With exams looming and term papers soon due, students will be fleeing from the outside cold to their warm rooms. Some will study and write. But others more inclined to procrastinate will pick up video game controllers.
The release of “Halo 2” and several other major game releases last month gives gamers plenty of diversions for their time. Highly anticipated throughout the gaming world, the release of “Halo 2” was marked with first-day purchases and advanced reservations by more than one million customers, including more than a few Yalies. In the weeks since its release, students have taken strongly to the game: playing by themselves, with entrywaymates, across the Internet and even in “Halo 2” parties with 16 players at a time.
Microsoft Game Studios’ release of “Halo 2” for Xbox on Nov. 9 was the largest video game release ever, with the company reporting more than 2.4 million copies sold in the first day alone, netting sales of $125 million. Since that day, it has hooked gamers and non-gamers alike with the allure of its fast-paced action.
As reading week approaches and students find themselves with lots of work and lots of free time, video games could become a problem, although some gamers claim they may actually be beneficial to mental health. Michael Lindsay ’08 said he plays anywhere from two to four hours a day and has inspired a similar dedication in two of his roommates.
“With no class structure, it has more of a potential of being a problem,” Lindsay’s non-gaming roommate Bryan Hunter ’08 said. “In moderation I think it’s a good thing. It’s a good relief from stress.”
Lindsay acknowledged game play can distract from work but said he is not sure yet how reading week will play out.
“I have a lot of work to do and a lot of ‘Halo 2’ to play, and at some point something’s got to give,” Lindsay said.
But when asked whether work or play would take the backseat, he said he did not know.
“We’ll just have to wait and see,” Lindsay said.
The hype surrounding “Halo 2” is nothing new — it started long before the game was released. MTV ran a special about the making of the game on Nov. 5. Gamers, eager Yalies among them, pre-ordered over 1.5 million copies. Lindsay pre-ordered his copy of “Halo 2” from a store instead of online so that he could pick it up the day of its release instead of waiting for a delivery.
Peter Bull ’08 said his suite also preordered the game, and added that a friend preordered a copy two years ago, when production was first announced. Bull, who has decreased his game play to three hours a week, said he likes the game a lot but is a much more moderate player than other students, mainly because he doesn’t find great groups of people to play.
Lindsay, however, has not had that problem. He said he has played with his suitemates, with friends and over Xbox Live — a feature that allows players to battle other gamers over the Internet. Lindsay said he even went to a “Halo 2” party at the Asian-American house with four Xboxes linked together so that 16 players in one room could play the same game.
While players once eager to try the game have dedicated many hours to it, they give it mixed reviews overall. Some students like the new Halo, with only minor complaints. Bull said he is generally satisfied with the game and thinks that Microsoft did a good job developing it. But, Bull added, “Halo 2” still has its flaws.
Lindsay went so far as to say that the game did not meet his expectations.
“I’d say it didn’t live up to the hype,” Lindsay, who might return to playing the original “Halo,” said. “I definitely don’t like ‘Halo 2’ as much.”
“Halo 2” is perhaps the most played game on campus right now and, in terms of sales, is by far the biggest game of the season, but other games are also getting students’ attention. November saw the release of two other big games, “World of Warcraft” by Blizzard Entertainment and “Half-Life 2” by Sierra Entertainment and a new handheld system, Nintendo DS.
Lindsay noted it has been a busy month for video games. But although these new releases are occupying some students’ energies, Yalies in general plan to keep busy themselves with papers and exams.
Hunter, Lindsay’s sole roommate to resist long nights of virtual gun-slinging, said his roommates’ playing only occasionally interrupts his studying, although it consumes a huge amount of their time.
“I can always go someplace else, but for them it’s kind of like an addiction,” Hunter said. “It’ll be three in the morning, and everyone finishes their work and is exhausted, and someone says ‘Wanna play “Halo?”‘ and everyone perks up.'”