I did my best humanly-possible “this is fun” face. It was not. My friends seemed superhumanly grateful – constantly taken aback by the graciousness of it all. Or at least they were better at hiding it than me. It made me stop and think, Wait, why am I even here? Why indeed.
It’s Saturday night and I just got back from one of the most underwhelming marketing machines ever, literally. It was a mobile trailer full of pre-loaded demo PS4s and a pitifully short time-limit to play them. Oh, did I forget to mention the throng of raving PlayStation fans of all ages climbing over each other to play on said consoles?
After an entire afternoon spent waiting on line, I still got “free swag” – plastic PS4-branded sunglasses and a PS Vita-branded thermal cup glove. Now I can be a source of free marketing and advertising for Sony…um, thanks?
Not to sound ungrateful, there was also free food, cold water, and a local Rock-and-Roll cover band entertaining us while we stood outside in the sweltering summer air (the cover band’s name is ‘Xcession’ if you’re curious to know or want to support local Long Island live musicians –Xsessionmusic.com). But I am getting ahead of myself, as usual.
It all begin with a last-minute e-mail from Sony informing me that the “Road to Greatness” tour was coming to a town only 22 minutes away from where I live. What did this mean? Well, basically it was a free event inviting the public to play unreleased games, get free stuff, compete for prizes, “and more!” (Did you read that in exaggerated announcer-guy voice? No, well then go back and do so now…no seriously, I’ll wait).
Unsurprisingly, I ‘fan-girled’ at the thought of going to this and planned to use it to reconnect with some college friends – and this seemed like a good chance. So after all the texts and looking up directions online, I picked up my friends & set out, telling myself: Friends first, PlayStation second. Praise God I did. The day before was my dude Darin’s birthday. And while my inner gaming-enthusiast couldn’t wait to be one of the first to publicly play the unreleased likes of Until Dawn, Street Fighter V, and Star Wars Battlefront, (all of which the press has only previewed), wisdom dictated that I not set myself up in case of disappointment. Such is usually the case with things that are free, I’ve learned.
And here I sit, broken-hearted. Came to gush, but can’t even get started. Even though “I called it”? Yes. I’m having a ‘First-world problems’ AND a ‘Christian moment,’ simultaneously. You know you’ve had those moments too. Don’t lie to yourself. They are kind of normal in our ‘outwardly-spiritual-yet-inwardly-selfish-and-that’s-okay’ culture. Sad but true. Mostly sad, though (think about it, but not too hard).
Naturally, my experience reminded me of King Solomon’s infamous words, “…vanity of vanities! All is vanity.” (Eccl. 1:2b) In other words, everything in life is about as productive as running after the wind, trying to trap it all in a jar. The footnote in my Bible goes on, “the Hebrew term hebel, translated vanity or vain, refers concretely to a “mist,” “vapor,” or “mere breath,” and metaphorically to something that is fleeting or elusive.” Sounds like the fun I tried desperately to have and failed at whilst at this event. Maybe I’m just spoiled…or expect too much. Can you relate?
Now before you stop right there and run with that depressing analysis, understand that this is actually cause for rejoicing as I look back on the hours well-spent with my friends and the PlayStation nation (of freeloaders). Allow me to explain.
The whole thing was pretty bare-bones. A decent-sized high school parking lot. Some grills and tables with a single tent for shade. A stage decked out with official banners. The signature blue trailer and truck. Sony employees in plain clothes running around with the goodies and tech to capture all the magic (including this sweet, quadcopter drone flying overhead with a camera!). And lastly, a massive crowd of rabid fans. People driving by must have noticed the crowd and pulled in just to see what it was all about. The mysterious blue “My Road to Greatness” signs must have helped there, too.
My friends and I had never been to one of these shindigs before, even though I had seen the “Road to Greatness” truck advertised before online, and it turns out PlayStation picked Northport High School to host the event because one of its students won a contest that involved capturing and submitting some creative gameplay footage from Naughty Dog’s critically-acclaimed game, The Last of Us. Kudos to Noelle Stegner for winning the contest so freeloaders like me could go to something like this!
We chuckled as some company men from TLoU’s dev team made a video for this teenager congratulating her, without even bothering to address her by name, and describing her grand prize before she was handed said prize there live for all to see…and be jealous of. It was all very ho-hum, or if you’re a fan of Sony like me, ‘Hohokum’ (game reference that isn’t as funny if I have to explain it). This was all before finally getting into this mysterious trailer in which there were mostly previously-released games, a meager few ‘new and notable’ titles (minus Star Wars Battlefront!) with no management guys ensuring fair play-time, and a registration desk with the typical ‘Enter our giveaway by giving us your information so we can advertise to you more personally’ laptops. Underwhelming much?
Ironically, I didn’t touch a single controller during my limited time inside the trailer we spent most of our time waiting on line for. I found myself walking around, shadowing my friends, iPad mini in hand capturing photos and a few videos (including one of my boy Darin getting rekt by his younger sister on the new Street Fighter V). I even chatted up one of the venue workers, who told me that him and his team had been touring the country running these events, getting three-day breaks between each one – he seemed tired of it all and super-bored. By the time our group’s turn was up, so were we.
Refreshingly, we all laughed at how not-so-great our time was – much as we enjoyed the pomp and circumstance of PlayStation’s marketing tour bus. Candid confessions about being disappointed, what constitutes good hip-hop music, and the difference between Chipotle and Moe’s mexican food approach filled my car as we drove to the latter for some good food and conversation.
Just last week, I had been given a few hundred dollars for taking care of a home while its owner was away on vacation. So I hadn’t anticipated being willing, much less able, to drive across Long Island between Queens and Northport and back again. But not only did I get to do that, I was able to treat my friend & his siblings for dinner – all on the day after his birthday. Providence, anyone? It was an unexpectedly memorable time for us poor college dudes this summer…and the highlight wasn’t really about playing the latest video games at all!
I’ll confess I had been prideful to expect this amazingly mind-blowing experience that I could brag about to my like-minded gaming people. Thankfully, I learned (and am still learning) to check my attitude and expectations against reality:
“God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble…Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will exalt you.” (James 4:6b, 10)
I like to be the first. The first to try something new that others haven’t tried out, the first to report on something others would pay attention to. I enjoy the power of giving my thoughts like I’m an authority on a subject. I have a daily craving to share what’s fresh, what’s trendy, what’s relevant, and in the never-ending quest to do so, I can tend to miss the people I can serve and the life I can relish and live. Sad to think how often that happens without me noticing. Even sadder to think how prevalent and crippling this reality is to the Church universal. By God’s grace, this time was not one of those times! And I have faith in my awesome God that it will not be the last. To Him be all the glory.
GG & Amen.
“…remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” – The Apostle Paul, Acts 20:35b (ESV)