We have finally reached the end of the year, and what a year it has been for the gaming industry. There was truly something for everyone in 2017… do you like brand new technological advancements? If so Microsoft dropped the most powerful console ever made with the XB1X and Nintendo revolutionized the industry with their hybrid console/handheld dubbed the “Switch”. Maybe epic gaming is more your fancy, and this year certainly didn’t disappoint with massive franchise releases such as Legend of Zelda, Mario Odyssey, Destiny 2, and Call of Duty. VR came to life with new releases that are finally starting to deliver on the lofty promises of this promising new tech, retro gaming is running wild… and if you like awful, horrible abominations of games there were even titles for YOU such as Marvel Vs. Capcom Infinite. Because… well, it’s just terrible.
So as we wrap up 2017 it would be kind of apropos to think about what would set one game apart from the rest and earn the honor of being named “The Game of the Year”. All the cool blogs and websites are doing it, so why not? Everyone loves a good, healthy internet list populated with opinions by “professional critics” on why your game is not as good as you think it is, right? But as I pondered the idea of what would constitute the best game release of the year, a more subtle truth surfaced. What your interpretation of the best title of the year was is really going to be determined by your personal experience… not just with that particular game, but with where you are in your particular season of life when you played it.
For example, if you have a great deal of friends to play with then perhaps a title such as Destiny 2 or Call of Duty gave you your favorite gaming moments of the year. Maybe this year was an emotional rollercoaster for you and a connection to a moment in a title like Horizon Zero Dawn truly resonated with you. Whatever the moment, whatever the feeling, your game of the year may be totally different from mine because you walked a different path and were in a different place mentally and emotionally when you experienced it. And in Ecclesiastes 3 we find the wisest man of all time facing a similarly personal introspective moment in which he looks back at not just a year, but his entire life…
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8: To everything there is a season, A time for every purpose under heaven: A time to be born, And a time to die; A time to plant, And a time to pluck what is planted; A time to kill, And a time to heal; A time to break down, And a time to build up; A time to weep, And a time to laugh; A time to mourn, And a time to dance; A time to cast away stones, And a time to gather stones; A time to embrace, And a time to refrain from embracing; A time to gain, And a time to lose; A time to keep, And a time to throw away; A time to tear, And a time to sew; A time to keep silence, And a time to speak; A time to love, And a time to hate; A time of war, And a time of peace.
First of all, if you aren’t humming that song right now I will confess to being mildly disappointed. I feel like I set that up pretty well for you there. But secondly, within these moderately well-known verses lies the entirety of the human experience… the highs, the lows, the joy of victory, and the agony of defeat. At this stage in King Solomon’s life he had amassed incomparable wealth, conquered or made peace with the entire known world, and was globally renowned for his wisdom and greatness. And even with all of the advantages and unparalleled successes he experienced over the course of his life, he endured seasons that were diametrically opposed to each other. He enjoyed times of building, but he also endured times of tearing things down. Sometimes he danced (Just Dance 2018 anyone?), and others he mourned (pretty much anyone that has tried to play Cuphead). His life was not one of constantly ascending perfection, but rather a running river that ebbed and flowed between the agony and the ecstasy of life in the real world, even for a mighty king.
The segment of this chapter that speaks to me the most is in verse 11, when he writes:
Ecclesiastes 3:11 He has made everything beautiful in its time.
This means that both the good and the bad, the weeping and the laughing, the winning and the losing are all beautiful in their own way because He made them that way. Just as there is a game and an experience that can be perfect for each individual at the right time in their lives, the truth is that each moment of our life on this earth, each challenge, and each tragedy are also part of that beauty that makes up our existence on this plane. And while I know that can sound a bit trite for those who are enduring the negative side of the equation right now, the beauty is not always revealed immediately. It is revealed “In Its TIME”.
A seed that eventually sprouts into a tree goes through some incredibly “un-beautiful” times. First, it is a small seed that gets buried alive. Then it is smothered and covered with fertilizer. When it finally emerges it will tenderly exist for multiple years in a state of weakness and vulnerability, with only a handful of leaves adorning its small weak branches swaying in the wind. And yet one day it will be a mighty oak tree that is played in by generations of children and used as a background in wedding pictures. It was not always pretty, but it was beautiful in its time. Maybe right now you feel like your life is… well, a seed that is covered in “fertilizer”. I’ll let you insert your own picture there. Or maybe you are feeling buried alive under the pressures of this life. Many times I feel like I am scarcely strong enough to endure the next strong breeze… but even these moments will one day be beautiful in their own time, when they are viewed through the lens of eternity.
The funny thing about the choice of “Game of the Year” is that it is not only subject to the user’s experience, but it also rarely endures the long-term test of time. Even the greatest games are eventually confined to the dusty corners of a bookshelf, a box in the garage, or in the used game section of your local gaming store. They live on, but it is less through their own merits as a title and more through what they inspire in the next generation of games that come after it. This year’s Legend of Zelda owes its greatness to everything from Skyrim to Cooking Mama for crying out loud. And the same is true for you. 2017 may have been the best year of your life so far, or it may have been your greatest challenge yet. Odds are you had periods of each of the areas Solomon described peppered throughout your experiences. And while some of these periods may seem confusing, painful, or downright wrong I can assure that they will eventually prove to be beautiful in their own as well.
So here we are, embarking on a new year with a new set of games on the horizon. Last years “Game of the Year”, no matter which one you chose it to be, is simply a snapshot in time that can now only be used as a stepping stone to tomorrow’s future. Twenty years from now it is unlikely we will be talking about any of these titles, but their influence will be seen and felt for generations to come in the games that follow. And no matter what your trial is right now, this too shall pass. And if your life felt a little more like “Prey” than you care to admit, don’t worry. Your “Odyssey” has just begun.