Find Shelter And Community In Games | The DeanBeat

Floating in the Dead Sea during another time.

Image Credit: Dean Takahashi

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It’s a sad time for the world. Just when there was a chance of a thawing in the Middle East, the awful attacks in Israel and retaliation in Gaza have frozen hopes of peace and progress. It has set us all back 50 years. I look at the news and want to cry. I want to look away, but I also want to look so I can fully understand the scope of the heartbreak that is happening.

For the life of me, I can’t think of anything inspiring to say in the wake of recent events. It’s troubling. I’m supposed to be a writer, and I’ve always been hopeful. But I find myself at a loss for words. The violence comes to us and makes its way into our homes on TVs and smartphones. It is paralyzing.

I can be grateful that this war is not affecting me directly or putting my close friends and family in harm’s way. But I also think of people I know in the game industry. They are among the people who are in danger, not just because of the war in Gaza but also because of the war in Ukraine. I know there are many people involved in the fighting who would much rather be making games. And I cannot think of a worse waste of human talent. I sincerely hope and wish that they stay safe. I know that many people will not be. I am not going to say their names here. But I can see them so clearly in my mind’s eye. I worry for them.

A broken window in Nordcurrent’s office in Dnipro, Ukraine. It could have been a lot worse.

I know that some very large game companies like Playtika and Plarium, both based in Israel, have people at risk in both warzones. It must be so very frightening and despairing to know that your people are not safe on two fronts at the same time. In Gaza, I believe there are fledgling gamers and game developers who do not have a way to hit escape velocity and enjoy a career in games.


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I dined in Tel Aviv years ago in fellowship with Israeli game developers and tech startups. They have an amazing population of game developers who have pioneered social casino games, mobile marketing, hypercasual games and game venture capital. They were a generation ahead when they discovered the power of games and technology to drive a nation’s economy. They took me on an excursion to the Dead Sea, where I floated in mineral-rich water.

I have never been to Gaza or the countries directly surrounding Israel. I recently went to Saudi Arabia and was shocked and amazed to see so much modernization happening there. Meeting people who had big dreams and hopes for gaming and esports was exciting. They’re dreaming of building cities where games are an integral part of life. I talked to some Saudi interns who grew up in Riyadh with manga and anime, and they dreamed of making their mark with digital art and gaming. Most of them were women.

Those days seem like such distant times. And then we wake up to this nightmare.

A class of interns trained by Manga Productions and Japanese anime creators.

I cannot help but fear that this enthusiasm will wane in the face of the news of the day that is so graphic and grim. To see those fires of creativity burn out would be so very heartbreaking. I would offer those people hope, but I don’t really believe the hope that I would be peddling.

So many people say that games can unite the world. I have heard this so much before that I want to believe it myself. Games are fun. They help us lose ourselves in the moment. They help us forget that war is an incurable disease.

This was the best Call of Duty ad.

Believe it or not, I’ve been playing Call of Duty: Modern Warfare III this week because it is my form of escape. It is the place I go to get away from the troubles of the world. There are many people who would be shocked at this form of entertainment. But for me, I can distinguish between fantasy and reality, between the world of a game and unwanted reality that pushes itself back into my consciousness. I do not want anyone to pull me out of the virtual world of Call of Duty.

In the spirit of forgetfulness and escape, I want to remind you that our GamesBeat Next 2023 event is coming on October 23-24. It has always been an inspiring event, with causes such as Women in Gaming and the politics of gaming up for discussion. But as I said. I cannot think of inspiring things to say about why you need to go to this. Maybe just go for the shelter.

We are not going to promise that world peace will come through games. Yet when I see people from different countries who would normally be enemies, I see them connect through games. We live in a dangerous world. And yet that should not stop us from pursuing our dreams. I think of all of the joy and human happiness that comes into the world because of games. If we could marshal that state of flow created by all those brains turned on by games and turn it into an energy that connect us all, wouldn’t that be something?

It would be sad if the people who make those games and bring us that happiness put down their tools of the trade and pick up weapons for war. It would be a nightmare outcome if a parent said to a child, “Put those games away. Get a real job. Go pick up a gun.”

I am a student of history. I look at the history of Israel and the Palestinians, the Jews and the Arabs, and I am not encouraged. Yet the world has seen intractable conflicts erupt and then disappear from the face of the Earth as if they never happened. Look at Northern Ireland. I never thought we would see peace come to that small patch of land on a beautiful island. It was all aflame, and now those troubles have subsided, and we can laugh at wonderful comedy shows like Derry Girls on Netflix.

The stars of Derry Girls

Somehow, people with creative minds can make us forget that history and remember things like joy. So come to our GamesBeat Next event for our gathering. It will address the troubles of the game industry and what to do about them. It won’t bring world peace. But it will give you that place to put away your swords and shields at the door and enjoy community.

Is it crass to think about business when lives are at stake? Someone could say, “How can you think of work at a time like this?” Well, when your job is to create joy, how can you not think of work at a time like this? Think about the accumulated misery in the world if Disneyland shut down for a day. Game developers of the world, unite! Don’t be paralyzed.

Like other in-person gatherings that we missed so much in the pandemic, our GamesBeat event is a place where you can see old friends and make new ones. Like I said. Maybe it won’t be as inspiring as in the past. But it will be a place to find some human comfort and hugs. All of this makes me want to take the words of the poet Matthew Arnold, who wrote Dover Beach, and twist them into a metaphor for games and war.

Ah, gamers, let us be true

To one another! for the world, which seems

To lie before us like a land of dreams,

So various, so beautiful, so new,

Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,

Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;

And we are here as on a darkling plain

Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,

Where ignorant armies clash by night.

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