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Are college students playing too many video games?

The wait is almost over for Halo fans all over the world and the anticipation couldn’t be higher. Halo 3, the last in the series of games produced for the Microsoft Xbox, hits shelves this Tuesday. USAToday.com reports that first day sales could reach $200 million.

That’s enough money to buy a Butterfinger for everyone in the United States and then, with the leftovers, pay in-state tuition for 550 students at the University.

I would wait in line for hours, eating only the gum I can scrape from the floor and peeing my pants, if necessary, to defend my place in line for a copy of Halo 3. Unfortunately, my accountant (my girlfriend) informs me that I am about $400 short of being able to afford an Xbox 360 and a copy of Halo 3. Considering how much time I spent last semester playing Halo 2 instead of studying, it may not be such a bad thing.

For the rest of this semester, college students across the country will neglect schoolwork in order to save Earth from invading aliens. With the video game craze growing every year, it makes me wonder, are we spending too much time playing video games?

In July, TeamXBox.com reported that Xbox Live, an international online gaming network, plans to reach 10 million members by June 2008. So far, 2.9 billion hours have been played on Xbox Live. That is equal to over 332,000 years of game play. There are 4.3 million games hosted every day, 50 new games every second.

In July 2007, the American Medical Association released a report that brings some of these statistics into perspective. The average gamer is 30-years-old and plays between 6.8 and 7.6 hours a week. The age group that is expanding most rapidly includes college students, between 15 and 25-years-old.

The report labeled those who play for two or more hours a day as “heavy game users.” This label will soon encompass many college students who plan to throw down fisticuffs with the alien hoards of Halo 3.

Potential effects of heavy game use can include seizures, aggression and addiction to video games. It is estimated that as many as 10 to 15 percent of gamers are affected by video game addiction.

While this report blames video games for causing addiction, others have sighted benefits.

The Pew Internet ‘ American Life Project released a report in July of 2003 that focused specifically on how college students play video games. It found that for college students, “gaming is virtually commonplace. Computer, video and online games are woven into the fabric of everyday life for college students. And, they are more of a social/socializing activity than most suspected.”

The report says that 66 percent of college gamers did not think video games have effected their grades even though 48 percent said that gaming often kept them from studying. Even though gaming keeps some college students from studying, the report says, “College student gamers reported hours studying per week match up closely with those reported by college students in general, with about two-thirds (62 percent) reporting that they study for classes no more than seven hours per week.”

There also seems to be a link between video games and the social lives of college students. Video games helped 20 percent of college gamers make new friends or improve existing friendships. Many, 46 percent, said they mostly play multiplayer games with friends.

The report concludes, “The number [of college students] that were observed either playing multiplayer online games, instant messaging while gaming or chatting with friends in the same room while gaming, along with the number that reported playing games frequently at a friend’s house, leads to the conclusion that gaming is less a solitary activity and more one that is shared with friends and others.”

Maybe video games can keep college students from studying.

Maybe video games are a little addicting.

On the other hand, drinking and Facebook can be addicting, but they can also bring friends together. Video games can be as much a part of college life as keg stands and those friend requests from people you don’t really know, but feel too bad not to click “accept.”

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