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If you know what a killtacular is, you should definitely read this column.

(If you don’t, you’re going to have to read it to find out.)

You see, I’ve written a lot over the past week, and I have pretty much run out of gas on the whole Torino/Olympics/Helen Resor thing. It’s not that it wasn’t awesome, it’s just that I’ve already written a couple thousand words about it.

Halo, however, is not something that these sports pages have seen a lot of. I’m going to go ahead and guess that the reason we don’t see it here is because it is not a sport. But hey, neither is chess — which almost became an IM.

For the uninitiated, I offer a brief summary. Halo and its sequel Halo 2 are video games for the Microsoft Xbox. You can play against friends on the same television or, for those with less interest in leaving their rooms, online. The game offers capture the flag and other objective-based games, but the main thing is killing the other characters, which you can do with a vast arsenal of weapons and vehicles that lie scattered over the immense maps.

The Yale Daily News Magazine ran a piece in its most recent issue in which Cari Tuna talked about one photography student’s experience with the critique they all have to go through. The students’ photos were of men — some high, some not — with their mouths hanging wide open. They were all playing Grand Theft Auto.

If you play Halo, or know someone who does, you know that it’s the same way: young people, almost always men, sitting around, controllers in hand, concentrating intently on something going on inside a computer. Sure, sometimes there’s profanity and arguing, but most of the time it’s that unbelievable, zoned-out concentration.

Don’t get me wrong. I love video games, and I know they’re incredibly popular on campus. They’re a great way to pass the time — too good of a way, actually, considering the amount of time I waste on them.

But I can’t say I’m not worried.

I read a news story once that said that a huge percentage of children in South Korea — video game heaven — don’t want to be doctors or teachers or even athletes, but professional gamers when they grow up. That’s almost as messed up as the fact that the GDP of Everquest (a “massively multiplayer online role-playing game,” or MMPORG) is greater than that of Bulgaria. Or that almost 20 percent of regular MMPORG players say that their “real life” is in the game, and the real world is just where they eat and sleep.

This spells trouble for society, and it spells trouble for sports. The more convincing and realistic video games and other interactive media become, the more attractive they will be to people seeking an escape from reality. And while sports and athletics offer a great way to get away from the drudgery of everyday life (getting really into a certain team, for example), I am afraid they will become increasingly unable to compete with video games as people develop more and better ways to trick themselves into thinking they’re somewhere or someone they’re not.

It’s rare that someone gets so attached to sports that they divorce themselves from the world around them. In video games, it happens all the time.

Even though the weather is awful, it would really do us all some good to spend some more time outside. I am not talking specifically about getting exercise — I’m not sure going to the gym all the time is any less obsessive of an activity than constantly playing video games. But I do think that in this electronic, media-obsessed age, we’re losing touch with nature and with other people. Snow football is a lot of fun, and real capture the flag is even better than the electronic kind. But even just taking a walk or driving up to East Rock for a sunset would do the trick.

The difference is that while Halo may be a good break from papers and midterms, nothing does a better job of reminding you there’s a whole world out there than actually going outside and spending some time in it. As Americans spend more and more time with the PlayStation and the Xbox, they’re spending less and less time interacting with others. This is especially dangerous for children, whose development depends on having normal, person-to-person relationships — not online rivalries. A nation of kids like Roald Dahl’s Mike Teavee would not be a good thing.

There are, of course, some benefits to the video-game craze. Surgeons use video games to perfect their hand-eye coordination. Steven Johnson, the author of “Emergence,” says complicated television shows and video games can even expand your mind and make it work harder. And I don’t think they’re going away, either. Research shows that people who started playing when they were young are still playing well into their thirties. You just have to seek a balance.

But the fact remains that playing sports — and, to a lesser extent, watching them or even writing about them — is probably a more productive use of your time than sitting in front of the Xbox. Sports bring out the best in people: hard work, determination, teamwork, faith, and friendly competition. Killing a hooker in Grand Theft Auto or shooting someone with a rocket launcher in Halo — however fun — just doesn’t have the same effect. If you’re going to escape from reality, something that gets you outside and gets you moving and interacting with others is better than even the most intense video game.

A “killtacular,” by the way, is what you get when you kill four other players at the same time in Halo 2.

Just thought you should know.



Nick Baumann is a senior in Morse and a former Sports Editor for the News. He plays a lot of Halo.

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