The Cancellation of E3: The Dangers of Becoming Disconnected (Part 1: Sardis/Rev. 3)

A page is turning on the book of video game history… a page that may be signaling the end of arguably the most iconic gaming expo in the world… E3. E3, or the Electronic Entertainment Expo (if you are into calling things by their full legal names), has served as one of the industry’s largest combined events for over twenty years, and it has served us well. From providing a stage for some of the largest gaming announcements and reveals in history, to acting as an annual pilgrimage for those connected to the industry, E3 has meant something different to each of us over the years. And if you were fortunate enough to attend one of these in person, there really wasn’t an atmosphere quite like it. Personally, one of my favorite gaming memories was standing with a group of fellow gamers watching the reveal of Metal Gear Solid 4 over and over and OVER again at an E3 event, dissecting every bit of it in a fruitless attempt at comprehending the story (all these years later I am STILL not sure any of us fully understand the story in that one). But with the announcement that this year’s E3 event has been fully cancelled (both in-person and virtually), it may be the beginning of the end for this industry stalwart. Or perhaps the end happened several years ago, and nobody bothered to tell E3.

Sure, the ability to gather in large groups has been impacted over the last few years… but if we are being honest, there are many competing events that have continued to be successful even with the current challenges. Gamescom, PAX, Tokyo Game Show, and the Video Game Awards are just a few of the major expo events that have managed these same difficulties without ceasing to exist. To be fair, the world of gaming has undergone exceptional changes over the decades of E3’s existence, but this isn’t the actual cause of E3’s downfall. The truth is that the entire planet has changed since the inception of E3, including the accessibility of information and the means by which we consume it. The complexity of developing a game has changed, meaning that developers are no longer able to simply pull a “vertical slice” out of a game to act as a stand-alone demo. And with Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft all demonstrating their ability to pull in a global audience and make gaming announcements in a window of time that suits them (and without giving valuable financial resources to E3 event organizers), the sustained relevance of an E3 event is simply no longer present in a way that it once was. To put it bluntly, the major publishers and console developers no longer need E3 as a platform… they have built their own.

E3 was once the most sacred ground within the gaming world… but now life has moved on, and E3 has failed to move along at the pace the rest of the world is moving at. Perhaps they took it all for granted, believing that they were integral to the gaming world and could never be replaced. Or maybe it is because they remain stuck in the past, unable to adapt to the changing marketplace and the speed of the very technology they are representing. One way or another, E3 isn’t happening this year in any way, shape, or form. And unless the organizers of this event take a very deep look at what they will have to do in order to grow and commit to becoming relevant again… E3 may never return. For a variety of reasons, they lost their connection to the industry as well as the fanbase that they were designed to serve in the first place. And the dangers of becoming disconnected are not unique to E3… it is a war each of us face across many different battlefronts in our lives as well.

Remaining connected to Christ throughout our adventures in life can be very challenging, and there are many different obstacles that can cause us to become disconnected if we aren’t careful. And in the book of Revelation, the Apostle John received seven distinct messages to seven different groups of believers who were facing “disconnection issues” of their own. When we think of the book of Revelation, there are probably many images that come to mind. Prophecies about the “end of days”, mysterious horsemen, Armageddon… but before we get to all of that there are two chapters of warnings and guidance given to seven specific churches. While these messages were written to actual, physical churches during that time period, these were recorded for our benefit as well… specific instructions designed to strengthen, correct, and support the body of Christ through every season we will endure as His followers. And as we will see with the church of Sardis, they had a critical problem with their growth similar to the one E3 has failed to adapt to… a dangerous disconnect that threatened to sever them from the very thing that gave them life in the first place.

Revelation 3:1-6 And to the angel of the church in Sardis write, “These things says He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars: I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead. Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die, for I have not found your works perfect before God. Remember therefore how you have received and heard; hold fast and repent. Therefore, if you will not watch, I will come upon you as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you. You have a few names even in Sardis who have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with Me in white, for they are worthy. He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

Growth is an imperative in any of our pursuits in life… moving forward from what was previously successful and evolving to adapt to the needs of a growing and changing environment. And in our faith, it can be easy to take satisfaction in what has ALREADY been done instead of continuing to grow into what we were designed to be. Choosing to take the first step of faith and believing in the presence of God is certainly a significant step in that process, but as James points out, it is just step ONE on our journey…

James 2:19 You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble!

