Lessons from a Virtual Reality Game
I played a virtual reality game for the first time at a recent team-building event at work.
At first it was really strange putting on the headset which immerses you in the virtual reality world, blocking out both the sights and sounds of the real world. The next tricky step was to figure out how to use the controls attached to your hands, which in this game were meant to be Star Wars-like lightsabers.
The next challenge was entering the world of the game. My mission was to destroy red and blue blocks, which you had to smash by swatting the correctly coloured lightsaber in the right direction (as if you were holding a real sword in your hand), all the while dodging walls coming at you down a long corridor.
My first attempt was a disaster. So was the second. And the third. By the fifth attempt, I was starting to get the hang of it.
Several hours later, my colleagues had tired of the game, but I was still going, completely immersed and hooked on beating my own high score.
Totally addicted to the feeling of achieving something, of winning.
I’ve never been a gamer, but I can completely understand how it sucks you into a world where you can leave your real life problems behind and completely unwind. Virtual reality is even more so. The world that you see from inside the headset is brighter and more vivid than the real world.
The real world often seems to be one meaningless episode after another. We go to the same places each day as we drive on autopilot to work, to drop and pick up the kids, shopping, the gym, school, Mass, the weekly park run. Sometimes the monotonousness loses all appeal and even when something happens to break the daily routine—like a burst pipe, a visit to the mechanic or some unexpected event in the daily ennui, it’s often more of an annoyance than an event to wake us out of our tedium.
In order to feel alive, we constantly search for new “highs”. For some it is buying a new shirt, a new car or a new house. For others it is travelling to exotic locations and experiencing new cultures and cuisines. Taking up skydiving, or moving on to a new relationship, or playing virtual reality games.
Why do we do this? Because we are searching. We are searching for that one experience that will fulfil us, complete us, make us feel united to something greater than ourselves and to find our purpose.
For Christians, this is to search for God, the search for peace, the search for Love. Irrespective of whether we are religious people or not, this is a search that never ends as long as we have life in us.
But yet, it often seems that our Church is the last place we go looking for this unity and completeness. Is it because our hearts have become so dulled to the presence of Christ, present in every Mass, in the liturgy and in the sacrifice of the altar? Do we enter Mass on autopilot, completely unaware of the incredible reality that our human eyes cannot see?
Are we too irritated by the poor homily, the bad singing, the things that haven’t been done properly, that we miss the very reason we’ve come to Mass in the first place?
Last week I told my RCIA group that if we truly believe the claim we make that Jesus is fully present in the Eucharist—body, soul and divinity—then it should change everything about the way we come to and participate in the Mass! Then it should change everything about the way we live our lives.
That thing, that Person we have been searching for in all our efforts to reach that new plateau of newness and excitement, is right there. That Person is our God, the only one who completes us, and he is right there at the consecration on the altar, right there when we receive him in Holy Communion, right there as we leave the Mass with Christ in our hearts.
It should change everything
Many of us have experienced that moment of complete unity and love perhaps once or twice in our lives. Sometimes that clearness of vision comes as we are facing sorrow, or experiencing a moment of conversion, or have had a life-changing experience (like the birth of a child or the awareness of the fragility of life).
It is a moment of grace, where God gives us a glimpse of eternity. For a moment, we have been allowed to see reality as it should be.
Instead of seeking refuge in virtual realities, how about trying something different this year? Put on the eyes of faith when you get up in the morning and encounter the world in a new way.
Notice the sunrise as you drive to work; listen to the birds as you do your park run; gaze at your child with the eyes of new parents, even if they are old enough to try your patience; read the scriptures with a fresh understanding.
Perhaps we’ll discover that we can find contentment and peace within the life we have been given.
When we are truly present in our own lives and truly present in the life of Christ within and around us, then perhaps the virtual reality of the game world will have nothing on the incredible reality we discover within ourselves!