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College life is all fun and video gaming

December 7, 2006

In a generation when the terms gigabyte, podcast and blog are used in everyday conversation, it is not uncommon to walk into a dorm room and find multiple video game consoles situated among packages of ramen noodles, leftover pizza and empty beer cans.

UW-River Falls is no different. And the number of students and the amount of time they spend playing video games, as well as online games, is steadily increasing as technology continues to develop.

The introduction of new, more advanced gaming consoles continues to entice people to try their hand at games like Guitar Hero 2, Halo 2 and Madden 2007.

Two new consoles were released last month, creating a stir at local department stores and intriguing gamers to shell out more than $500 to take home one of the systems.

Sony introduced two versions of PlayStation 3 (PS3) on Nov. 17, with limited numbers of consoles offered in department stores. A 60GB PS3 is priced at $599, while the version with a 20GB hard drive costs $499. The limited availability and high demand for the systems resulted in consumers standing outside stores nationwide to obtain one of the consoles.

Sophomore Kyle Bruggenthies said he was going to wait outside to ensure he received one of the consoles, but decided against the idea.

“I think they are both decent systems, albeit the PS3 is heavily overpriced,” he said. “Yet Sony still takes a loss on each console sold.”

Though the PS3 was just released, Sony executives are already at work planning the next PlayStation console. On the PS3 Web site, Paul Holman, vice president of technology for Sony Computer Entertainment Europe, announced plans are underway for the release of PlayStation 4 after 2010.

Two days after the PS3 was released, Nintendo introduced the Wii system. With 512MB of internal flash memory, Wii allows gamers to not only play new games, but also download classic Nintendo games like Donkey Kong, Mario Bros. and Sonic the Hedgehog.

Gaming system and computer game creators try to ensure many different types of games are available to comply with the different tastes of individuals.

Simulation games became popular with the introduction of the Sim series, which Alicia Hermsen said are her favorite games.

“It’s interesting to see how moods and physical status can affect a person in their environment, and also it’s kind of addicting,” she said.

Other games that allow direct competition with real people via the computer are also popular among fans of science fiction and fantasy. Sophomore Pauline Ceulemans said she enjoys playing World of Warcraft and Dungeons and Dragons because of the interaction with others.

“You’re not really hiding in your room alone with your computer,” she said. “You’re playing in a world where your real life best friend can be fighting by your side in the game.”

Games like Guitar Hero II and Dance Dance Revolution allow gamers to make themselves part of the game by replacing standard controls with a plastic replica of a Gibson SG guitar and a dance pad.

“I like Guitar Hero ... because it is very fun to hear yourself making the music,” sophomore Dan Graul said.

Like so many others, UWRF students pass the time by playing video games or computer games.

Freshman Ryan Brehmer owns a PlayStation 2 (PS2) and spends at least three hours in front of his TV and computer screens each day.

“I pretty much play a lot of video games because there is nothing else fun to do here,” he said.

Though Nintendo and Sony continue to release new consoles to keep up with technological changes and continually revamp graphics, some people still own and play games on archaic systems.

Hermsen said she and her brothers own Atari, Nintendo, Super Nintendo, Nintendo 64 and PS2 consoles, yet with her hectic schedule she rarely plays as much as she would like.

“I get maybe two hours or so a week —that’s during a good week,” she said. “If I wasn’t so busy, I would play a lot more. If I get hooked on a game, then I’m tempted to take a break from studying and get on the PS2.”

Other students do not allow their studies to interfere with their desire to pick up a controller or log onto Yahoo! to play games, but rather use the disruption as a way to avoid homework.

“While video games can affect my studies, it isn’t because of the games,” Ceulemans said. “It’s because I’m a procrastinator and hate this school.”

Ceulemans said that she is taking a hiatus from playing her favorite game, World of Warcraft.

“The reason I’m taking a break from games is because I use them as an excuse to delay my homework, and it works better than other procrastination methods because it’s enjoyable,” she said.

Tammy Jugovich finds that playing video games can be a good stress-relieving mechanism.

“For me they really don’t affect my studies much, but they help to relieve the stress,” she said. “To be able to take a break and just play around on a console with friends is nice ... As long as you can balance studies and gaming, everything works great.”

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