Taking Over Artemis

"Resistance briefing room" | Art by Tryingtofly. Used with permission.
The multiplayer LAN strategy game Artemis might as well be titled Enterprise. The only thing preventing this is trademark law, since the creator of game and titular ship is in no way affiliated with Star Trek. But as my friends and I opened hailing frequencies, sounded alerts for enemy ships, and fired torpedoes, the name of the ship we ran stopped mattering.

Artemis lets players become crew members on a ship tasked with protecting the galaxy from invaders. It’s a video game and a LARP at the same time, if you do it right. And by right, I mean yelling, “I’m giving it all she’s got, Captain!” in a Scottish accent and punctuating all commands with “Make it so.” My first time playing was in a dimly lit basement, sitting at a row of computers with the captain nearby, giving orders while looking at a giant projection of the ship’s movements on the wall. “Give me visuals,” “Do a long-range scan,” and “Fire when ready” were actual commands given, Captain-Kirk style.

I was in Trekkie heaven.

“I have been and shall always be” a Vulcan at heart, so the science officer position was a natural fit. I plotted jump calculations and scanned enemy ships for weaknesses. But during occasional downtime, I learned how communications, navigation, engineering and the other stations worked. And due to my type-A personality, I found myself trying to do them too, even when I was already occupied:

How well would the Enterprise function if Chekov began telling Scotty how to run his engines?

“Communications, offer terms of surrender to those two enemy ships on our tail,” I would order, even though Communications can see the enemy ships just as well as I can.

“Helm, we need to be set on bearing 270,” I suggested, even though the captain gives orders to the helm, not me.

Far too often, I found myself shouting, “Captain, I recommend . . .”

Though I had fun, I came away thinking something like, “I have to dominate the conversation less.” Well, if I’m honest, my actual thought was, “I need to stop being an interrupting jerk.” At the time, I recognized that my actions were selfish, but I didn’t realize they stemmed from an incorrect understanding of what it means to be a crew member. That dawned on me later, during one frantic week of leading games at my church’s weeklong vacation Bible school (VBS for short).

I had volunteered at VBS many past summers, but only as a classroom helper or general assistant. This year, as many as 90 kids at a time tested my patience and vocal chords for three hours a day while they stopped at my station. It was exhaustingly rewarding, but I began to miss the other parts of VBS. As the leader of only one part of the experience, I couldn’t sing crazy songs during assembly, teach Bible stories during the lesson, or douse my hands in glue during crafts. Instead, I shouted my way through endless relay races, pool noodles, and hula hoops.

While walking the halls one day, feeling sorry for myself after the last class had finished at my station, I thought of Artemis. In both situations, I wasn’t content where I was assigned and I wanted to do more than one person could.

That attitude reveals my impatience. When I think I’m faster than someone else, I feel superior because I think I’m more talented or skilled than they are. And I feel out of control when I can only see or affect a small part of the bigger picture. When I let these feelings fester or act on them, the results are the same: dissatisfaction with my station and distraction from being my best.

I wasn’t content where I was assigned and I wanted to do more than one person could.

How well would the Enterprise function if Chekov began telling Scotty how to run his engines? Or if Spock began dispensing medical advice without consulting Dr. McCoy? Crew members are given assignments, trained in their fields, and even colour-coded. They’ve specialized to the point where they’d be helpless without each other. The whole ship is a precise, efficient operation.

When I contribute my best effort to a team or organization, I can share this unity of purpose. I’m reminded of how the Bible describes unity in the Church as parts of a body working together. Each part serves a unique function and would be useless without the others. You can’t have a body just made of feet or ears, and a foot can’t do much good without a leg. The description gets more convicting: “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you!’ And the head cannot say to the feet, ‘I don’t need you!’” (1 Corinthians 12:21)

I can’t say to the navigator, “I don’t need you.” And I definitely can’t take over as classroom teacher while leading games. Even if I were capable of running an entire starship myself, playing—or living—that way would rob me of the pride of accomplishing something bigger than myself, the joy of seeing others succeed, and the comfort of receiving others’ encouragement when I fail. So the next time I catch myself looking beyond my station, I’ll think of that summer, 1 Corinthians, and my Star Trek-themed experience. And the next time I play Artemis, I’ll focus on being a dutiful crew member and practicing my Vulcan salute.

Alex Mellen

Alex Mellen

Staff Writer at Area of Effect
Alex Mellen likes a little bit of everything, including movies, books, sports, music, crafts, and especially Star Wars. She works as a copyeditor for a small-town newspaper while freelance writing and editing on the side.
Alex Mellen