Video games have become, for better or worse, a ubiquitous presence in college life. They are a simple, competitive, and extremely efficient escape from the pressures of academic pursuit. Not only do they allow us a visceral release from the tension in an environment where we are driven to succeed at every level, they also provide a context for very entertaining social interaction with our close friends. Needless to say, they can become a prospective-graduate’s best friend. However, without the right balance, they can also pave the way for unfulfilled dreams.

Allow me to introduce myself: My name is Allen Eastlund and I am a video game enthusiast. I want to be open and forth-coming with you, gentle reader, that video games are a fiery heart that beats in my chest matched only by my love of science. I believe in the power of release that video games, comics, and fantasy bring. I believe that in that next castle, just the next one, just one more castle, I will find that princess. I believe that as a one-man army and aided by a buxom AI, I can save the galaxy by preventing the firing of the ring-worlds. I also believe in Harvey Dent. All of these beliefs have tied me, hook, line and sinker, to video games in every level of my life. Now that I’ve completed my full disclosure, I would like to relay a small piece of advice that I probably could have used an eon ago in my undergraduate career:

Balance is key.

As all students progress through their undergraduate careers, many make the decision to include video games as part of their pastime hobbies. At face value, this is not a concern; nor is it any cause for alarm for any outside, omniscient, tuition-paying source. Playing a game of Angry Birds while waiting for the bus does no harm. Farmville is crack for the masses but at the end of the day it amounts to clicky-cow-game on steroids. In fact, video games have been repeatedly shown to increase visual acuteness, decrease depression rates in college students, and prolong all aspects of virginity. However, there are certainly downsides. As a true believer in all things digital-escapism, I, and those around me, am acutely aware of this reality. It seems like just yesterday that I was reveling in and bragging about the fact that I would skip calculus lectures to Yoshi-butt-drop Pikachu off of Link’s castle. Or deploy well-placed banana peels to ensure pole position with Peach. To this day I regret my fateful decision to blow off a visiting fraternity brother because I had just “secured a raid spot”.

A little bit more about myself: I am currently a post-comprehensive exam biophysics PhD student at the University of Kansas that holds a bachelors of science in Astrophysics from our alma mater. I am living, breathing, thumbs-twitching proof that you can, in fact, succeed in academia while still being a long-term life-partner of video games. Yet when I look back on my long (long, loooong) academic life, I can’t help but wonder whether or not the level of immersion I chose was worth it. Had I attended my calculus lecture(s) that year, might I have secured that elusive A? By chance, would that night out with a great brother have been a career-making event? Would that supermodel I met once have been so impressed by my CV that she dropped her Bugatti-driving boyfriend and eloped with me to the central plains of the great Midwest? In short, could I have achieved a deeper college experience with a little more focus?

There is no denying that video games can provide a warm embrace after the cold shower that is a differential equations pop-quiz or that macroeconomics exam that didn’t go quite as planned. Spectacular nights can be whittled away while camping your brothers for great victory. Bearing all this in mind and coming from a slightly-more-sage position than a common orc warrior, my advice to all active brothers is to be sure to keep an eye on your goal: finishing college with a competitive edge. Finalizing your degree with a strong GPA is paramount to a successful future, your view of yourself and your abilities, and it helps the fraternity to be a stronger place for future sons. If you happen to find yourself being lured into the entrancing dance of finding just one more heart shard, or lobbing a digi-smoke-grenade into the field of battle for just one more attempt at taking that strategic bunker, try taking a step back and thinking — is this is really your 3rd bid? Or is it your 22nd?

There’s no denying it: college is all about the experience.

The Total Experience: meeting new and interesting people, taking that foreign language you’ve always thought about, and showing yourself and those around you what you’re capable of beyond the confines of a digital world. Relaxing is always part of any grand adventure and video games are certainly a perfect mode in which to relax. Take heed though, and make time for the pieces of the college experience that lead to more than just fast reflexes. The key to finishing any quest with the most gold, ammo, and charisma points is to not relax too much; it just diminishes the adventure.

—Allen Eastlund MN ’05

1 comment

  1. Jake

    Amen Brother…

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