Last year as a freshman at UC Davis, I became aware of how prominent computer and video games were in a student’s everyday life. I was surprised to find while walking through my dormitory hall, peeking into rooms that had their doors open in welcome, that many of my friends were all glued to their computer screens, clicking away on their mouse ferociously. It was like this for most of the day. When my floor mates weren’t out and about in the halls, I would find them gaming away in their rooms. What is it about these games that makes them so addicting, even to working adults? But taking a look at students, how are they able to balance academia with this virtual activity?
Even now that I am no longer in the dorms, computer games are still subject of conversation, and I know many individuals that continue to play and incorporate it into their schedule practically every day. My friends talk about them, post about them on Facebook, and plan out when they would all go online to play. Even my sister and her boyfriend, both full time workers, find time in their day to play for a bit. Most recently, a game called Diablo 3 was released and created a frenzy among gamers. I’ll admit that I used to play the former Diablo 2 back in high school, so I bought the new one. Many of my friends around me bought the game too and started playing non-stop, for hours into the night. I even gave three of my friends “guest passes” which gave you a free trial of the game, which in turn hooked them in and led them into buying the full version of the game only a few days later. The game is fun, but how is it that games become so addicting, individuals feel the need to play so much? Although I bought the game, I don’t play it nearly as religiously as others do, which got me wondering: What is it about certain games that makes them so addicting? And how are students managing to play so much when they have school to worry about?
Diablo 3 is only one game among many popular ones being played. Ask students what games they currently play, and they will probably respond with titles such as League of Legends (LoL), Heroes of Newerth (HoN), or World of Warcraft (WoW). Knowing quite a few gamers myself, I asked them why they liked to play their game so much, and what makes them want to play on a daily basis? On playing Diablo 3, one student said “…because the game play is really fun and it’s also fun to improve your character every time you play.” Another said they liked that it was constantly challenging, and that it has endless potential when it comes to characters and items. When I asked why players of League of Legends opted to play so much, I was told that it’s fun because it “involves a lot of strategy” and that there is a “competitive side to it”. Many students I asked liked the thrill of winning a game against other players, which makes them want to continue playing. One individual finds fun in being on a team with friends, competing against other teams, and in making “kills”. He also said that losing a game only made him want to play more. All of the games have a competitive theme that makes it very enjoyable for the players.
When I discussed with them their academic life as a result of such constant game play, it was no surprise that in the beginning, many struggled to keep a balance between playing and keeping up with their school work. The game itself is extremely alluring, and according to one student, he often feels “peer pressured” to play by his friends. Although all the individuals I spoke with indeed had trouble keeping a balance between gaming and academics initially, over time they found a way to continue playing without sacrificing their grades. Some use the game as an incentive to complete all their schoolwork, while others got a wakeup call when they ended up on academic probation from playing too much. One student said “I balance it by reminding myself that it is only a game and there is more important stuff to do, because at the end of the day, it’s not really going to get you anywhere no matter how good you are at it.” Every individual said that they don’t really struggle maintaining their grades, and that they have a happy medium.
Although it’s quite common for college students to get addicted to computer games, perhaps gaming can be a harmless recreational activity after all. Enjoying a game doesn’t have to be a bad thing, as long as your social and academic life isn’t being affected. Too much of a good thing is bad in the long run, and as long as students don’t play excessively, it makes sense why so many students enjoy playing so much.
If you’re interested in trying out one of these games, League of Legends can be played for free, while the others require payment. As long as one doesn’t get carried away, I don’t see anything wrong with playing for enjoyment!