I’m a geek and a reformed gamer…meaning I’m so busy nowadays that I can’t play FPS or RTS games anymore. But in college, my roomie and I were serious geek gamers. We had our first taste of high-speed internet and used it to research papers shoot other virtual people. Not to brag, but for
a long time about 2 hours, I was #5 in the world’s quarterly rankings in Unreal Tournament. Life was good, fragging unknown strangers with weird names from across the globe.
So it caught my eye when a new study came out about gamers. At LAN parties (where geeks would bring their computers, hook them together, and play competitive games), gamers are more aggressive towards strangers than friends (via /.)
…multiplayer video games tap into the same mechanisms as warfare, where testosterone’s effect on aggression is advantageous.
Against a group of strangers – be it an opposing football team or an opposing army – there is little reason to hold back, so testosterone’s effects on aggression offer an advantage.
“In a serious out-group competition you can kill all your rivals and you’re better for it,” says David Geary, an evolutionary psychologist at the University of Missouri in Columbia, who led the study.
But the flip side is also true: gamer’s testosterone levels actually went down when they competed against friends or people they knew.
However, when competing against friends or relatives to establish social hierarchy, annihilation doesn’t make sense. “You can’t alienate your in-group partners, because you need them,” he says.
I certainly agree with this. When gaming with your friends, sometimes there’s a common courtesy (“no cheap shots”) and you give each other feedback (“Quad damage makes you glow so you can’t hide and snipe people!”). While games with friends are competitive, it seems you really take your gloves off when playing against strangers.
While we aren’t fragging people in churches, this study says two things to me in relation to church dynamics:
- When there’s a disagreement in churches, strap them to computers and have them settle their differences with joysticks. j/k!
- Seriously, this highlights the tremendous importance in building a sense of teamwork and community even in the most contentious of church committees.
The better the members of your team know each other, the better they might treat each other. If they are faceless people having disagreements, then arguments can be more aggressive. If all you know about the Finance chair is that he once ran into the church mailbox, then arguments can be more aggressive.
To get people to know one another, try these:
- Get to know each other. Even though it sounds like something to do with children or youth, start meetings with interaction. A bible study or hymn or even a name-game gets people a bit closer to treating one another like…people.
- Go to trainings together. I’ve served for several years on Lay Academies and they have trainings in your area of ministry. Going together with a ministry team is essential to building trust and competency.
- Eat together. Before a big meeting, meet for dinner, or have a lunch meeting where people bring their lunch. Words shared over food somehow taste better.
So, that’s how Gamers can teach Churches how to treat each other. Get to know one another, and it becomes at least hormonally more difficult to treat one another badly.