I’ll be the first to tell you: I’m not a gamer. My husband has played World of Warcraft for several years, and I just don’t get it (sorry, hon). But I don’t have to get it to understand that for millions of people – many of them your students (girls as well as guys … don’t assume it’s only the guys) – gaming is a huge part of their entertainment and social lives.
That’s why the Gears of War 3 release on Tuesday should be on your radar. Gears of War 1 and 2 have sold 11 million copies combined. GoW3 is set to launch with over 1 million copies already pre-ordered.
Like the latest Twilight movie, or the must-see concert tour, this is a big deal. Over 400 launch parties are planned for Monday night around the country, and tons of people will be hitting their local Wal-Mart at midnight or anxiously waiting for their pre-ordered copy to show up in the mail on Tuesday.
Below is a guest post from Drew McCoy (gamer extraordinaire and son of our editor Ken McCoy) on gaming and the place it holds in student culture. I’ve also tracked down a few reviews and articles (below Drew’s post) on Gears of War 3 specifically to give you (and me) some insight into the specifics of the game. Whether I “get it” or not, I know I need to make an effort to understand what everyone is talking about.
Chances are that most of the guys in your group are aware that Gears Of War 3 is being released tomorrow. They might have plans for “LAN” (Local Area Network) parties this weekend to really give the game a workout. Video games are an omnipresent part of teenage life and are here to stay, no doubt about that.
Gaming has grown by leaps and bounds over the last ten years; what started as a favorite past time of computer dorks and has emerged as a business that generates more gross revenue than Hollywood. If you go to a friend’s house after school, you expect that they’ll have a PlayStation 3, Wii, or Xbox 360 console.
Video games have become to our kids what television was to the Baby Boomers: a common bond between people of completely separate cultures. Games like Tony Hawk, Halo, Madden, etc. have brought gaming into the popular scene; the jocks no longer have to feel guilty for enjoying a video game. Mention any Zelda game to a gamer and their eyes are likely to glaze over a bit as they begin to rhapsodize about a particularly memorable boss battle sequence. The characters, music, environments, and situations in today’s games hold a special place in the hearts of many gamers. Finishing particularly hard portions of a game becomes a badge of pride and honor. Being able to pull off the most insane combo for maximum points in Tony Hawk gives one the ultimate in bragging rights.
Games that are played online against real people have brought a whole new realm to this technology. You’ve probably heard, at least in passing, the names of World Of Warcraft, EverQuest, or maybe City Of Heroes. (My dad has for years played an online WWII flight simulation called Warbirds. His gamertag is “Parson.”) These are “Massively Multiplayer Online” (MMO) games. They give players the ability to log into their fantasy world with hundreds (and sometimes thousands) of other gamers at once. They play the game by creating a character, earning in-game money and items like weapons and armor, and going on quests. These games become huge online communities where players are rewarded for spending massive amounts of time accumulating hordes of cash and items so that they can take on bigger and badder monsters. Since these are “pay to play” games (usually about $10-$15 a month) the developers have crafted them to be as addictive as possible. Many people I know have a “played time” (actual in-game time played) of up to 200 days over the course of 3-4 years. The online game becomes a second life for them, sucking up all free time and causing them to forgo their normal duties so they can get “just one more level.” While this obviously isn’t the norm, the addiction can cause very big problems for a gamer’s RL (“real life”).
Games, like everything else, need to be taken in moderation. There is a lot of bad (and completely incorrect) press, especially lately, about games and their impact on kids. Sitting in front of a monitor and playing violent games for eight hours a day isn’t going to do anyone any good, but that doesn’t mean games are something to be feared. Games face a similar stigma that popular music, TV, and movies have endured for decades. Yes, the boys who committed horrible crimes in Columbine played a video game. Does that make FPS (“First Person Shooter”) games into “Murder Simulators” (as the press likes to refer to them)? If pointing a mouse and clicking a button is training on how to be a proper marksman, then I’d like to see a Madden player go out onto the gridiron and take Philip Rivers’ spot!
I grew up in a youth minister’s home (my dad edits the Youth Leaders Only magazines), and I spent hundreds of hours in high school playing and practicing FPS games (I played in tournaments across the country.) Even though I spent hours and hours on those games, you won’t ever see me go out and shoot people. Games may be an enabler to disturbed kids or those without any parental guidance in their life; but if video games weren’t available to them, they would have found something else to feed their violent tendencies.
Video games have moved from the arcade into the home. Teenagers, especially boys, spend a lot of time playing them, talking about them, and reading about them. As a youth leader, you should be aware of what games your kids are playing – it’s part of being involved in the youth culture. And, you should probably be able to bust a combo move or score an awesome hit yourself!
A few reviews and articles about Gears of War 3
- “It’s the most heavily pre-ordered game in Xbox history, with well over a million copies already destined for disc drives.” Read more from the plugged in blog.
- Here’s a review from the Wall Street Journal … this one isn’t as gamer-centric as some others I’ve (attempted to) read.
- CNet has a game trailer video you can watch here.
- One more review from the New York Times.