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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Power Up

    UA grad, Jennifer Barclay, knocks-out the competition in a round of Wii Sports boxing. The Wii video game system has had mass appeal for both genders and is still hard to find in many stores.
    UA grad, Jennifer Barclay, knocks-out the competition in a round of ‘Wii Sports’ boxing. The Wii video game system has had mass appeal for both genders and is still hard to find in many stores.

    A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…

    …it was established that the ability to make obscure “”Star Wars”” references qualified someone as a nerd. Also known as “”losers,”” these people spent a majority of their time in their parents’ basements, wasting their lives away in front of the TV screen while battling imaginary foes in a match of “”Halo 2.””

    Add a rare bathroom break, inflamed thumbs and frequent outbursts of rage toward the incompetency of other players and the prototypic video game nerd image is complete. As with all stereotypical perceptions, this image is hard to erase from people’s minds.

    While the power of the stereotype is unfortunate, there is still hope for gamers trying to battle the dark side: with the release of interactive systems like the Nintendo Wii and group-friendly games like “”Guitar Hero II,”” video games have never been cooler. And, more importantly, it shows that you don’t have to be an unmotivated slacker with a nonexistent social life to enjoy playing them.

    Take, for example, Jennifer Barclay. A female video game fan (yes, there is such a thing) and recent UA graduate, Barclay purchased a Nintendo Wii this summer as a gift for her boyfriend. She quickly became too anxious to wait for him to open it and ended up hooking it up herself.

    “”The first video game I played was the very first Nintendo with the ‘Super Mario Bros.’ and ‘Duck Hunt.’ I was about seven or so,”” Barclay said. “”I bought the Nintendo 64 when it first came out, and I played it any chance I got, but my mom limited my time on it.””

    But now that Barclay is on her own, she can play whenever she wants and enjoys the different gaming experience the Wii provides.

    “”I like (the Wii) because it is very interactive and, believe it or not, you get a workout playing it. My favorite sport so far is boxing; it’s a good way to get out anger and aggression. I break a sweat like I would working out at the Rec. You’re not just sitting on the couch using your fingers and thumbs.””

    With the development of the Wii, game designers are trying to make gaming more accessible to everyone, rather than to only elite gamers. Instead of trying to go above and beyond in the area of graphics like their counterparts designing the latest Xboxs and Playstations, the Wii designers decided to revolutionize the key entity to any video game system: the controller.

    Called a “”Wii-mote,”” the controller is very simple, activated by motion rather than blister-inducing button-pushing. All Wii systems also come with a game, “”Wii Sports,”” that allows players to fully experience this unique controller.

    In addition to “”Wii Sports,”” “”Guitar Hero II”” is a game that is attempting to bring new gamers onto the scene by modifying the controller. A dream come true for any player of the air guitar, the game features a controller in the shape of a guitar, complete with fret buttons, a place to strum and a whammy bar for the most intense jam sessions.

    David Vick, a theater arts senior, is a die-hard “”Guitar Hero II”” fan and is well aware of the impact the game has had on the gaming community.

    “”(I’ve seen) bars with tournaments set up for players to show their stuff. Some parties even have a couple of players attacking a song,”” he said. “”You actually have a guitar-like peripheral in your hands, and famous songs that have a rich history in the world of rock. The interaction factor is increased to an even greater number as a result.””

    Vick believes this interaction is often what draws people to video games.

    “”The more a game can put a player, or sometimes even a spectator, into the thick of the action, the better,”” he said.

    Depending on the genre, playing a video game can truly feel like a real-life experience. This is especially true for Xbox and Playstation games.

    When considering the “”graphics”” of the very first video game, 1972’s “”Pong,”” it is astounding to see how advanced computer animation has become. Characters in modern games have shadows that move with them, objects that reflect in their sunglasses, and at times it is debatable whether the images on screen are meant to be overshadowed by the enjoyable gameplay, or admired as works of art.

    “”Shadow of the Colossus,”” a Playstation 2 game released in early 2006, is an example of game-as-art, Vick said.

    “”It created a world/environment that was both serene and threatening,”” he said. “”It is the top game of a select few that could be used to argue in favor of games being a legitimate art form.””

    Tim Larsen, a psychology junior, agrees.

    “”What makes a good game is good graphics and a good storyline,”” said Larsen, who grew up as a Nintendo kid but now prefers the Xbox 360.

    These graphics don’t come cheap. The Xbox 360, even at a low-priced store like Target, still costs $299 nearly two years after its release in November 2005. Sony’s Playstation 3, which was recently released as a rival for Microsoft’s Xbox system, is $599. These prices don’t include controllers, games or even a storage device to which game data can be saved.

    But never fear, broke gamers …handhelds are here! An alternative to the pricier, more elaborate full-sized systems, handheld gaming devices are a perfect way to pass the time while on a flight or road trip, or maybe even to tune out a yawn-inducing lecture.

    “”I’m not at home a lot of the time, so a portable allows me to game between classes and meetings,”” said Daniel Kirby, an interdisciplinary studies junior.

    Handhelds are also less frustrating than the full-sized systems, because of their portable nature. Portability implies mobility, and people on the move don’t always have time to die and replay the same level 40 times before finally beating it.

    “”The gameplay has to be set up such that you can play it for 10 minutes and be able to quit,”” Kirby said.

    Portability is not the only perk of a handheld system. In many cases, a handheld system can be just as in-depth and interactive as a full-sized alternative.

    “”Many parts of the game ‘Pokemon Diamond’ (for Nintendo DS) require use of or are aided by the (system’s) touch screen and microphone, and there’s just so many hours you can put into the game and still have more things to do,”” Kirby said. “” ‘Gotta catch ’em all!’ – it was cool in seventh grade, and it’s only gotten cooler today.””

    Therein lies the secret about video games that not everyone will admit: they are cool, whether it is because of revolutionary controllers, the ability to interact with other players or the epic graphics. Not all “”gamers”” are 30-year-old losers who live in their parents’ basements; they’re people like you and me.

    Kirby put it best.

    “”Gamers are everywhere and people don’t even realize it,”” Kirby said. “”Someone you know is probably a gamer. Your brother, your sister, your father. We’re everywhere.””

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