccomplished, there is a steep investment and challenge to daily living. A complaint from this life is rooted in circumstances, and the person caught here can often be pulled into a pit of despair. These seemingly overwhelmed, disorganized people, come from every race, class, and religious background. Is this you? Is your daily life overwhelming?

What motivates you?

Today is an opportunity. The time, resources, and goals set before you are a chance at experiencing great joy, genuine purpose, and a reality that is worthy celebrating. So, what are your motivations today? What are you pursuing? What is it that must be accomplished today?

Jesus had something to say about motivations, and it applies to both groups of people: those who find life too easy, and those who find life too challenging.

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it[3].

What motivates you? Does the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus have an impact on your daily life today?

Jesus had the love of his people as the core of his motivation. He took his commitment to his goals throughout his life, and carried that same commitment through a tortured death. To those who are bored, depressed, or unmotivated, Jesus reveals himself as the great example of finding motivation in serving others. Note the promise of Jesus is to find life. For those who dread the coming days ahead or wonder what purpose the day now holds, Jesus offers a life filled with motivation in every task that is offered in worship. From daily drudgery, to filing paperwork, Jesus offers purpose.

To those who are overwhelmed and engulfed in the circumstances of life, Jesus reveals himself as the one who bore every overwhelming circumstance because of the love he had for his people. For those who see the oncoming tasks as an immoveable, unassailable fortress, take encouragement that the gates of hell themselves cannot resist the victory of Christ. From daily trial, to humbling reminders that we’re not perfect, Jesus offers a victory that accomplishes eternal fiero for those who have faith in him.

The best meal I ever ate was a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with a cold glass of water. In the 12 hours prior to that meal I had engaged in a fast and a vow of silence. I had engaged in a difficult physical task of digging out a trench, hiking 5 miles, and building and maintaining a fire in the rain. The meal was delicious because of the motivation I had to eat it. The bread was a perfect soft loaf. The peanut butter was thick and creamy. The jelly provided a sweet grape taste as I bit into this delectable sandwich.


If you have faith in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus at the core of your motivation today, all that you accomplish for his glory will be a delectable fiero.

 

[1] Ken is a gamer at the retirement community Gospel & Gaming staff volunteer at. He enjoys baseball, has a passion for each day, and is a beloved member of the community.

[2] Jane Mcgonigal’s description of this feeling, based on the Italian word “Fiero”. “Fiero is what we feel after we triumph over adversity. You know it when you feel it – and when you see it. That’s because we almost all express fiero in exactly the same way: we throw our arms over our head and yell.” - Reality is Broken.  http://www.whatgamesare.com/fiero.html

[3] Matthew 16:24-25 ESV: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew+16&version=ESV

Geekway 2017

By Michael Mendis

This year was my first time to visit Geekway to the West, an annual board game convention located here in Saint Louis.  It was a huge event that took place over the course of an entire weekend, with around 2500 gamers in attendance.  The convention hall was jam packed with people playing games, chatting, and just generally having a good time.

There are a couple things I love about playing with a bunch of people who are passionate and knowledgeable about board games:

  1. I get to know more about people and how they interact with one another
  2. I often get to try new games

Geekway was a great place to experience both of those things.  Some people I played games with that day were people I already knew, but others I met that day, and it was fun to see varying personalities come together in a common pursuit.  I also got to play several board games that I had never even heard of before; Geekway had a table full of games that people could borrow during the event, and the avid board gamers I played with already knew what they wanted to try out.  In that way, I shared in the benefit of their expertise, as they picked out the games that they already had some knowledge of and were excited to play.  Personally, I really enjoyed two games: The Last Friday, and Starfall.

The Last Friday

The Last Friday

Starfall

Starfall

Jacob also attended Geekway this year, and a big chunk of his time was spent playing one of his all-time favorite games, Here I Stand, which is a grand strategy war game set during the time of the Reformation.  He almost wasn’t able to play it that weekend, actually; several attempts at forming a group prior to the convention fell through.  God had some unexpected plans, though: when Jacob and another friend of his set up the game on their table during the convention, several gamers recognized the game and asked to play.  Some of them don’t even live anywhere in-state, so this was a unique opportunity that God gave Jacob to share a small slice of life with gamers he might otherwise have never met.

Jacob playing Here I Stand with gamers at Geekway

Jacob playing Here I Stand with gamers at Geekway

Altogether, Geekway was a fun experience and I definitely recommend attending in future years if you can!  Grab a few friends to go with you, try out some new games, and meet some new people.  And as a Christian, it’s a great opportunity to enter into a largely unreached people group and share Christ’s love with those around you.