Today, I had the privilege of introducing my ten-year-old brother to some of my friends from college and some of my other friends from Ministry in Digital Spaces. The place of introduction was not, as you might expect, my college, but rather a five-hour quick-play session in Overwatch, one of my favorite games and one of my brother’s favorite games as well. Some of my friends are pretty new to it, others have been playing it for longer than I have, but the current situation is that almost all of my friends who are gamers play it (in fact, I can’t think of one who doesn’t). The occasion of moving my brother from the Playstation 4 to the PC version of Overwatch served as a good jumping off point for the building of something online spaces have sometimes been said to lack: true, meaningful community.
Let me unpack what I mean. The people who played today came from three different groups: my friends at school, my fellow gamers for Christ at Ministry in Digital Spaces, and my family. My brother and I represented our family from our house in the suburbs of Chicago; two of my good friends from school logged in from Evanston, Illinois, and one of Eligh’s friends logged in from Madison – a person I have no face for, but plenty of relationship with through over a year of shared gaming. My best and oldest friend, Nate, didn’t join us, but he has in the past, and when he does he logs in from Purdue or his home in rural Indiana (connection speed may vary). The Ministry in Digital Spaces people come from all over the US and some of them are even in Europe, and yet, here we are, brought together by nothing but relationship with each other. Not only has Nathan never met Sean, he’s never met Eligh. Sean has never met me. The pair of them are third-degree “offline” connections, and yet they game together regularly and have become friends. My brother, like Nate, has never met Eligh or Sean or Will, and yet he gamed with them, and they seemed to hit it off. In that sense, you could say, the game has brought us all together.
People came, people went, and people came back. Overwatch was a shared space, a communal space, a place for gathering and setting out from, for coming back to when other tasks had been completed. For us, in this moment, geographically separated by hundreds of miles, it had become a college dorm lounge – that kind of place where friends are always hanging out, no matter the time of day. It was a place I could bring my brother to so he could meet my friends. It was a place where we could all have fun. It was a place for making shared memories and becoming better and stronger friends, and it was a place for encouraging each other and relaxing. People have always needed human contact, and here, today, we found it. In Overwatch. A game.
Image Credit: https://i.ytimg.com/vi/UEYp1RTvllM/maxresdefault.jpg