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ISSUE 121 VOL 10 PUBLISHED 12/7/2007

Gamers sacrifice academics

By Matt Everhart
Staff Writer

Friday, December 7, 2007

The Pause purchased a Nintendo Wii this year for students to play the highly accessible and fun "Wii Sports" and "Mario Party 8." It's the latest move by the Pause to increase entertainment options for Oles and one that I definitely applaud. The Wii is a great casual, social game system which fits in well and provides a great opportunity for students who haven't tried the Wii. The addition is another example of the increasing prevalence of video games on campus this year.

For years, St. Olaf has had policies restricting gaming on campus, most notably blocking access to most online games until this year. While I am excited about the increased gaming possibilities and have been taking advantage of them, the increased presence raises the likelihood of gaming interfering with students' studies and even encouraging gaming addiction.

There has been a lot of empirical evidence of games lowering students' GPAs, reducing sleep and encouraging anti-social behavior. Before this year, one of the only video games that could be accessed online at St. Olaf was one of the most notoriously addictive games ever: "World of Warcraft" (WoW). Several of my friends here at St. Olaf became WoW addicts, including one friend who was only getting two to four hours of sleep on a regular basis when she transferred after two years at St. Olaf. Online games are often most addictive, usually interfering the most with studies.

This year, I've experienced something similar. Since purchasing "Call of Duty 4" (CoD4) last week, my work production and motivation to study has declined. CoD4 is the reason I've been going to bed lately at 4 a.m.. Last Thursday, I decided to skip a class because I was too tired to get up, and on Monday I was late to class because I slept through my alarm. I'm not proud of this behavior, and it's definitely going to lower my GPA.

The Wii in the Pause, however, won't cause any significant problems, especially because it's not the type of system that leads to grade-destroying addictions. It is a casual system known more for its mini-game collections and ubiquitous Wii Sports rather than epic games inspiring all-night sessions.

However, the key to gaming responsibly as a college student is a saying, (OK, a cliché from Aristotle), "Everything in moderation." Video games are really what make me tick, what keep me going. During my freshman year, I didn't have a TV, computer or any game systems, and I can say without reservation that it was my most miserable year here. It forced me to go out and be social, but it felt forced and unnatural rather than fun and spontaneous. I never had people over in my room, because, simply put, there was nothing to do there. For me, gaming is a release - an escape - something that I can fall back on to get away from the pressure of school, deadlines and social drama.

The key is to not lose a sense of what's really important and to be responsible with your time. There are times when, yes, I want to drop everything and just play games, but I know that I have to read for religion, write a response paper for my history class, and study for my psychology quiz tomorrow.

As a gamer, learning how to balance time between your favorite hobby and school is part of that learning process.

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