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Connection 105 - The Arcade

Something I often find myself lamenting is the loss of the arcade. Those magical places filled with a frenetic mix of lights and sounds. A million challenges waiting around every corner, like some kind of futuristic coliseum illuminated in every color of a digital rainbow. This is where my friends gathered, where we honed our skills as fighters, pilots, knights and monsters. Whether it was on the machine in the furthest back corner, or facing off on the newest game with the biggest screen in front of the audiences both inside and outside of this wondrous place didn't matter. Here, in this place, we were a community, diverse as any nation on the Earth.

I still game as an adult, but I have to admit that a piece of what made it magical for me as a kid has been missing.

Christopher Dugan comes from a similar place, a similar path in life, with the same love for gaming. He's a big man, the type of person who, on the outside, could be very intimidating, but his smile and demeanor are larger than life, a treasure of friendliness and honest joy. I've spent time with him before, shaking hands and chatting at various networking events around town, and I frequently watch his Sunday night Facebook live streams. Friendly is not an adequate word for Chris, it is lacking in the face of his laugh and his energy. Despite all of this time though, Chris and I have never really had the time to sit down and talk as friends.

We rectified that by meeting for a light dinner in Mount Pleasant, SC.

Chris is an interesting mix of laid back and remarkably determined. It's actually quite simple really, he doesn't sweat the small stuff. As a result we find a table very quickly, sit and start to chat. Within moments he drops knowledge on me about games and his philosophy regarding them that reveals my hobby to be his true passion. Chris names creators, walks me through the history of some games and through the things he sees coming.

As he talks Chris shows me how our society has become disconnected, how we have found ways to act badly and hurtfully to each other because we are separated by digital walls. He talks about loving games, and loving the ability to play them online against others, but how we now need to build a more closely knit community. That's what he is building, a place where gamers can come together and play, learn and try new games, all while being a part of a community where they are no longer creative, or not-so-creative, gamer handles. Instead it's a place where they are people, where they have names and faces, where they have friends and community.

Chris speaks with amazing passion and sharp intellect about a subject that many would discount as trivial. We often trivialize the things we don't understand as a means of protecting ourselves from feeling less knowledgeable, maybe even inferior to another. Chris and I continue our talk though. It is rich and nuanced, detailed and incredibly insightful. To some we are talking about games, about the stuff of children, but to us it is more. This world is a part of our culture, a place where modern American mythology is formed, where many discover their personalities by doing things in a virtual world they would never have to do or face in a virtual one. It is what scares many and Chris is a marvelous custodian of such an amazing place, he appreciates its power and he loves it.

Chris Dugan is authentic. He is exactly the person you sit across from, no more and no less. He is a passionate founder, pursuing his dream with his partners completely driven and focused. He is a gamer, one of the very best examples of us actually. Chris tells me about growing up, about how he learned at an early age that he needed to ground himself and center himself within his own being. So many of us rely on the outside world to guide us, ignoring our hearts and what we know. I can see how this shaped the man across from me.

We talk about childhood, about arcades and about our top five games. The top five list is so important to gamers. It is a reflection of the games that interested them, influenced them and captured their passion. It requires a great deal of thought and inevitably is missing some games that barely failed to make the cut. Sharing these lists is a bonding moment for gamers, one Chris and I delight in as our evening wraps up.

Driving home from our meeting I think about dreams, about the things we chase and pursue in the name of passion and vision. I think about times when I was guided by someone else's vision and not my own. It is so tempting to do the thing you are supposed to do and not pursue what you actually want to do. So many languish in lives of banal mediocrity, with a dream slowly withering in their mind.

I think of my friend Chris, about this community he will build, his passion and his drive. For Chris this is the only thing he can be doing right now, he has clarity of purpose. When we love something, we embrace it tightly, live it and lead within it. Chris loves gaming and I cannot wait to see his vision become reality. Waiting at a stoplight I wonder if I will soon see a version of those lights from my childhood again, though more modern with new technology no doubt. Then I think of Chris and I know not only is it coming, but it is inevitable and glorious.

Chris is passionate about gaming. The key word is passionate. We could all stand to be a bit more like Chris.

Favorite Dinosaur: Triceratops

Why: They are all in. They have to be. A triceratops is forward facing, so they have to go all in. This is what Chris is all about. Docile just doesn't get it done.

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