My Life with Games (part 18)–But Hope Was Not Yet Lost

In Polaris, whenever a player character is introduced for the first time that session, you use the ritual phrase “But hope was not yet lost, for [name] still heard the song of the stars.” Honestly, in Polaris, that can be an increasingly inappropriate entry, given the tragic nature of the game. But not all stories are tragedies.

***

But hope was not yet lost, for Seth still heard the song of the stars.

***

I am a Christian. At this point, “Christian” means so many different things, that I feel I need to define what I mean.

I believe in a Creator God, who made the whole world especially for humanity.

I believe in a God who has extended His hands to us in love by sending Jesus to bring us back to Himself.

I believe in a God who hears the cry of His people.

And in the day of my distress, He heard me.

***

I have an irrational love of the Fantasy Flight boardgame Android. From a designer’s perspective, I could levy any number of complaints at it. But I love it, warts and all. I love its scope. I love how it humanizes its characters in ways that I’ve not seen in any other boardgame. And, honestly, I love it because it’s cyberpunk and because it’s kinda like Blade Runner and because it has a space elevator in it.

I’ve already mentioned how Netrunner was a big deal to Crystal and I. And what a beautiful design! But, I felt that it was not served well by being released as a CCG. So, at some point in 2011, I was considering all this, and I thought, “It would be really neat if Fantasy Flight were to acquire the license to Netrunner, reskin it to fit in their Android universe, and release it as a Living Card Game.” Ah, daydreams.

(For those of you who don’t know, a Living Card Game is similar to a CCG, except there’s no random distribution of cards. Each set that you buy has the same cards. So, there’s deckbuilding but not chasing of cards.)

Cut to April 2012. I’m stepping out of staff meeting to, uh, tend to business. So I check my email and find that Jason Blair wrote me with some news he knew I’d want to hear.

It turns out that Fantasy Flight acquired the license to Netrunner and decided to reskin it to fit their Android universe and release it as a Living Card Game.

Funny tangent: the staff meeting was largely a presentation on computer security.

***

I’ve heard people offer the idea that God is concerned with the big stuff in the world. You know, galaxies and nations and pollution and hunger and things like that. Not the production schedules of game companies in Minnesota.

But they’re wrong.

***

The announcement said that FFG was aiming to release Netrunner in the third quarter of 2012. I could read that code. That meant “we’re aiming for GenCon but don’t want to actually promise it in case something goes wrong”. Hey, I can respect that.

But somehow, that release date was a sign. In my mind, Netrunner stood for an earlier age: an age where I was more innocent, where Crystal and I were close to each other, where life was peaceful. God told me, “Hang on until August. It gets better in August. I promise.”

***

I believe the world is full of signs and wonders. I believe that God is speaking all around us all the time, but we’re just not paying attention. There are times when your sight is sharpened, though, and you can see what you’ve been missing. This happened to me when my mother died and when Crystal’s mother died. I suddenly found that I was moving through a world of meaning, where everything connected in ways that suddenly made sense.

And that’s what happened this summer.

***

On July 31, 2012, I turned thirty-five. This was a big deal for me. Thirty was supposed to have been a major milestone, but there ended up being interpersonal drama on that day that tainted it. I wanted a do-over. I wanted thirty-five to be the birthday that my thirtieth hadn’t been.

My big birthday party was going to be on Friday. On my birthday proper, we kept it quiet. Well, Ben-Ezra quiet. I came home from work, and there were presents from my family. Then Crystal and I went out to eat at Flat Top Grill (one of my favorites!) and then saw Brave at the theater.

It was late by the time we left the theater, and as we were walking to the car, we saw a bat circling it. It was a big bat, too, with banded wings. Suddenly, the parking lot felt very lonely and desolate and a bit creepy.

So we hurried up and got in the car. Then, as I looked out of the windshield, I saw a praying mantis perched on one of the wipers. Crystal said, “It’s a praying mantis! That means that we should pray!” She was being a little silly, but when is it a bad idea to pray? So we prayed. Then I tried to get the praying mantis to leave, but it wouldn’t. I didn’t want to get out of the car to brush it off, so I just started driving, figuring that it would hop off as soon as it felt the air moving.

It didn’t. Instead, it clung to the window and hung on, even as we drove down the street.

As I said, I’m a Christian. And that means I believe in demons. Yeah, for real. Crystal and I have known that demons have been attacking us for a long time. And, somehow, all of that was bound up in that mantis. I’m not saying that the mantis was a demon. All I’m saying is: signs and wonders. The mantis represented all the terror and horror and darkness and pain and sorrow of the last several years.

Then, suddenly, without warning, the wind blew, and it was gone.

***

Since that night, we’ve seen praying mantises around our house on a couple of occasions. Always they are climbing on the windows, like they’re trying to get in.

I’ve never seen mantises around here before.

***

And since that day, it has been getting better. The darkness is lifting. I am healing. It’s a back-and-forth struggle sometimes. I still feel the darkness of depression stalking me. My health is not as good as it once was. I still feel fragile.

But for the first time in years, I feel like things are getting better.

And, finally, my copy of Android: Netrunner arrived.

And, people, it was every bit as good as I remembered.

***

In the book of Joel, the prophet records a promise that God made to Israel:

I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten.

(Joel 2:25a)

He has made the same promise to me. I don’t know where we’re going from here, but He has promised to make all of it new. He will restore the years that I lost to fire and doubt and depression and fear.

Because He is my Hope, and it is His song that I hear.

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