Game On

Game On

By Jason Kornwitz

Guns N’ Roses’ “Welcome to the Jungle” blared from a projection TV in West Village H as Carl Johnson, the main character in the game Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, cruised up ramps past police cars and ran over people along the way. Cups of Diet Coke and bowls of potato chips sat in a bowl off to the side.

On the screen, a car crashes and catches fire. But it’s no problem, Johnson steals another one after plummeting nearly 20 feet off a bridge and onto a highway.

“Are you alive?” someone asked.

The answer was yes. “Just barely.”

It was all part of Geek Week, sponsored by the NU Association for Computing Machinery (NUACM). This console gaming night was held Nov. 11, 2004. One was held in fall of 2005, and another is set to be held later this semester.

The small get-together of about 25 people, mostly males, was like many video game scenes throughout residence halls.

It included four big-screen TV projectors. The participants played games like Mario Kart: Double Dash!! on Nintendo Gamecube and Halo 2 for Microsoft Xbox.

On the screen, players with nicknames “TX233,” “AB,” “Aztec1030” and “Halo0001” battled in a two-on-two match in “Halo 2.”

They played a mode of the game called “Team Slayer.”

The first team to reach 50 kills, or “frags,” would win. TX233, armed with the Battle Rifle, a gun that fires in three-shot bursts, encountered Aztec1030, who duel-wielded a Plasma Pistol in his left hand and a sub-machine gun in his right.

Before TX could get off two bursts, his shield was downed with a charged plasma and finished off with bullets in the midsection of his body.

One more frag and the game ended.

Halo0001 stuck the “Energy Sword” into the unsuspecting AB, and the game ended. AB’s body soared into the air and then slowly returned to the red earth that is “Burial Mounds,” the area they were using.

To make this chaos possible, junior mechanical engineering and computer science major Seth Sivak spread the word about console gaming night through his Web site, www.BostonGamers.org.

Sivak, who said he wants to program games for a living, said his goal is to provide the whole Boston area with a place where gamers can come together to announce events, talk about gaming and meet up to play together.

“I was with my two roommates and we wanted to play Halo on campus and see if there was a group of people around the Boston area who were interested,” Sivak said.

Sivak was only allowed to play educational games as a child. He became addicted to Number Munchers, the computer game. But when he discovered video games and started earning money winning Halo tournaments, he fell in love with gaming.

“Once you learn to play a game, you realize how much it takes to put it together,” he said.

He and his twin brother are in the process of programming a game called “Faminship,” a mobile phone game that he hopes to get produced by Nokia.

Sivak has also designed several levels for the popular computer game Counterstrike using his own programming skills.

Gaming takes up much of his day, especially when he is on co-op, but he doesn’t play alone. Playing games, especially online, is a social activity, he said.

“You can go watch a movie with someone, but you can live through an entire story with a group of people online,” he said. “[Video games] take you out of where you are and put you somewhere else. Now, we’re no longer in Boston, but in Shanghai in the 1200s.”

Not all gamers take gaming as seriously as Sivak.

John Caprice, a middler biology major, started playing video games when his dad bought him one of the original Nintendo Entertainment Systems.

“Playing video games is downtime,” he said. “It’s a really good way to get your mind off school.”

But he also understands that anything, including video games, can be detrimental in excess.

Occasionally, Caprice said he turns down social events to play and has noticed his younger siblings would rather sit in front of the TV rather than exercise outside.

“If you don’t [play video games] in moderation, you can suffer greatly from it,” he said.

Alex McCullough, a sophomore journalism major, said he plays about seven hours a week but feels “it’s putting a damper on [his] social life.”

Video games “take you out of the real world, like a book, except that you can interact” with them, he said.

Still, he said he doesn’t take playing games too seriously, he said.

“It’s just a new way for people to entertain themselves,” he said.

At the console night, the four players were close for three laps, but on the last turn, Sloan Mergler, a middler computer science and psychology major, used a speed burst provided by a shiny gold star stranded in the middle of the raceway to plow past his opponent.

A last ditch attempt to knock Mergler’s character off the track with a turtle shell didn’t work. He won a race in Mario Kart, racing game featuring Mario Brothers characters.

Mergler said he doesn’t have much of a social life, but instead hangs out with his friends while playing video games.

“Your friends are online, so it’s like, ‘Oh, let’s play,'” he said. “We have wireless Internet, so we play on campus. “We’re getting more focused on technology

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