The church at Sardis had both heard and received the message of Christ (Revelation 3:3), and they even had a reputation for being “alive”… but there was a problem. For something to REMAIN alive, it must be in a state of continual growth… and the church at Sardis was not simply failing to grow, it was dead. The words “Be watchful and strengthen the things which remain” are more than just instructions… they reveal exactly what went wrong. First, they were not “watchful”… the Greek word grégoreó used here is the same one Jesus used when His disciples fell asleep during His final prayer meeting in the garden of Gethsemane. This is an ACTIVE vigilance… a state of being fiercely aware and on alert. And second, they were challenged to “strengthen”, which is the Greek wordstérizó and is also commonly defined as the word “establish”… both of these are ACTIVE words referencing the continual building upon a foundation. Sardis, much like the E3 event, had failed to “read the room” and maintain an active watch on the environment that was changing around them. And both of them also proceeded with the false assumption that they could continue to coast by on the strength of their reputation and what they had accomplished in the past. And they were faced with a rude awakening… a foundation must continue to be built upon, or it will simply decay into irrelevance.

Just like the E3 event was once the most significant event in the gaming calendar each year, our initial act of believing in God or even choosing to follow Christ is an incredibly critical moment in our lives… but if we do not move forward from that place into a deeper place of spiritual maturity, the battles that we will face as well as the needs of those we have been challenged to reach will move past our ability to support them. Much like how the needs of the audience grew beyond the ability of E3 to provide a relevant product, if we are not committed to our own personal growth in Christ, we will quickly find that our meager Biblical knowledge and limited spiritual depth is simply no match for the ever-growing challenges of the world that surrounds us. Building ourselves up in Christ is not something that automatically happens through a mere statement of belief or even active service to the Lord… it is something we consciously take time and choose to do through prayer and Bible study.

Jude 1:20-21 But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.

2 Timothy 2:15 Study to show yourself approved by God, a workman who need not be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

Hebrews 6:1-3 Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, of laying on of hands, of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. And this we will do if God permits.

As the writer of Hebrews sagely advised us, there is a continual growth process for every believer in Christ that moves beyond the initial emotional experience and into one of intentional development and growth. While it is important that we take the time to learn and understand the foundational truths of Christ, there is also an expectation that we continue to grow and move forward in our faith. This doesn’t happen by some magical form of spiritual osmosis, where we just have to get in close enough proximity to the Bible and other believers, and we will somehow mysteriously absorb spiritual truth. It is a daily, intentional act of learning more about the God we serve and seeking deeper truth from the Word He has given us.

The gaming industry is a nearly 200 billion dollar industry that supports multiple trade shows and expo events every year, but E3 did not do the work to provide something of value to a changing generation with new and unique needs. Video games are booming and growing into multiple different avenues of consumption and monetization… but E3 failed to find a path into relevance because it did not GROW along with the needs of those it was designed to serve. As video game information and news became more accessible, E3 tried to stay the same. It should have been easy to grow along with one of the fastest growing entertainment commodities on the planet, but E3 failed to recognize and adapt to the opportunities of a world that still needed what it had to offer… and now E3 has been left behind and replaced by others who grew, adapted, and filled those appetites.

As followers of Christ, we need more than simply good intentions and a belief in the Lord to make an impact in the world around us… we need spiritual growth in our own lives. Sure, the world may seem like it is a more challenging place to reach than it once was… but the Gospel of Christ is never irrelevant or weak in its’ ability to reach others and change their lives. As carriers of this message, we must intentionally grow ourselves and the way we communicate to match the needs of a generation who needs this truth more than ever. Let’s learn from the lessons of both the church at Sardis and the E3 event organizers… we must be vigilant and watchful and continue to strengthen ourselves in our faith if we want to remain relevant to the level of challenges facing our world today.

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