Launched in 2002 with the XBOX, XBOX Live (XL) made the incredible XBOX even better. Many moons ago, I locked down my gamer tag…dustinsams. It is no yellowdogzoom3000 or something like that…but it makes it easy for my students to find me. Basically they can find me on twitter, skype, and even at dinner by just using my name…I think that is pretty accessible don’t you? I didn’t do much with it, I never played one single game with online friends or anything like that. As a youth pastor my life was busy enough as it is and we were fortunate to have a multiple XBOX gaming area at our church with consoles linked up. So anytime I wanted to hang with students and play, that is where it was at. In 2005, the Microsoft debuted the XBOX360. XL has been updated and upgraded ever since. Membership has blown up and as of February 2010 there were 23 million subscribers.
I give you a little taste of XL history just so you can impress your friends. I wanted to give some of you some ideas for using XBOX Live to connect with some of your students. This is not for everyone and some of you will see no reason to continue…but there are a few of you that may be liberated by knowing that you can actually do some good while playing Live. To speed things up, I will be using CODMW3 as an example. I was recently locked in virtual battle online with 2 other youth pastors in my home state, 3 former students (1 in AZ and 2 in FL), and a student in my current ministry…crazy. Talking to them while playing, as if they were sitting right next to me…so much fun. I personally have developed relationships with and have been able to speak into the lives of students that normally wouldn’t have given me the time of day. Since I have the talking point of CODMW3, many defensive barriers are immediately taken down and a connection is made.
So if you have an XL account, here are a couple of tips. If you are an avid gamer, you no doubt have discovered most of these already. Let the connecting and noob-tubing begin.
(keep in mind XBOX Live is now available in some form or another on every game that is released, I would love to hear if you have had similar run-ins with students in a favorable way. Gaming is not for everyone and this was not an article to debate gaming violence or whether it leads to someone car-jacking the church van, simply another avenue to connect with students where they really are.)
- Be aware of foul language. A student sent me a message on XL the first time we met in a “party” and said, “Dustin, I just want to warn you, there are some that cuss a lot.” I laughed and thanked him for thinking that I had never heard those words before. This is a place where you and 23 million plus individuals hang out. Quickly learn how to “mute” offensive players and encourage those that play a “clean” game. I regularly thank those in the room for not spewing filth, whether we like it or not, there are many children that are playing the games that they are not even allowed to buy by themselves. Also, take advantage of “rating” players. You can mark another gamer with higher rankings (more of a possibility to be matched up in the future or on the flipside less likely for those ranked lower). This isn’t VBS, you are in the real world where people cuss. So be warned.
- Send messages to those on your friends list. This is easy to do and use it often to encourage, comment on their games, ask questions and join up in private matches where the conversation can wander freely.
- You can search on XL for friends that play via Facebook and email addy’s. I recently tried to add a Youth Pastor friend of mine and he was maxed out on the friends list…very nice. I politely told him to bumb some seventh grader off his list so he can add me. Cause that is how I roll.
- Fill out your bio. If you put on there some information, I have found that others do look at it. I do, especially when in a room for any length of time. I comment on there game play, where they are from, etc.
- Don’t wear you feelings on your sleeve. The first time I heard “dustinsams? that is a gay name” I could have pouted about why my mom named me that and how come I didn’t have some cool name like “Gunner”, but it didn’t happen that way. People that don’t know Christ act like people that don’t know Christ. Period.
- Don’t Team Kill. If you are on a team, don’t kill your teammates. This just burns me, so I thought I would throw that in.
- Apologize if you accidentally Team Kill. Names don’t always pop up fast enough before you fire…”my bad.”
- Use moments to chat with your students that have taken the time to invite you into their world. I ask about grades, family life, girlfriends, what “class” they use…etc. Anything to generate connection.
- Set up times to “meet”. If you get enough friends to join up to play in some private matches or as a “clan” do it. It is fun and the conversations are great. I have visited with other Youth Pastors about their youth groups, adult leaders, families, and have been encouraged myself.
- Make sure your wife knows what is up. I tell her that I am playing video games with some students for a little while and she loves it. Also keep in mind that when you talk to your wife that your voice is audible in the game. I once made a cutesy comment about my wife and the whole room exploded with laughter…kind of embarrassing, but I played through the pain.
- Don’t waste you life. I play a few hours a week and stay current. But the conversations with students during our mid-weeks services have been great. Discussing new games content. If they struggle with making friends or even how much time they spend in prayer or reading the Bible compared to how much time they spend shooting a virtual ACR. That is a tough question to ask anyone. Have fun and share Christ!