Lessons from the end of the world (@UnshaunSheep)

The world ended on Sunday night.

Well, that statement needs a little qualifying. The world of Ur – in the online game Glitch – came to an end in the early hours of Monday, UK time.

A brief explanation: Glitch was a beautifully crafted virtual world which was rich in imagination and unfolded itself in ongoing storylines which were great fun. It was also completely preposterous in a rather wonderful way which, now it is no more, defies a succinct explanation. I was an occasional player who loved its humour, sense of story, its beautiful graphics and music and its joyful creativity.

The team of developers (Tiny Speck) announced a few weeks ago that this was going to happen and this sparked an interesting variety of reactions from players (known as Glitchen). Some just went away and didn’t see the point in playing a game which was soon to close. However, among those who stayed I saw some interesting developments.

The game always encouraged co-operation and pleasantness between participants. In the Last Days, this seemed to increase with many more people offering advice or giving away useful items they’d collected to help other players. In the very last couple of days before the End of Ur, items lay discarded on the floor. This might have looked like littering, but I read it as Glitchen discarding their worldly goods in case others had a use for them. Users – especially those in the US whose timezones meant that they were going to be online when the moment came – discussed which part of Ur they were going to see the End of Ur in. It was strangely moving. Some users had been playing this game for over a year and had obviously invested a lot of time and effort. Yet I saw no recriminations against the developers. Rather the overwhelming mood was one of thankfulness tinged with grief and a sense that something rather lovely was about to be lost. The fact that the plug was not simply pulled but that notice was given meant that for many Glitchen there was a period of waiting for the End of Ur which was an adventure in itself.

So what can we learn from the Glitchen?

I’m not thinking so much about the end of the world, rather about the way they waited for the end. A sadness was foretold and the response was gracious, thankful, supporting of each other, generous, creative and honest about feelings.

I rather think their reaction was similar to the lepers of Elisha’s time who asked “Why should we sit here, waiting to die?”. You can read about this in 2Kings Ch.7.  Their response was to set off on an adventure (into the enemy Aramean camp). This involved exploration, collecting food, drink and precious items (very much like Glitch gameplay towards the End of Ur!) and learning more about their situation. They then realised there was good news to be shared with the people back in their city, so they went back to tell them.

As @thealetheophile reminded us earlier this week, waiting need not be passive. As we wait for Christmas, let’s think of Advent as an Adventure in its own right. I don’t mean adventure in the sense of insane busyness in the run-up to Christmas. Rather,  I challenge you to behave like good, adventurous Glitchen preparing for the End of Ur, or the lepers seeking a more active way to wait:

Are you responding to the world around you in ways which are gracious, thankful, supporting of others and generous?

What can you discard for others to make use of?

Are you good news amid bad news?

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About Nick Morgan

Nick Morgan, Church of England ordinand based at a welcoming, bijou-sized northern Cathedral. Writer and composer. Tweets as @Unshaunsheep