Call of Duty Modern Warfare: The Day the “Cross-Play” Walls Came Down (John 4)

In a surprise announcement that fooled absolutely nobody on the planet, the next Call of Duty has been announced for this October.  I know, I know… insert shocking gasp here.  I just lost five bucks… to MYSELF.  (That’s a joke BTW… from a movie. But if I explain it then it won’t be funny anymore.  Maybe… maybe it wasn’t even funny at all.  Oh man… I should probably stop while I am behind).  But honestly, I will confess that for the first time in a looooooong time I feel a small sense of excitement about a COD preview.  We are returning to the “Modern Warfare” theater of war this time around, an arena that I personally feel marked the peak of this long-running series.  I mean, think about it… the ghillie suit mission… the nuclear blast… the stunning betrayal and murder of Ghost… there were so many watershed moments in Modern Warfare 1 and 2 that still stand up when replayed.   Refreshingly, this is not another remastered experience like we saw a few years ago of the original title… this is a full-on re-imagining.  A “spiritual reboot”, if you will.  Somehow, some way, we are in an alternate universe with Price and Soap back to save the world through their unique brand of pinpointed destruction.  All that was old is new again… in more ways than you were prepared for.

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This release marks the beginning of the end of one of the longest running obstacles in mainstream gaming… the issue of platform cross-play.  Sure, this newest iteration of COD has an impressive new engine to create near photo-realistic visuals, and it is likely to make a number of headlines with its “edgier” take on an already divisive story subject.  But within all of these bells and whistles lies a decision that will have a much larger impact on the entire gaming industry than simply releasing yet another run-and-gun shooter in the holiday season.  In an attempt to cast the widest net possible, reports say that Activision is releasing, for the first time in the history of EVER, a Call of Duty that supports full multiplayer cross-play with players on PS4, Xbox 1, and PC.  And while Fortnite and a few others can lay claim to traversing this road first, an industry stalwart such as COD taking up this mantle is going to change things FOREVER.  The importance of this moment in the history of gaming simply can’t be over-stated.

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I never thought I would type or even THINK the words “if other developers follow Activision’s bold lead”… but here we are.  Think of the possibilities now that this door has been opened.  For years gamers have been stranded on islands, separated from their friends and fellow gamers by the borders of whichever platform they chose to play on.  Now, every multiplayer game could potentially have it’s user group doubled or tripled, making it easier to find matches as well as play with your friends who game on a different system than you.  Previously you were stuck purchasing the hardware platform that your friends already owned because that was the ONLY way to stay connected with them… this COD could actually shatter that paradigm.  Fortnite may have laid the ground work, but it took a gaming JUGGERNAUT like Call of Duty leveraging their massive presence and influence in the industry to bring these walls down.

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These walls between Sony and Microsoft ran DEEP.  PC has typically been content to play in anyone’s backyard who would let them, like the neighbor kid who has all the best toys at their house but still acts happy to play with yours.  But for PS4 and Xbox to finally let this part of the cold war rest is no small feat, and kudos to Activision for leveraging their massive influence to bust that wall down.  Hopefully this is only the beginning.  But this got me to thinking about not only walls, but the barriers we often come to accept in our lives.

The wall between Sony and Xbox was not merely technological, but ideological at its core.  The technical ability to create this bridge has existed for a while, but the parties involved simply did not WANT to participate.  Maybe it was because of their fear of damaging their market share or segmenting their fan base.  Perhaps it was due to previous contractual agreements that they were still legally required to uphold.  It could even be the simple matter of being competitors in a tough environment and the stubborn refusal to do anything that might inadvertently help the other side out.  Someday we may know all the answers, but no matter what the rationale was behind it these walls were going to stay up until a more powerful force decided it was time to knock them down.

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In John 4 we find a fascinating take on the figurative walls that unfortunately exist in our real world.  Jesus is in the beginning stages of His earthly ministry and is headed north from Judea, where he had just been working in close proximity with John the Baptist.  He was heading back to where He was from, the area of Galilee.  To do so meant travelling through the land of Samaria, a portion of Israel that may have PHYSICALLY existed between Judea and Galilee but could not have been farther away in the figurative sense.  We will let John speak for himself here…

John 4:3-9  He left Judea and departed again to Galilee. But He needed to go through Samaria. So He came to a city of Samaria which is called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. Now Jacob’s well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied from His journey, sat thus by the well. It was about the sixth hour. A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give Me a drink.” For His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food. Then the woman of Samaria said to Him, “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?” For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.

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I hope those words stung you as much as they did me.  “For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans”.  Ouch.  And no, before you jump to a conclusion, this was not simply a racial thing.  We find the answer a few short verses later…

John 4:16-26 Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.”The woman answered and said, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You have well said, ‘I have no husband,’for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; in that you spoke truly.”The woman said to Him, “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.”Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”The woman said to Him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When He comes, He will tell us all things.”Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am He.”

