Friday, July 31, 2020

The Game of More.

Recently my wife bought a Nintendo Switch for the family to play with. One of the popular games out there right now is a game called Animal Crossing. In Animal Crossing you move to your very own island to live. The island is run by three raccoons. You are given a tent and allowed to pick a place to put it and start your new life. You spend your days gathering things from around the island and the sea and then sell those things to the raccoons for bells, the island form of currency. You can exchange these bells for the various things the raccoons sell. You can upgrade your tent to a house and then build rooms on your house, making it ever bigger. You also use the bells to buy stuff the raccoons sell. You fill your house with furniture, decorations,  toys, and the comforts of life. Everything comes with a price and you spend the game trying to make more and more bells to pay off your debts and buy as much as you can.

Sounds a lot like real life doesn’t it? And just like real life the game gets addicting quickly. The first day I played for fifteen minutes. The next was four hours straight. Time stands still as you run about gathering, selling, and buying things. Everyone in my family is addicted to playing and we fight for time to build our wealth. We all live on the same island together and find ourselves competing with each other to have the most or the nicest stuff.

Last night I looked at all of the stuff I had gathered in my house. I had a bed, some furniture, a freezer, and a variety of other things. Sitting there looking at it I realized that it really had no meaning in the game. I didn’t use any of it and my life on the island wasn’t affected one bit if I had the stuff or not. It doesn’t even matter if I had a house or not. I took every possession I had and sold it back to the raccoons. My bank account soared but I had no real purpose for the money either. There was nothing I had to buy to continue life on the island. Too bad there wasn’t a virtual charity I could donate it to.

And then I realized how I had been played by the devil with this seemingly harmless game that imitates real life. The point hidden in this game is that enough is never enough and there was always something bigger and better I could get if I worked for it. For example, you can fish and you can sell the fish you catch to the raccoons for bells. At first you catch little fish. Gradually they get bigger, making you want to fish more. Soon I was catching whale sharks and giant ocean sunfish. It instilled the desire to keep fishing to see what I would catch next.

That is exactly the temptation the devil presents us in real life. So many of us get caught up in the game of ‘more’. I need more; more money, more things, more sex, power, and influence. Like in the game, we trade our time for currency to get the things we thing we need. One of my favorite lines from a Jimmy Buffet song goes –

Need is a relative thing these days
It borders on desire
The high tech
world is full of bright
shiny things
We think that we really require
– Tonight, I just need my guitar. Far Side of the World.

It has been said that you never see a U-Haul attached to a hearse. I don’t think it is said enough. We take nothing with us when we die. We go to a place that contains that which we built up for ourselves when we were alive. I may be judged in this world by the things I gather for myself. I will be judged in the next world by how much I gave away in this one.

Arthur Ashe once said,

                From what we get, we can make a living. What we give; however, makes a life.

A funny thing happened when I sold all my possessions back to Timmy and Tommy, the raccoon shop keepers. I suddenly lost all desire to play the game. I saw the game for what it truly was; a mindless distraction from doing the same thing in real life. I took a long look around my house and saw all of the things I have traded my time and my health to obtain. Things that seemed important at the time now sit in a corner covered in dust. I have three grown children who will one day tell people that their dad worked a lot and played with them a little. Hopefully my younger two will be able to say that in reverse. I want to be remembered as the dad who played with my children and worked only as hard enough to give them what they really needed in life. The love of a father is worth more than all of the Nintendo Switches of the world.

If by ridding myself to all of my possessions in the game broke the addiction to the game perhaps letting go of all the worthless stuff in my life will do the same there as well. There is only one way to find out. Is anyone interested in a vintage vibrating belt exercise machine from 1968?

I think Saint Francis may have been on to something.