(In the vocal stylings of The Rock) FINALLY… the WWE has come BACK to video games! Well, I don’t know for sure if The Rock will be in this one (they probably can’t afford him), but I do know this… the upcoming WWE 2K22 is FINALLY doing something that actually makes SENSE… they are releasing their new wrestling video game during the run up to their biggest event of the year, WrestleMania. While that may seem to be something that in hindsight would be obvious, for years the developers of each WWE video game would choose to release their annualized franchise during the final months of the calendar year… the same window of time that almost every other game publisher releases THEIR biggest titles of the year. The result? Massive competition from other (better) games that had just hit the shelves, lackluster sales, and the release of games that were completely broken upon launch… all because they were choosing to follow the industry trend of releasing video games during the established “holiday window” instead of when it made the most sense for their specific product. The world of pro wrestling reaches its’ fever pitch of excitement and enthusiasm in the February-March time frame as the WWE builds to their self-proclaimed “grandest stage of them all”… so it is a bit hard to believe that this is the FIRST TIME they have opted to release a video game during the height of the WrestleMania season. It’s a NEW DAY, yes it is…
For years the gaming industry has stuck to a very simple formula… invest tons of money and hours into developing a video game, pour even more money into a marketing budget before the game comes out, and then release the game between October and December like every other publisher on the planet, pinning your dreams on the hope that your title will somehow be noticed while being buried deeply in the crowded store shelves during the holiday shopping season. And when you are competing for the same share of attention (and wallet) from other studios who have a larger marketing budget and better name recognition, this can be a recipe for disaster… especially for a game that might have had a better chance of awareness and survival if it was released in say… June. Sure, a handful of developers have wisely (and lucratively) chosen to target the months between January and August and hit pay dirt, bucking this outdated trend and finding a welcome and hungry audience. But these “glitches in the matrix” have failed to disrupt a system that remains cyclical year after year… game releases trickle to a stand-still during the spring and summer months, and then suddenly every video game we ever dreamed of comes out on the same handful of dates in October and November. So… why do they do it? Two words… PEER PRESSURE.
While the data shows that consumer spending on video games hits its’ highest point during the holiday retail shopping window, the reality is that is also a self-fulfilling prophecy. OF COURSE consumer spending hits its’ peak when the games are all out on the store and digital shelves… when else are they being released? This is the gaming equivalent of a retail store thinking they experience their best sales when it is raining outside… and ignoring the fact that the underlying reason behind this is because they exclusively sell UMBRELLAS. Unless a publisher decides to start releasing high demand titles with massive name recognition such as Call of Duty and Battlefield consistently outside of the traditional run up to Christmas, this trend will never change. We will continue to see publishers do things the way they have always been done, or because that is the way their most successful peers are doing it… and while imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, mindlessly emulating others will only result in a weak imitation of someone else’s legitimate success. And only those souls who are brave enough to tread outside of this established paradigm and break new ground will ever enjoy the fruits of swimming against the stream and breaking this endless cycle that has defined not only the world of gaming, but many times our everyday lives as well.
We all have unique gifts and abilities from the Lord that are aligned with His mission for our lives, and each of us are called to serve in a very specific place within the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12). But unfortunately, many times we may find that in our desire to fulfill that calling we can become guilty of being influenced by this very subtle form of “peer pressure” as well… allowing the way others are used or the methods in which they use their gifts to influence us rather than seeking the guidance of the Spirit of God to guide us. And the end result of all of this unintentional “peer pressure” is a generic, watered-down, ill-fitting, carbon-copied Christianity that lacks the authentic power to slay the very real giants that we are facing. Let’s take a look at someone you are probably pretty familiar with and the “peer pressure” mindset that he had to reject in order to fulfill his uniquely scripted destiny. You may recognize this giant slayer… but let’s take a deeper look at the inner battle he had to win before he ever set his foot on that infamous battlefield.
