A gaming family

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I didn't grow up in a gaming family. I have a few fuzzy memories of an early game of Yahtzee at the kitchen table, but most of our family time that we did have was spent in doing farm tasks. I had a friend who I would sometimes play Monopoly with at sleepovers, but we would abandon the game once Saturday Night Live came on TV. Beyond that, any games I played were either sports (basketball, volleyball, and an ill-fated stint on the local club softball team) or in a classroom setting toward some learning goal. My college social group, however, had a number of gamers that introduced things Cranium, Scattegories, Catch-phrase, and other party games to my experience. Seminary had LOTS of gamers, so we had a number of game nights that would go late on a Friday (never a Saturday, we all had Sunday gigs to get to early). Still, the games were primarily social and party games that stretched well or adapted to a mixed group pf people without too much fuss.

Then I married into a family of gamers. The Moreys go DEEP on gaming. Jerad has an uncle who for years hosted monthly game nights, and they would host up to 30 people for games as varied as Guitar Hero on the Nintendo Wii in the basement for kids (to my sadness, because I absolutely dominate at Guitar Hero, and I didn't want to be "that adult") to complex role playing games for the serious folks in the living room, and many things in between. My father-in-law has a gaming group he has been in for decades that meets every Friday night. For that family, gaming has been both a means of connection internally and a mode of interacting with friends externally. So Jerad and I figured out what games work best for us over the course of the years - as a couple, Scrabble and 7 Wonders: Duel often won the day. As parents, we have a broad array of family games that require little setup (Dixit, Apples to Apples) and complicated things that take a full afternoon (Arabian Nights, Colt Express, and Evolution: Climate). During the height of COVID, board games - sometimes played with other households via Zoom - were lifesavers for social contact.

What games have been part of your family or social fabric? Many of you are in card groups (which I learn about when I try to set up a visit during bridge group!), some of you are into table tennis, others have family games that come out primarily at holidays or "up at the cabin." Maybe sports are the only spaces you have played games. Or maybe you, like me, didn't have much of that growing up. . .or perhaps that's a memory that you hold dear from time with family in years past.

Archaeologists have found table games in ancient Egypt and a famously brutal ball game in Aztec ruins in which losers would be executed. Humans have long created artificial spaces with artificial rules and artificial ends as part of social interaction and helping understand - or teach - how the world works (or at least how the game designer believes the world works.) This has value to a point. But the truth is that life is not a game, and - as anyone has followed all the rules and still gotten kicked in the teeth by life can attest - sometimes winning just means surviving with some integrity intact to face another day.

Our fall worship series looks at some of the more well-known games, the lessons they teach, the rules they follow, and pairs them with parables from Jesus where we see him challenging our expectations of how the world works. The hope is that this will allow all of us to take a closer look at our own expectations and assumptions about how things work and what counts as "winning" in the first place.

Our family will keep playing games - old and beloved, new and challenging - because we find that's a good way for us to be together, off screens, and sharing time as ages and interests change. Also, each game offers some insight into how each of us operates and the assumptions we bring to the table. That's all to the good. And then there's a point in time where we need to put the board, dice, and pieces away, and get back to the business of life in all its messy, rule-defying glory. We win when we do this with love and grace and humility, Christ-like in our family interactions and with folks we are blessed to find as part of our broader community.