Christian gaming communities can bring isolated people together

Written by Elizabeth Duarte

After college graduation, I was preparing for a six-month missionary trip to Europe when the floor fell out from under me. Over the next years, I discovered the names and faces of the enemies harming my body—Lyme disease and five other major vector-borne diseases, all in late, severe stages. It was a miracle I was alive.

I could no longer travel—even car trips were too exhausting for a body in the fight of its life. Not only was I unable to do ministry, but even going to church was entirely out of the question. Too many colds and flus would make their rounds, and one never knew when they were in attendance.

One of the hardest things to swallow was the Christmases spent apart from family. Every year, the tradition was to bring all of the siblings together with their families to celebrate and play boardgames. This had always been the highlight of my year. 

Then one Christmas, when pre-season concerts brought one illness too many, my brother Jesse and I were both saddened that this year would be spent apart. To make up for the separation, he had the idea to play a video game. 

We set a time, logged into the same game, and chatted on the phone while we explored a galaxy, conquered giant monsters, and simply hung out.

This became a new tradition. One Christmas, it was my turn to pick. He’d always been a fan of Star Trek, and since I was a fan of my brother, I liked it too. Hence, Star Trek Online was the logical choice.

Four years later, I’m still playing.

But the years spent isolated from people had made me shy. When avatars occasionally waved hello to me from across the promenade, I’d freeze in fear, staying motionless and praying desperately they’d think I was AFK (away from keyboard) and walk away.

The loneliness was terrible. 

One night, I sat in the conference room of my fleet star base and looked out the window at the brilliant, sparkling vista of space, the moon glowing softly through the gentle blackness. It may be just a game, but the beauty can still take your breath away. 

My character sat there gazing and I thought to myself, I wish there was a human I could share this with. To converse with, to experience this new world with, even just to sit and think with. I dreamed of using this virtual space to meet and share experiences with people I loved and even wondered if this might even be a good spot for a Bible study.

I decided that here, in-game, was a chance to make connections. 

It started slowly. First one friend, then a few more. Before I knew it, I had pals I could chat with about life, how our days went, and which warp core was best to get maximum slipstream through sector space.

Then my boyfriend, now husband, came bounding through my front door one afternoon.

“Babe, you should check this out! There is a Christian Gamer Community in Star Trek Online!”

It seemed too good to be true.

I was thrilled to discover, not only did they play, but also held weekly prayer meetings on Deep Space Nine (voice hosted on Discord) with Bible readings.

It was unbelievable. For years I’d been out of church and had given up on having any kind of fellowship until my body finally gave me clearance to engage.

Over time, this group became more than just my gaming buddies. We’ve talked together, prayed together, and studied the Bible.

“Just remember you are Christians first, and gamers second—go into the gaming universe, and have fun!“

Sandy’s words echoed into the Discord channel like they did every week, signaling the end of the prayer meeting.

These friends prayed with me when my father had his heart attack, as he lay alone in the hospital where we couldn’t visit him. They prayed for me when I battled seizures from an unknown health complication. Later that same year, they rejoiced with me at my virtual wedding, officiated by my father.

Open to anyone willing to abide by the rules of respect and love, the Christian Gaming Community creates an environment welcoming to people from a variety of denominations and beliefs. There’s no pastor, but the group contains pastors, teachers, mission workers, laypeople, and families. It’s not a church, and yet, there are moments when it feels like one of the best I’ve attended.