Before we unpack that a bit, I just need to say “Oh, SNAP!”  Because Jesus just totally called her out on some STUFF.  But this Samaritan woman was undeterred in the discussion because she was here to knock a few walls down.  The issue was a matter of religious belief, specifically in regards to the appropriate place and manner in which to worship God.  These were deep rooted issues that had created a massive division in a group of people who had much more in common than they chose to admit.  Hmmmm… that sounds kinda familiar.  Are we sure this was two thousand years ago?  I’m just gonna let you chew on that one on your own time.  Anyway… without dismissing the previously established rules of order, Jesus guided her to the new and better way…  serving God from the inside out rather than the other way around.

Now this is where we get to the practical part of this… the part that hits home for me and hopefully for you as well.  After Jesus had successfully broken down the walls that divided this unnamed Samaritan woman from the truth, she could not help but to go and find others and share the truth of Jesus with everyone in her city.  Let’s stop and consider this for a moment.  I want you to really understand the reputation this woman must have had.  Even in our modern era, someone who has been divorced FIVE times is typically not given a pulpit, labelled as the ideal minister of Christ, and sent off to the mission field.  In her day and age, a time period in which adultery was punishable by DEATH… let’s just say it would have been MUCH worse.  There is a stigma associated with divorce, as well as many of the other less than ideal circumstances that occur in life.  Often these negative labels that we earn can create a sense of disqualification or “second-class citizenship”.  There are WALLS that keep such supposedly “damaged” folks from being able to make an impact because of their previous failures.  And not all of them are external.  Many times WE are the ones who disqualify OURSELVES.

I am quite guilty of this, because I am quite guilty of a number of things.  At various points in my life I have been party to a number of shameful things that do not deserve mentioning.  I am not proud of many parts of my life, both before I knew Christ and after.  And while my sins are no longer an active or present part of my life and Christ’s forgiveness is full and absolute, it is easy to allow walls that are either self-imposed or society-driven to erect themselves and keep us contained within their borders.  Have you felt the same way?  Feeling trapped by choices you may have previously made but are no longer part of?  No longer burdened, but also not truly free?   Let’s look at our friendly neighborhood Samaritan woman for the answer…

John 4:28-30 and 39-40 The woman then left her water pot, went her way into the city, and said to the men, “Come, see a Man who told me all things that I ever did. Could this be the Christ?” Then they went out of the city and came to Him.  And many of the Samaritans of that city believed in Him because of the word of the woman who testified, “He told me all that I ever did.” So when the Samaritans had come to Him, they urged Him to stay with them; and He stayed there two days.

There it is.  She didn’t ask permission to become an ambassador for Jesus.  She didn’t go to the disciples to get her “Doctorate of Divinity”, apply for a license, and wait for board approval.  She just WENT.  She ignored the walls and hit the highway, telling everyone she ran into to come and meet Jesus for themselves.  And it was HER testimony that reached an entire city… not James, John and Peter… not one of the “approved” saints… not some official, authorized outreach program…  No, it was this unnamed woman who changed the minds and the lives of many people REGARDLESS of her so called “qualifications” to do so.  She didn’t have a business card… just a fire in her belly to share the good news.  And she didn’t need anyone’s permission or approval to do it.

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Many times, like the walls that existed in the cross-play space between Sony and Microsoft, we simply accept things as the way they are because the status quo is safe and predictable.  Honestly, we tend to hide behind these walls because they limit our risks… the risk of failure, embarrassment, or exposure.  But those walls are either self-imposed or societal constructs that must be either ignored or knocked down.  This Samaritan woman was not qualified by anything more than this one simple thing… she had met Jesus.  And that was enough.  Her sins, both past and present, were irrelevant to the message that only SHE could spread.

Activision, as a studio, is not the most well-regarded publisher in the industry.  NOBODY says the name “Activision” and other words such as “integrity”, “innovative”, “forward-thinking”, or “gamer-focused”” in the same sentence. But you know what?  They are the ones who decided to strike the largest blow for doing the right thing.  And we will all be better off for it.  And you, just like me, may not be the most qualified person (by your own or the world’s estimation) to carry your message forward.  Who cares?  If God placed this before you, then it is up you to carry out YOUR mission and let him worry about your credentials (which HE isn’t worried about, by the way).  He is the God that doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the CALLED.

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So GO.  Go and take that interview that God set up for you.  Yes… the one you don’t have the perfect resume for.  Go ask that person that God put on your heart out to dinner.  Yes… the one who is WAY out of your league.  And most importantly… GO and tell the world the good news.  Yes… the person you think would never listen,  the person who you think might feel “weird” when you bring it up.  The person who you are afraid will confront you on your own sins and mistakes.  YOU aren’t the message… YOU are the MESSENGER.  And the walls that are in your way… they are only there for as long as you permit them to be.  Don’t let Activision be bolder than you today, my friend… answer YOUR call.

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