Video Gaming in the 3rd World

Jesus tells us, 
"Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, 
and I will give you rest."  (Matthew 11:28)

I'm not sure if Jesus was referring to video games; perhaps we've taken some liberties on His promise. However, we've discovered that sneaking away to the gaming shop is a delightful way to rest and have some good ol' fashion family fun.   

Tarapoto is the largest city in our area.  It is about 1 1/2 hours away
on the other side of the mountains from us.
For the first two years that we lived here we didn't even know that the "PLAY", as the locals call it, existed because it lacks signage, artwork, etc. 

The word on the street was that we just had to find "the little hallway between the two auto part shops."  After a bit of searching and asking around, we finally discovered Tarapoto's hidden treasure.

Upon entering customers talk with the owner (who waits at the wooden desk that you can see in this photo) about what games are available on a given day.

They discuss who is currently playing which games in which small rooms to determine how new groups could be formed.

There are a number of different rooms where people play.  Some are small and dark, perfect for combat and strategy games.  Other spaces are big and bright, more conducive to soccer, racing, Minecraft and more.

The game that we wanted to play was full, so we hung out in the waiting area and challenged each other in bike races until there was sufficient space for us amongst the existing groups.

As we were waiting I noticed a number of kids coming in just to watch. Some clearly wanted to learn advanced moves and tricks. They'd study the players hands and ask questions whenever there was a break in action. Other kids seemed to be there for the companionship, not necessarily the gaming. The largest group of spectators were those that couldn't afford to play, but lingered in hopes of being invited into a round for free.

The PLAY in Tarapoto is such a lively place.  There are constantly cheers and groans, laughter and joking.  Kids partner up with friends and strangers alike. They recount especially difficult battles and tragic endings.  They share secrets and conspire amongst team members. I realized that this communal space, whereby kids of all ages come together to play video games, provides a totally different experience than what we're used to in the United States.

The kids here are constantly making new friends and practicing the art of conversation.  They learn how to learn and also how to teach. Working in teams requires solid communication, especially when they have to navigate through their differences. They encourage one another, but also offer constructive criticism when needed.  I was amazed and thankful to witness this incredibly social event because it blew apart my stereotype of gamers sitting alone in a basement somewhere.

There are many reasons why living poor among the poor is hard.  However, there are many other reasons why it's absolutely delightful.  The people here don't have the financial means to purchase personal gaming systems, but even if they did I'm not sure that they'd trade in their time at the PLAY where the community gathers for a whole lot of fun, for time alone in their own homes.

We've had lots of surprises these last couple of years as we've become accustomed to the culture here in Peru.  Added to that list is the delightful realization that our family can have lots of fun together in a dumpy little shop playing video games.

In Revelation 13:13 St. John recounts hearing the Lord say to him, 
"Let them find rest from their labors."
I can't help but wonder if God knew we'd find so much peace in punching little buttons
to make race cars zip around an imaginary track. 

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