When Xbox Met Samsung: A Future Without Consoles? (Part 2: Ephesus/Rev. 2)

For everyone who was wondering what a future looks like in which console gaming exists WITHOUT the actual console, the future is NOW. The first steps into this brave new world have been taken by Samsung, partnering their television technology with Microsoft’s Game Pass service to provide players with the opportunity to play major titles such as Halo Infinite, Microsoft Flight Simulator, and more… without a console, a PC, or even purchasing a physical or digital copy of those games. With nothing more than the right Smart TV (provided by Samsung), a Game Pass subscription (provided by Microsoft), a solid internet connection, and a controller ANYBODY can jump straight into many of the largest and most popular games available without owning a game console of any kind. Microsoft’s cloud-based gaming initiative will finally be unleashed on the world this summer like the “fully armed and operational” battle station that they have been building all along…

With the removal of the need to actually purchase an Xbox Series X console (which at the time of this writing is still one of the most expensive and difficult to find consoles on the market), as well as the games themselves ($60-$70 each) in order to participate in playing current Xbox titles, this is a seismic shift in the world of gaming in ways that we may not fully comprehend right now. Microsoft seems to have covered all of their bases here… through their acquisitions of major developers and their franchises like Bethesda, Activision Blizzard, and Minecraft they have amassed arguably the most robust portfolio of development studios in their corner. They have a cloud gaming platform that supports a massive library of titles through their Game Pass service, and now they have partnered with a leading television manufacturer to have their application just as accessible as popping up a movie on Netflix or streaming a television show on Disney +. There is only one potential problem that Microsoft doesn’t control that could have a large impact on both the reception and perception of this initiative… and it impacts the experience at a high enough level that it could make or break everything Xbox has worked so hard to build. This ability to experience and enjoy this service and all that it entails still comes down to the strength and quality of our internet service… a bad or non-existent connection will render all of this incredible access and power completely useless.

Internet latency, even at the most minimal levels, can still have a major impact on every aspect of our gaming experience. The difference between success and failure in an online match can often be measured in milliseconds… making the smallest bit of lag the potential difference between glorious victory and crushing defeat. While Microsoft has a large amount of control over the quality of the games that are accessible, the architecture of the service that is making them available, and even the TV company they have partnered with, they have zero control over the quality of the internet connection that the user has chosen. And this is very similar to the reality each of us experience as followers of Christ… we have access to the very throne of God at our discretion, we have been given the power of Christ to perform His will on earth, and we carry His Spirit within us every second of every day. But all of this access and power is dependent on the user and the quality of the connection we have chosen… and if we have allowed that signal to become disconnected or intermittent, that deterioration can have very severe consequences.

Last week we began our look at the seven churches in the book of Revelation, with a look at the church of Sardis. If you missed that, here is the link so you can get caught up:

The message to the church of Ephesus starts off quite a bit differently from the letter to Sardis… as a matter of fact, it sounds outstanding at first. I mean, look at all of these accolades… they are patient, doctrinally sound, battle tested, and doing all of the work one would associate with a good church. But the Lord has one very serious problem with them… the state of their connection to Him.

Revelation 2:1-7 “To the angel of the church of Ephesus write, ‘These things says He who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands:  “I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars;  and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary. Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent. But this you have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.” ’

The church at Ephesus looked connected on the surface… but a deeper look underneath revealed that their actual connection to the Lord had deteriorated to an unacceptable level. Sure, like many of us they had a hardline connection to the Father at the beginning of their relationship… a strong, stable connection in which they fully understood the importance of remaining intimately tethered to Him, much the same way each of us first experienced connecting to the internet with our original consoles. We plugged that ethernet cable from the wall into our console, made sure it clicked in nice and tight on both ends, and went through all of the steps to insure we were fully connected online with the best possible connection speed. But over time we can begin to take that connection for granted… we realize that we can set up our console with Wi-Fi, allowing us to no longer worry about our proximity to the router. With this wireless transition we can move farther and farther away from the source of our connection, which is highly convenient and removes all of the messy cords we were working with… but this convenience comes at a cost. With wireless internet comes the prospect of LAG… and the farther away we get and the more devices we connect to our service, the more that lag begins to reveal itself. We eventually become accustomed to this intermittent connection as long as the game is still functional enough to suit our purposes. And this is where the church at Ephesus found themselves… with some lag in their relationship with Christ that they had grown to accept as normal, as long as their output still seemed functionally intact.

Here is the challenging balance I frequently find myself in… in my desire to be productive for Christ, I find myself consuming Him purely for the purposes of producing fruit. My prayers, Bible study, and time with Him are all VERY intentional… and even though my motives aren’t selfish, they still represent a connection to the Lord that is primarily superficial in nature. As long as I appear to be presenting “fruit” on the surface, it is easy to believe that my “relationship” is strong. But I am actually just becoming accustomed to the “lag”… my connection is running on the fumes of a wireless connection that is slowly degrading, while I continue to attach more and more demands to a service that hasn’t been upgraded since my initial installation.

My “First Love” experience with Christ was one of utter dependence on Him for EVERY single thing… my complete awareness of my insufficiency to exist without Him was always on the front of mind and I rearranged everything in my life for the purposes of sustaining that connection. Similar to the first time I connected online with my friends to play games, I didn’t care if the ethernet cables stretched across the room were ugly or inconvenient… I was okay with it being “a little messy” and even moving my entire room around to align with wherever the ethernet connection was in my home if necessary. But over time, I started to become “wireless” in my approach to my relationship with Him… convenience and comfort became higher priorities, as long as my performance was still present at a level I was willing to accept. I didn’t “leave” the Lord… I just slowly drifted away from that “First Love” feeling that permeated my life when our relationship was new. And He didn’t mince words with the potential consequences if the church at Ephesus didn’t repent and return to their original state of commitment… their lampstand would be removed (Revelation 2:5).

The technology that is making gaming online so convenient that it requires nothing more than a TV, a membership, and a controller is a LITERAL game-changer. But none of this incredible tech will improve upon or replace our current console gaming experience if the part we control, our internet connection, doesn’t support it effectively. If our Wi-Fi isn’t strong enough to provide the necessary connection to empower these services, the games may still load and run… but with a level of lag that renders them unacceptable. And the same is true with the commitment we have made in our relationship with Christ… the demands we are placing on that relationship will only increase in size and complexity during the course of our journey on this planet. And that means our connection with Him must ALSO increase in quality and strength to support the bandwidth of the places we are going and the missions He has for us. And more importantly, our relationship with Him is not a mere support structure for the missions He has for us… our relationship with Him IS the primary mission. Let’s remember what our “First Love” truly looked like with Him… the love of a helpless child being rescued by the nail-scarred hands of a Saviour who loved us first (1 John 4:19). He wants more than just an initial install… He is looking for a connection that is upgraded DAILY to meet the ever-growing needs of His constantly growing child.

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