There is Always a Team
Oh, it's just me, myself and I
Solo ride until I die
'Cause I got me for life
Oh, I don't need a hand to hold
Even when the night is cold
I got that fire in my soul . . .
The United States, and Western society more generally, is dominated by individualism. We see ourselves as independent, isolated, god-like beings with the capacity to invent our identity and pursue our own happiness. For a good to be legitimate, we must struggle to earn it—and earn it alone, by traveling a “cold and lonely road” to the top. Is that not the American dream? To begin with nothing, and make for ourselves the ability to satisfy our every wish? It should come as no surprise, then, that the gaming world is also gripped by the same heroic tale. “Entrepreneurs” and “influencers” from Los Angeles provide the model for success; they play their music, and we enviously dance to the tune.
I’m here today to expose that dream as the delusion that it really is. Hard work is a must, but nothing we achieve, nothing we gain, nothing that we become is done alone. Nor could it be.
Human beings are social animals. Like many of our fellow creatures, we only flourish in community with others of the same species. But while ants and beavers build out of sheer instinct, humans build by looking to the depths of their souls and heights of the heavens. Our questions are not merely about our next food source (though a 10-piece McNugget is rarely far from my mind); we aim for truth and knowledge, and above all, our place within the “big picture.” The horizon of modern man, however, has shrunk to near nothingness. We struggle to find a good beyond our own desires and are crippled by an indecisive nausea. To borrow Walker Percy’s famous phrase, we are “lost in the cosmos,” with no end in sight. All that really matters is what I want, because I want it. Full stop. No questions asked.
And yet, it seems to me that this vision of the world is both unlivable and wrong. We have to acknowledge what we are and be that well. “Alone” is not part of the picture. From the moment of our conception until the moment of our demise, we are dependent on other people. The fact that each of us has the ability to make use of our various talents is not something that we, as individual human beings, can be credited with. Our circumstances are almost entirely out of our control. Those who “succeed” have won the genetic lottery, participated in the resources others have made available to them, and escaped death just long enough to flaunt their good fortune for the world to see.
None of this is to say we cannot make free choices or have a real impact. On the contrary, we can. The difference is that life is more like a Call of Duty match than a Minecraft server. Instead of constructing any world we can imagine, we’re stuck spawning in and playing within the boundaries—whether we like them or not. The best players of any game know exactly what to do and when to do it. Similarly, the best humans know what is required for them to live well and put it to use.
To that extent, it might be said that we are always part of a team: the parents who created us, the family we were raised in, the politicians who govern our society, the role models who teach us how to think and act, the friends who make life worth living. The same is true of our gaming aspirations. You will never find a “self-made” streamer on Twitch, even if he or she has never joined an organization. Without games to play, people to network with, and fans to regularly tune in, it would be impossible for anyone to become an Affiliate or Partner. This collection of unofficial relationships is very much a team, even if we fail to identify it as such. A more obvious example, perhaps, is esports. Teams are easier to point out in that industry, but no less difficult to develop.
Everyone knows the saying that “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” It wasn’t built in isolation, either. The great civilizations of old were created from the union of people with a common vision, a common purpose, a common good. Indeed, every great achievement of mankind—from the development of language, to the building of the Colosseum, the Allied invasion of Normandy, and Neil Armstrong’s first step on the moon—was made possible only through teamwork. And teamwork is only possible through virtue. We must be willing to face any hardships that might prevent us from reaching our goals, recognize what we owe to one another, and question whether or not we have a clear vision of reality. Pure ambition doesn’t cut it. When one of those pillars falls, so does everything else with it.
Unlike money, which is a highly limited resource, and fame, which ultimately depends on the opinions (whether they be right or wrong) of others, human flourishing is non-competitive in nature. Virtue is not the kind of thing that one looks at and says, "I have to get that before you snatch it away from me." Quite the opposite; we cannot properly foster the virtues apart from our fellow men and women. Aristotle says that true friends become better by exercising their friendship and improving each other, since the traits that they admire in their friends are transferred to themselves. That, so far as I can tell, is the foundation of a team.
As it pertains to organizations in the gaming world, I think that many people are misled by a false dilemma. One must focus exclusively on personal goals, or give them up entirely to embrace those of the whole. The fact is, though, a good team requires neither. When each member realizes that his or her ultimate good is the same as the other’s, and that good cannot be had apart from the other, it becomes feasible to work together for the shared objective.
The way I view it, organizations are the natural expanse of society and culture into the virtual realm. They are the bearers of a certain narrative in which we each have a part. That much is clear from Skirata Gaming’s own history, as the humble group of Republic Commando players that Trevor East assembled in 2010 has evolved into something far greater than he could have envisioned. Although one chapter does give way to another over the course of time, the story itself is one and the same. Its ending is open—what we choose to make of it has yet to be seen. But there is an objectively right way to go forward, and it is far from cold and lonely.