Eat, Sleep, Game

    As streaks of battling supersoldiers cover Price Center
    Ballroom’s white walls and rows of glowing television sets display dueling
    Nintendo characters, it’s surprising to see that despite the room’s action,
    it’s the concentrated minds and strained thumbs of hundreds of still-sitting
    gamers that are fueling most of the excitement. But at Sixth College’s fourth
    annual Winter Game Fest, mind-thumb coordination is the only skill needed.

    A student practices his Guitar Hero techniques as he waits for his turn at the Sixth College fourth annual Winter Game Festival. (Will Parson/Guardian)

    Founded and organized by the Sixth College Technology
    Committee in 2005, the first and second Winter Game Fests were exclusive to
    Sixth College students, attracting approximately 12 and 100 attendees,
    respectively. Since then, the event has been opened to the entire campus as
    well as non-students, increasing attendance to 1,125 at this year’s Jan. 12-13
    competition. The continual growth of gaming events like Winter Game Fest or
    Warren College’s annual Video Game Extravaganza represents UCSD’s budding
    culture of gamers — one that Amrit Sareen, the Sixth College Technology
    Committee commissioner, hopes to expand.

    “Next year I have a plan to expand this across universities,
    so it will be UCSD, UCI, UC Riverside and we might even talk to SDSU to make
    this a cross-campus event,” Sareen said. “I’d like to see this expand even
    more. I want to see this as big as Sun God or some of the big events [UCSD]
    has.”

    According to Sareen, who was responsible for organizing the
    event and finding its sponsors, high school and college students make up about
    90 percent of the gaming demographic, but the industry is continually growing.

    “Last year was gaming’s biggest year, because Halo 3 sold a
    record number of copies and there were just a lot of games that sold a lot,”
    Sareen said. “Gaming companies are growing every year, and you see more and
    more consoles where games are being played on. And now with the Wii, that’s a
    whole new physicality onto games. As games evolve and grow, I think their scope
    will grow as well and more, and more types of kids and adults will become
    gaming fans.”

    As a way to offer prizes and fund other expenses for the
    event, Sareen secured sponsorships from BAWLS energy drink, E-Sports, EA games,
    Ideazon, Microsoft and the Office Games. The donated merchandise included over
    $5,000 worth of software from Microsoft and 2,000 BAWLS energy drinks.
    According to BAWLS marketing and media contact Sabrina Gonzolas, the rising
    popularity of gaming has gained the attention of many companies looking to
    enhance or accessorize the gaming experience.

    “[Gaming is] a multi billion-dollar industry,” Gonzolas said
    in an e-mail. “They are fighting for logo exposures in games, sponsoring pro
    players and nearly every video gaming center in the country now has an energy
    drink cooler stocked with caffeine to keep gamers alert while playing.”


    Gaming Lingo

    catass

    Verb. To obsessively play a game, neglecting hygiene and all other activities to accomplish an in-game goal.


    pwn

    Verb. Variation of “own.” Used in cases of excessive victories. “Dude, I totally pwned you.”


    n00b

    Noun. Used like “newbie” to refer to inexperienced video-game players.


    skunked

    Verb. To take away all of a person’s lives without diminishing any of your own.


    l33t

    Noun. Variation of “elite.” Pronounced “leet.” Used both as a noun and to signify leet speech, which is gaming terminology.

    In addition to marketing and advertising their products,
    companies like Microsoft felt its presence at the event was important for
    recruitment reasons.

    “Gaming is not just entertainment anymore,” said Anubhav
    Chopra, a Thurgood Marshall College sophomore and UCSD Microsoft Student
    Representative. “Careers in the gaming industry that relate to the study of
    technology, engineering, math and the arts is on the rise … Our hope is that
    students will be willing to explore [these] fields of study because of their
    interest in gaming.”

    As sponsors looked to make a connection with participants by
    stationing merchandise tables and software previews at the Winter Game Fest,
    attendees wandered through the many console and computer stations, choosing
    from popular console, PC, and video games like Halo 3, Counter Strike and Super
    Smash Brothers. Despite the fact that each Winter Fest competition ends within
    an hour or so, dedicated gamers allot a huge amount of time to improving their
    skills and mastering the game.

    “I play … about two to three hours everyday,” Sixth College
    freshman Albert Orona said. “Most of the time it’s social. We get everyone in
    our suite together and have fun. I’ve gone whole weekends and breaks playing
    video games. This past break I got sick for four days and I just played for
    those entire days. I would eat and take breaks for two-hour naps because I
    wasn’t feeling that good, but other than that I would just play video games.”

    Like Orona, many other students find themselves distracted
    or consumed by gaming. Although the time dedicated to game play varies for each
    person, many seasoned gamers agree that gaming has addictive qualities through
    features like level advancement and character development. Sareen, who plays
    games himself, said games are designed to keep people playing and can sometimes
    be detrimental to students’ academic lives.

    “I don’t get bad grades, but when I do badly on tests, I
    know it’s because [of] the last night gaming away on the computer,” said
    Sareen. “And games are really, really addictive once you get down to it.”

    According to Revelle College sophomore Ray Phan, although
    there is a large population of students who play more interactive games like
    Guitar Hero 3 or Wii Sports, overenthusiastic gamers can sometimes isolate
    themselves from social situations.

    “I’ve lost friends because of video games,” Phan said. “A
    lot of my friends play [World of Warcraft], and I’d call them to hang out, and
    they’d be like ‘Oh, sorry, I’m busy playing W.O.W.’ And I’m like, ‘Fuck, dude,
    you can’t do that.’ So it gets really addicting.”

    Phan attributes the over-obsession of some gamers to the
    fantasy element found in role playing games and real-time strategy games,
    features which can often relieve students of their humdrum lives.

    “It’s just fun; the fantasy of it,” Phan said. “It’s a bit
    of an escape from reality, I guess, because, you know, you can do homework, you
    can do your chem, your math, your science and reading and everything. Or you
    can be a guy who’s trying to save the world.”

    However, many gamers who have found a balance between their
    schoolwork, gaming hobbies and social life see such an obsession as extreme and
    unhealthy. Students like Thurgood Marshall College freshman Effren Jimenez, who
    spent about $2,000 on gaming equipment in high school, are wary of the
    excessive amount of time that gamers spend playing.

    “I know when you’re a lot younger it can be very addictive,”
    Jimenez said. “You spend a lot of time on it. I have friends who spend like
    four, five hours a day, but personally, it was easy for me to put it down. I
    see it as a kind of escape from reality and, you know life is hard enough; you
    don’t need to sit around not doing anything.”

    While Jimenez believes some people take gaming too far, he
    also thinks UCSD’s atmosphere of student life and school system are conducive
    to a thriving gaming environment.

    “We don’t have a football team; we don’t have any Division I
    [teams],” Jimenez said. “So I think gaming is where it’s at. Yesterday we were
    out playing Rock Band at my friend’s dorm room for like three hours because
    it’s a really cool game. You know, we’re
    all a little nerdy at UCSD.”

    Although many students admit gaming tends to have an
    addictive hook, they are still defensive about the way in which the media sheds
    a negative light on the pastime.

    “It gets such a bad rap most of the time,” Orona said.
    “There was an article in the MQ making fun of gamers for violence, and its
    headline said ‘Kid playing Super Mario Galaxy jumps into space and dies.’ It’s
    stuff like that. It gets so obscure like that sometimes.”

    Whether it’s in an organized tournament like Winter Game
    Fest, with a group of friends, or alone among other online personalities, many
    UCSD students game to look for new, advanced kinds of entertainment in the form
    of video games.

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