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The Latest: More than a game

Students find escape, release in playing video games

 by Kristi Eaton  published on Thursday, March 31, 2005

Sitting in front of the television for hours on end has become a common practice amongst video game junkies.  Some use it to relieve stress while others use it to zone out into worlds of Koopa Troopas and bouncing mushrooms.  /issues/arts/692653
Photo illustration by Brandon Quester / STATE PRESS MAGAZINE
Sitting in front of the television for hours on end has become a common practice amongst video game junkies. Some use it to relieve stress while others use it to zone out into worlds of Koopa Troopas and bouncing mushrooms.
 

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It's 1990, and all you can think about is stomping goombas, killing Koopa and saving Princess Toadstool.

Fifteen years later, the video game scene has changed drastically, but there's one aspect of gaming that is still the same: its addictive quality.

And with highly popular games such as Halo 2 and the Grand Theft Auto Series, and constantly advancing systems such as Play Station 2, X-Box and Play Station Portable, it's not likely the thirst for newer and cooler will ever be sated.

Freshman Brandon Billaber started playing video games when his father gave him a Sega Genesis with a Sonic the Hedgehog game for his seventh birthday. Like most kids, Billaber had tried the game out at a friend's house and wanted his own to conquer. Twelve years later, he still feels a rush when he plays.

"Ever since I first picked up that controller, I've been hooked," he says. "Whenever I am playing, I completely forget about whatever was stressing me out. It's a great way to relax, forget who you are and just be entertained."

Billaber spends hours at a time playing video games, but restrains from playing too much on school nights.

"I have learned that self control is very important when it comes to video games," he says.

Like Billaber, religions studies sophomore Stephen Teichgraeber spends much of his spare time playing video games. He plays an average of two hours a day, but can play more if he becomes engrossed in the storyline.

"Video games can be like reading a good book," he says. "It's a form of escapism -- it can take you to another place."

But according to Mothers Against Video game Addiction and Violence, a non-profit organization that educates parents and the community about the dangers of video game addiction, that escapism can be unhealthy.

"While the focus behind video games seems utopian and innocent, the emotional and mental wellness of the gamer can be severely affected," reads the organization's Web site.

Billaber says when he was younger, his parents would often get upset, saying all he did was play video games.

"At times they were right," he says. "But I came out OK."

One time, he played Sonic 3 all day. When he went to sleep, he says, "Every time I closed my eyes, all I saw was the 3-D Sonic."

Billaber says the bottom line for gamers is moderation.

"Like most anything else, video games should be played in moderation so as not to consume your life because they are definitely capable of that," he says.

As for the popularity of video games, Teichgraeber attributes it to what he has deemed a subculture.

"It's like this community," he says. "And there are two factions to it, the PC and the console."

Teichgraeber has met and bonded with many people through video games. One time when he got together with a group of students to study Spanish, he immediately bonded with another student who played video games,

"I knew instantly he played," he says.

There are also many communities, chat rooms and message boards on the Internet solely dedicated to video games. Teichgraeber has met some people this way.

"I've never met them in person, yet we're friends because we both enjoy playing video games," he says.

But contrary to stereotypes, not all avid video game players are male.

Drawing freshman Jamie Guice has been playing since she was a young girl.

Although she enjoys playing video games, Guice says they are geared toward a male audience.

"It's 'manly' if you can blow the heads off of some unsuspecting alien," she says. "Girls aren't typically bent on learning how to shoot things up,"

But that hasn't stopped her from playing. Although she says she mainly plays with friends to pass the time and "engage in a little friendly competition," she also believes it can be therapeutic.

"Every once in a while, it's fun to take out pent-up frustration of a really bad day on some aliens," she says.

Reach the reporter at kristi.eaton@asu.edu.



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