By Marc Larrivee, Berkshire Center Academic Tutor and National IT Administrator
The world of 1945 hangs in balance. In a bid for world dominion, Stalin has ordered his armies across a weak Europe after Hitler has been eliminated through Einsteinian time travel technology. As the Allies grow ever weaker, Soviet generals use their own time travel to pre-emptively eliminate nuclear technology as a threat. With victory almost in their grasp, Japan rises to challenge their war. As commander, “do you have what it takes to command?” (from the Command and Conquer web site)
It’s a Tuesday evening, and the studies are done. Charlie has finished his college classes, and made his advising and tutoring appointments. He has cooked chicken parmesan for his room mates, and listened to music at his friend’s apartment. The reading and homework is ready for tomorrow. Now it’s time to play.
“I like the strategy and mental challenge of Command and Conquer 3, Kane’s Wrath”, Charlie says. “I can choose either side and play when I want. It’s fun.”
Charlie has been a serious gamer. “Before coming to CIP, I would spend weekends locked in my room playing WOW(World of Warcraft to the unitiated). That was unhealthy. I lived in an unreality, and reality passed me by. The people I interacted with were characters in a story line. It was too much. Now I can balance my work and play. Now I might play a couple hours a day, but I get my other things done.”
According to market research, 170 Million Americans play video games. These include multi-player online games such as World of Warcraft, Single person strategy games like Command and Conquer, and traditional games like Scrabble. The average player is 35 and plays less than 12 hours a week. Pathological gamers may play more than 24 hours per week.
Work and play takes balance. The games are fun, challenging, and sometimes exciting. “Command and Conquer engages strategic thinking, by myself, and I can play it or set it aside to pick up later when I want.” “I play in the evenings after my other tasks are done.”
Some find the balance hard. A recent study found that 8% of youth under 18 show signs of addiction. They may want more and more time on the computer, feel depressed, and lose sleep. Others may neglect hygiene, or friends, family, school, and jobs. For some, the game provides an alter exhilarating life. Then too, some game designs encourage increasing involvement as they reward more time in the game, or create events where multiple players have to be present, or create relationships that become more valued than real life ones.
“Balance is hard, but necessary…even if you don’t want to do it. Without it, everybody’s just doing the same thing all the time. I would suggest that students be careful of the games that suck you in, and to not lock yourself in your room to play for an entire day. With more balance, I’ve developed lots of friends….and I’ve built a real life.”
Some have learned what it takes to command.
http://www.olganon.org/?q=what_games_are_addictive Psychological Science May 2009, Gentile, D. A. (2009). Pathological video game use among youth 8 to 18: A national study. 20, 594-602.