1 Samuel 17:31-40 Now when the words which David spoke were heard, they reported them to Saul; and he sent for him. Then David said to Saul, “Let no man’s heart fail because of him; your servant will go and fight with this Philistine. And Saul said to David, “You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him; for you are a youth, and he a man of war from his youth.” But David said to Saul, “Your servant used to keep his father’s sheep, and when a lion or a bear came and took a lamb out of the flock, I went out after it and struck it, and delivered the lamb from its mouth; and when it arose against me, I caught it by its beard, and struck and killed it. Your servant has killed both lion and bear; and this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, seeing he has defied the armies of the living God.” Moreover, David said, “The Lord, who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” And Saul said to David, “Go, and the Lord be with you!” So Saul clothed David with his armor, and he put a bronze helmet on his head; he also clothed him with a coat of mail. David fastened his sword to his armor and tried to walk, for he had not tested them. And David said to Saul, “I cannot walk with these, for I have not tested them.” So David took them off. Then he took his staff in his hand; and he chose for himself five smooth stones from the brook, and put them in a shepherd’s bag, in a pouch which he had, and his sling was in his hand. And he drew near to the Philistine.
David had to shed the established method for doing battle because it didn’t fit with the path the Lord had designed… and for David to slay this giant who had never been defeated, he was going to have to fight this battle in a manner that played to DAVID’S specific strengths, gifts, and capabilities. And to keep it real, David needed to go into this battle depending on the LORD for his survival, not in blind dependence on the armor and weapons of someone who would have taken all the credit for the victory if THEIR weapons of warfare had been used. If David had fought Goliath in his own strength and using nothing more than the armor the king had loaned him, one of two things would have happened. One, David would have probably been viciously defeated just like everyone else who tried to face the giant in this unsuccessful manner. Or two, let’s say for the sake of argument that David would have been victorious. This victory would have come at a horrible cost… David would have perpetuated the mistaken belief that it was the armor, weapons, and strategy of the king that had delivered the people instead of the miraculous and mighty hand of God empowering his chosen vessel.
Here is where the rubber meets the road for all of us… as easy as it is to stick with the “peer pressure” mindset and blindly follow the well-travelled path that has traditionally given success to others, these giants are not slain through our stubborn adherence to the comfort zones that are applied to us by external factors. Just as the new WWE wrestling game is foregoing the established trend of releasing during the holiday window and instead launching their new title in their specific “sweet spot”, we also must make the choice to embrace the unique message, calling, and vision that the Lord has given us to serve the story He is telling THROUGH us. David had to defeat his Goliath in a very specific way that would use David’s specific strengths and ensure the Lord was given ALL of the glory… if David had succumbed to the peer pressure of the moment and tried to use Saul’s armor, or perhaps attempted to replicate Samson’s epic display of strength by using an animal’s jawbone to attack Goliath (Judges 15), we would have had a very different and unfortunate ending to this story. Probably one that ends with Goliath defeating the young shepherd boy who tried to face him using other’s ideas, methods, and strengths instead of the Lord’s.
Each of us have a unique voice and specific God-given gifts that were designed to fulfill the calling that the Lord placed on our lives. And the happiness, success, and fulfillment that can only be found in serving Christ far exceeds a life of allowing the opinions and traditions of others to make our decisions for us. When we choose to allow external and arbitrary forces to define how we are expected to follow Christ instead of letting the Lord direct our paths, we are robbing ourselves and others of the victories that we were designed for… victories that cannot be secured through wearing another successful person’s armor or wielding a sword designed for someone else’s hand. We are living at THIS time, in THIS place, and have been given THESE gifts to reach and save souls on THIS battlefield. Vanquishing undefeated giants is not a simple “copy and paste” activity… it typically requires throwing out the old playbook, ignoring the established calendar, and boldly following the Father’s voice through the valley of the shadow of death (Psalm 23:4).
David’s path from faithful shepherd boy to victorious warrior wasn’t found in following the current king’s career advice… it was found in listening to the voice of the King of Kings who had prepared a table for David in the very presence of his enemies (Psalm 23:5). And the WWE reaching the best possible audience at the right time for their new game wasn’t going to happen by following what is currently working well for others, or even what has worked well for them many years ago in a different era of time. The Lord is not bound to the conventional thinking of the past or even the best patterns of the present… He wants to do a NEW thing in and through each of us. That “new thing” may be risky, strange, and uncomfortable. His ways may defy the conventional wisdom and logic that has served others well… He tends to do that a lot. But it is in this place of surrendering to His way that we unlock the true power of our calling, and these impossible giants finally start falling.
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