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The Unimaginable is Real

The Glass Between Us, p. 80-83

“Another ‘F’! My step dad, Dave, is gonna beat the sh*t out of me! I am into French girls not their stupid language”, Jack muttered under his breath. With that thought, Jack’s eyes jumped across the classroom to Clarissa, a senior honor roll student at Jacksonville High. He slouched down with his bleeding red test carefully positioned over his phone and snapped a couple photos of his crush. He sent them to his best friend, Carle. “Do you think I have a chance?” Jack was annoyed by Carle’s immediate response, “You have about as much of a chance with Clarissa as you do at passing French lol.” Jack sighed, “You’re such a dork!” In a burst of ego driven madness, he shot a text to Clarissa, “I hate French! Mr. Jones can move to ‘Ten Buck Two’! I here they speak plenty of French there.” To his amazement she texted back, “I know, right! This class is screwing my chances to go Ivy league, supernerd. You coming to the bonfire tonight?” “What!?!”, Jack was out of his mind, “You gotta be kidding me!” He screenshotted the text to Carle, “Go home, hater!” Carle fired back, “Oh the irony. Your stepdad will never let you go…so-close-yet-so-far.” In that moment, Mr. Jones snatched his test out from under his elbow exposing the smartphone. Busted!

Jack had a long walk home. He missed the bus because of detention and Mr. Jones even confiscated his phone. “What an a-hole”, he thought, “Mr. Jones is way too hardcore.” The day was not a total loss. Clarissa would be waiting for him at the big bonfire that night. Then it dawned on him; he was super late and Dave would be pretty wasted by this time. “He is such a psycho when he’s drunk! If dad was still around, he would kick his a** at the thought of how he treats mom and me.” Jack had not seen his dad since he was in middle school. He went MIA in Iraq four years ago. The government eventually pronounced him dead. Jack arrived home. He quietly cracked the door open and saw Dave passed out on the sofa. Jack’s mom was at work. “What a pig”, he thought. “A con like you just saw mom as a chance to finance your booze!” Just then he heard a knock at the door. “It’s probably Carle stopping by to get the juicy details about my unofficial date with Clarissa”, he thought.

He swung the door open and was startled to see Mr. Jones standing before him. He seemed very concerned and pushed his way past Jack, closing and locking the door behind him. “It’s just as I thought. They got to you first!” He slung Jack’s now dismantled phone onto the kitchen table. “What the hell are you doing! You destroyed my phone, a-hole. If you wake up my stepdad, we’re both dead!” “Your pathetic stepdad is the least of my concern!'', Jones snapped back. “Look, I don’t have time to explain so you are just going to have to do exactly what I say!” “Are you threatening me? I am gonna call the cops and you will be out of a job,” Jack stuttered back. “Is that the best you got?”, Mr. Jones mockingly replied. “Jack”, Mr. Jones was now looking him square in the eyes, “he sent me for you.” At this point Jack was confused and a little worried. “I have been activated to retrieve you before it’s too late.” Just then, they heard car doors slamming shut. Mr. Jones peeked through the blinds to have a look, “Sh*t! They are here. Time for plan ‘B’. Do you know Orion’s Airfield? It’s not far from here.” He cracked open a black suitcase, “A little present from your dad.” “My dad!?”, Jack grew faint as his mind began to spin out of control. Mr. Jones grabbed him by the chin, “Stay focused!” He pulled out an assortment of passports, a stack of hundred-dollar bills and, to Jack’s terror, a black handgun. “What am I supposed to do with this!”, Jack protested. “Nothing, I hope!”, Mr. Jones replied. “Now get the hell out of here!” Jack hesitated. His heart was pounding. The front door handle jiggled back and forth. “Jack, I will hold them off as long as I can, but you need to leave now!”

Are you hooked yet? Do you want to know how Jack escapes? What really happened to Jack’s father? What will Jack say to his dad if he survives the journey to the airfield? Who is Mr. Jones really? Why are people after him? Jack is no longer a typical high school teen. He is now pulled into a world of international espionage, secret government plots, and mobilized crime syndicates. He will learn by doing. His journey will unfold in exotic locations to reveal the mystery surrounding his missing father. With enough wit, charm and daring ambition, he just might survive long enough to take Clarissa out on a date. Welcome to the world of modern gaming, where reality and fantasy come together to create a version of life without limits.

Video games are more than just loud noises and flashing lights. They reflect fantasy worlds that have massively altered how Americans spend their free time. Most successful games are wildly creative, artistic, and complex in nature. They are designed to immerse players in a story that is far from reality. You are no longer just another “Joe Six-Pack” sitting on your couch. For countless teens, their online universe is the place where they encounter adventure, camaraderie, fun and meaning. Through gaming, you could be an international spy or Commander of the Galactic Battalion. Maybe you are a modern-day Indiana Jones making new archaeological discoveries while rescuing a beauty in distress. Today’s video games play-out like a blockbuster movie, but rather than being a spectator, players are an active part of how the story unfolds. The plot thickens in a universe where other players from around the world can meet as sovereign characters in the same drama.

These interactions with real people blur the lines between reality and digital fantasy. Your galactic fleet's mission to protect a civilian star cruiser from space marauders is only fantasy, but the multiplayer teamwork required to accomplish the mission is real. Your higher thinking brain knows deep down that this world is fictional, but the primitive side of your brain is experiencing every riveting moment of action, heroism and teamwork as reality, pumping the brain with intense dopamine reward. What young person would not want to be a hero among their peers? Just when your wing man thinks he’s cornered by space marauders, you swoop down and cover his six as he takes out the enemy's lead ship. “Hot Damn, mission accomplished!”

As humans, we have an inherent longing to discover our purpose. Video games can hit our most sensitive nerve: our raw, human desire for significance. You can't be a hero unless you have someone to rescue; you are not an explorer without uncharted territory to discover. You will never experience the thrill of making a difference in someone else's life, until you become aware of the needs of others around you. The very elements that drive teens to play video games are the same core components that give life its color. If our kids and teens do not experience purpose and adventure in the natural world, the universe of gaming is ready to step in at any time."

What if we as parents or professionals looking after this rising generation stepped in first? Youth who are trapped in a video game obsession are making a poor attempt to meet a fundamental human need. Here our 3 tips for anyone with kids and teens who game:

  1. Get to know the game. Take some time to observe or play the game with your child or teen. What elements of the game are feeding their desires.

  2. Identify the core desires (being seeing or known, feeling purpose or respect, etc.) your child or teen is hiring the game to meet.

  3. Come up with a plan with your child or teen to meet these fundamental needs in the real world. It could be A-Z, such as more family adventures, opening your home up your home for friends to hangout, expanding your families engagement with your local community through volunteering.

The opportunities to meet core human needs in the real world are endless. The only thing holding us back is our degree of intentionality and imagination.



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