Call of Duty is not only back, but it’s gone back to its roots in the newest entry to this long-running series simply titled WWII. Everything old is new again as Activision and Sledgehammer Games try to breathe new life into the largest gaming franchise on the planet by returning to their roots and abandoning the futuristic trappings of their most recent installments. While the jury is still out on whether this title will put COD back on its lofty pedestal, one thing is for sure… the future of this franchise is definitely on the line after several critical missteps and Activision is pulling out all the stops to insure this release is built on firmer ground.
It seems like it all it takes is one underwhelming release to put an entire studio under these days. The margin for error is razor-thin, and as we just saw with the closure of Visceral Games (a team known for quality titles such as the Dead Space series) sometimes your project gets shelved and your studio closed right in the middle of working on your next big thing (the sadly cancelled Star Wars spin-off). And with such a thin line between success and closure, rebuilding after such a powerful disappointment (Infinite Warfare anyone?) has to be an incredibly difficult challenge for gaming studios just as it is for us in the daily struggle of the real world.
When Call of Duty struggles, it struggles in front of an entire world of gamers and gaming critics who can quite honestly be less than forgiving. Taking chances on creating new experiences, going to new locations, or even falling back on the safety of the tried-and-true all have inherent risks. And each of these titles are released to a public that can make you or break you with very little concern for the long-term repercussions of their criticism. And while that may be easier to absorb when you are a giant gaming company with broad shoulders and another game on the horizon should this one fail, it is quite a bit different for us when we attempt a similar challenge with perhaps a smaller scope but also with less of a safety net should failure occur.
Most of the time when you take on a new challenge you will be forced to do so on a grander stage than you anticipated. And every misstep or faulty judgment call feels magnified under the ever watchful eye of friends, family, acquaintances, and social media as we attempt to do things we have never done before in front of an audience that may not be as supportive as one would hope. Picking up the pieces after the disappointment of a failed marriage, a bankruptcy, a lost job, or taking on a new opportunity that simply didn’t work out can be a devastating experience that is hard to come back from. I have experienced many of these situations, and I can say from my personal experiences that it can be scary to try again after a very public disappointment or failure. Critics are difficult to ignore, support networks seem to disappear, and it can honestly feel like you would have been better off if you had never even tried. And I have just the medicine for that feeling.
In Joshua 7 we find Joshua and his Israelite army fresh off their victory over Jericho. You know… the “Walls of Jericho”… that Jericho. It was a pretty sweeping and miraculous victory that was meant to be the beginning of a massive victorious march across the land as the Israeli people finally laid claim to the long awaited “Promised Land”. But immediately after this epic victory a dreadfully disappointing defeat was awaiting the entire army in the slightly less well known city of Ai. Joshua, the newly placed leader of the country, sent his spies to scout out their next conquest and they returned with an outstanding report. In verse 3 the scouting report came back so positive that the leadership council made the decision not to send the entire army due to how easy this battle should be. All systems were go, many of the troops were going to get a well-deserved rest while a few thousand troops took out what should have been an easy target. Only not so much…
The small city of Ai laid what The Rock would call “the Smacketh Down” on the Israeli army and sent them running for the hills. And having tasted the bitter fruits of defeat for the first time, Joshua ripped his clothes and immediately fell into deep mourning. And in so doing he went through the exact same process I have went through and I am confident many of us have gone through as well. First, he asked God, “Why have you brought us here just for us to fail?” I know I have asked that many times. Lord, why did you even let me try if you knew I was going to fail? Next, he said “Oh, that we would have been content to dwell on the other side of the Jordan!” Ever been there? Why did I try to fly so close to the sun? I should have stayed where everything was nice comfortable and safe. And finally, he cries out “What shall I say when Israel turns its back before its enemies?” After asking God why, and then asking yourself why, finally it comes down to the most important question… What do I do now that failure has happened? What am I going to say to everyone who saw exactly what happened?
The Lord does not disappoint with his response. As a matter of fact, this may be one of my all-time favorite responses to a prayer in the entire Bible. I am not going to paraphrase this at all because I want to do this justice… this is a direct quote:
Joshua 7:10 So the Lord said to Joshua, “Get up! Why do you lie thus on your face?”
And just like that the pity party is over with authority. The Lord explained to Joshua that due to the sin of a man named Achan the protective blessing the nation had been enjoying to this point had been removed. Through no fault of Joshua or any of the rest of the troops, the mission was a failure before it had even launched. And once that problem was resolved, the conquest of Ai could be relaunched successfully. I can say that many times when I have poured my heart out to God in pain and frustration He has provided the gentle comfort that only He can give. But sometimes… sometimes I feel Him say to me just as He did to Joshua, “Get up! Why are you lying on your face?” And when He tells you to get up, fix the problem, and try again its a pretty good idea to take His advice. He didn’t waste time worrying about what anyone else would think or if this failure would follow them any further. He simply said Get Up.
I experience many more periods of disappointment than I do victory. Sometimes it is my fault, and my sin and mistakes sabotage my attempts to serve the Lord. Other times it is the choice of someone else that sinks my efforts and sends me crawling back to the Lord in shame. But either way, there is only one eventual solution that each of us have before us… to get up. Will others talk? Probably. Will your enemies laugh and taunt? Count on it. Will you lose the support of fair-weather friends, especially when you make the difficult decision to try again? That’s about as certain as the release of yet another Call of Duty around this time next year. Disappointment, even for those who serve the Lord, is going to happen. It is not a sign that you are going the wrong direction or have misheard the Lord. Ai was the correct destination, and Joshua was simply unaware that his first run at it was doomed to failure before it even got started. And the answer to his disappointment and ours is two simple words… Get Up.