The pews are made of ballistic nylon infused with plastic pellets. In front of each rests a rack, not for hymnals, but gaming magazines. There's an altar, but it's not at the far end of the room, under a crucifix, it's right in front of you, and it's made of plastic and glass. This is the church of gaming, my friends, and services commence whenever we feel like worshipping. We're a devout bunch, we are, but we don't get out enough to proselytize.
The windows may or may not be stained glass (more likely they're posters) and depict our own brand of iconography: Miyamoto coming down from Mt. Fuji holding hands with Mario and Zelda, Will Wright casting the unfaithful out of the SimGarden, Cliffy B curbstomping The Devil. We pray to them by hurtling insults (and controllers) when their worship demands sacrifice, we tithe (and then some) to stay in their good graces and we congregate en masse on web forums and message boards to compare and contrast our devotion to the deity ... and fight over whose is better.
And then there's the games. We huddle over them like shamanic medicine, breathing the fumes of "new plastic" and seeing fully-rendered, high-res visions in a quest to soothe our souls, expand our minds or attain oneness with our unique group consciousness. The games are the Alpha and Omega of our shared religion, and through them we relate to each other and the world. Within them we find peace and a vague sense of security, and because of them and the community their worship engenders, we find a home for our wandering souls; a place where we are understood and feel "of worth."
That we play games, read about them, argue about them and even make them does not begin to describe the sum total of the experience to those of us on the inside. That we, as gamers, are misunderstood does not even touch upon the matter. We're beyond misunderstood; we're often willfully unapproachable, wearing our 1UP Tees as a shield against belonging, blotting out our windows to reduce both the glare of the sun and the chance of being seen. We live both for and in the games, and it is there that we feel most secure, most powerful and most real. This is not an illusion.
Consider the peyote cactus which, according to Peyote.org, is "employed as a religious sacrament among more than forty American Indian tribes in many parts of the United States and western Canada."
These [Huichol] Indians still assemble together in the desert 300 miles northeast of their homeland in the Sierra Madre mountains of western Mexico, still sing all night, all day, still weep exceedingly.
Those on their first pilgrimage are blindfolded, and the participants are led by the shaman to the "cosmic threshold" which only he can see. All stop, light candles, and murmur prayers while the shaman, imbued with supernatural forces, chants.
The Huichol Peyote hunt is seen as a return to Wirikuta or Paradise, the archetypal beginning and end of a mythical past. A modern Huichol "mara'kame" expressed it as follows: "One day all will be as you have seen it there, in Wirikuta. The First People will come back. The fields will be pure and crystalline, all this is not clear to me, but in five more years I will know it, through more revelations. The world will end, and the unity will be here again. But only for pure Huichol."
The phrase "only for pure Huichol" echoes sentiments seen on gaming blogs and in Wii lines everywhere that only those who've been indoctrinated, only those who are in can understand and partake of paradise - or Final Fantasy. It's a setting apart of one's group from those on the outside and suggests that the shared experience has more value than simply the effect of the drug - or the game.