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UWRF students connect with others through video games

December 16, 2011

Hundreds of UW-River Falls students travel abroad each year, where they will interact and communicate with people from different cultures. Others do that every night, without even having to leave the dorms.

Online multiplayer games like “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3” allow players to compete and chat with people around the world. These games can be a healthy activity if played in moderation, but Student Health and Counseling Services warns students not to overdo it.

“I think there are probably a lot of things that go into determining whether this is a healthy or not-so-healthy pastime,” wrote Student Health and Counseling Services Director Alice Reilly-Myklebust in an email statement. “Different factors include the number of hours played in a day, the nature of the game and if they are being played in favor of students’ academic responsibilities.”

The impact and prevalence of video game playing at UWRF is hinted at in the 2009 National College Health Assessment, a survey administered every three years by Student Health and Counseling Services in conjunction with the American College Health Association.

In 2006, nearly 30 percent of UWRF students reported spending more than three hours per day on computers for uses other than school or work. According to the assessment, 14.4 percent of UWRF students reported Internet use and computer games affected their academic performance, up from 7.4 percent in 2003. In comparison, 11.5 percent of UWRF students reported that alcohol use affected their academics in 2006.

At the national level, 48 percent of gamers reported that video games kept them studying “some” or “a lot,” according to a 2003 Pew Research study on gaming technology and entertainment among college students. The study found that students are integrating video games into their daily lives by allotting time for gaming between classes and using it as a break from homework.

Along with leisurely diversions, college students use video games for socializing as well. Nearly 20 percent of polled students felt “moderately or strongly” that video gaming “helped them make new friends as well as improve existing friendships,” according to the Pew study. Additionally, 65 percent of students reported that video gaming “has little to no influence” taking away time spent with friends and family. Nearly the same amount said that video games helped them spend time when friends were unavailable.

More than half of all adults in the U.S. play video games, according to a more recent 2008 Pew Research study. This includes games on computers, video game consoles and cell phones.

In Crabtree and Johnson Halls, video games and online mulitplayer are a part of the daily routine for students.

“A lot of the games today are geared toward online play, which is great,” said Steven Amusan, the president of Crabtree Hall. “It gives students the opportunity to play with gamers all over the nation, and even the world.”

“Video games in Johnson Hall get pretty intense,” Hall President Dylan Johnson said. “I like it, because it allows students to share their interests with others. Plus, the occasional competitive scream makes me laugh.”