The caveman’s club swung through the air, clobbering his enemy and sending him to the ground with a defined “thump.” The caveman continued to plod forward, decimating his enemies and, when there was none left to be destroyed, he raised his fists and shouted a victory cry of “Oonagoo!”
Jerod Jarvis sat back and reveled in his victory, watching the caveman on the computer screen in front of him. He had completed the level of “Titan’s Quest” that had been eluding him for the past couple days, and, after 10 hours of perseverance, success had never tasted so sweet. He glanced at the clock in the lower right-hand corner of his computer screen, then grabbed his wallet and jacket before rushing out the door to meet his roommates for dinner at the HUB.
The current view of a modern gamer is a sun-starved teenage male sitting in his parents’ basement playing World of Warcraft for the better part of the day. However, people like Jerod Jarvis, who has a life outside the computer screen, are breaking this stereotype.
A gamer is defined as “a person who regularly plays computer or video games,” according to merriam-webster.com. Sixty-five percent of college students report playing games with some regularity, according to Pew Internet & American Life Project. However, gamers are much more complicated than simple definitions and statistics.
“Gaming is a hobby; it can even be a profession, if you get good enough at it,” Jarvis said. “There is definitely a balance that has to be reached when gaming, though. Forsaking other parts of your life shouldn’t be an option.”
Jarvis pointed out that computer and video games have accrued a bad reputation as time-wasters and brain-fryers. He argues that games can actually challenge a player’s mind as much as watching an inspirational film or reading a book.
“Because of player involvement, the potential to truly affect people on a deep level is astounding. You’re not just passively watching things happen on a screen or reading about somebody else having issues. It’s actually you,” Jarvis said. “The best games take full advantage of that difference and craft stories that are really moving and engaging because you are emotionally involved in the story
There are three main types of gaming: PC, console and handheld. Console games, more commonly known as video games, require a television screen and some sort of console, such as a Wii, Playstation or Xbox. PC games are usually played on a Windows machine powerful enough to handle the graphics and game mechanics. Handheld games include Gameboy Advance and Nintendo DS.
The different types of games that are offered – both for console and computer gaming – have been filed into nine categories: action, adventure, strategy, role-playing games (RPG), casual, indie, racing, sports, and simulation.
“(My favorite genre is) RPG. It’s fun to create a character, do quests and help people. It’s a very immersive game world,” Jarvis said.
The most popular game genre is action, according to gamedaily.com. “Far Cry 2,” which was released on Oct. 22, epitomizes this category. The plot puts the player in the center of a war-torn African state as a gun for hire, “forced to make deals with corrupt warlords on both sides of the conflict in order to make this country your home,” according to steampowered.com, a gaming community Web site.
The second most popular genre is music games, such as “Rock Band” and “Guitar Hero.” These games implement the use of plastic guitars, drums and microphones to bring out the rock star within. According to thegamereviews.com, “In (a) survey of 1,500 gamers, 58 percent of them stated, that they play music/rhythm games, easily putting them ahead of the 50 percent of gamers who engage in digital sports.”
Music games have also served to expand the gaming demographic. Once thought to be a primarily male hobby, the female population has gravitated toward the likes of “Rock Band” and “Guitar Hero.” More than 38 percent of U.S. gamers are female, according to IBIS World.
“Software makers have churched out a throng of non-violent, easy-to-play games in a bid to capture so-called casual gamers — those who don’t spend a lot of time on games — and women make up a big part of that target audience,” according to an article on scwist.ca.
“I’m so addicted to ‘Guitar Hero,’ but I’m not able to afford it. Thanks to Best Buy, I can play it for free whenever I want! I’m so good, I can now play medium!” Sarah Baker, a senior at Valley Christian High School in Spokane, Wa., said.
The gaming community is very tightly knit. Web sites, such as gamespot.com and steampowered.com, offer free memberships to gamers who want to interact with other gamers via forums and multiple-player games.
“I play with a clan online called ‘Xeno.’ We get together and play together; it’s a lot more fun,” Jarvis said.
Local area network (LAN) parties are another way that gamers connect. This brings gamers from the same area together at a central location, where they can connect their computers to each other and play against – or with – each other.
“I’ve hosted LAN parties before, and my friends and I have a blast playing games together. While gaming alone has its benefits, playing the same game with other people who share the same interests as me brings it to a whole new level,” Jarvis said.
The gaming community has spawned a new dialect that separates the casual gamer from the dedicated. This online language, called Leet (short for Elite) Speak, replaces regular letters of the alphabet with numbers and symbols. This gaming shorthand includes words such as “n00b” (newbie; someone who is new to gaming), “pwn” (to own, or beat, someone) and “h4xx” (to cheat); the number “4” is used to represent the letter “A,” “3” equals “E” and zero stands in for the letter “O.” A simple sentence in Leet Speak would look like this:
6am3r5 4r3 4w35om3.
Translation: Gamers are awesome.
In light of many recent school shootings, many of which have been linked to violent game participation by the shooters, gaming has been widely generalized as a hobby for future criminals. However, for Christians who participate in gaming, it is translated very differently.
“I am very selective in the games that I play. If they contain violence, for example, I gauge what kind of violence it is and how relevant it is to the plot line,” Jarvis said. “A lot of people see games as detrimental. But if (the games) are age-appropriate, then they can be really good. If we are so concerned about (gaming) being detrimental, then we should be encouraging Christians to get into the field to make good games.”
From the initial game idea to putting the completed game in a player’s CD-ROM, Christians have the opportunity to get involved.
“It’s an open door for Christians to get into, on the journalism side, the development side, on the critic side and on the player side,” Jarvis said. “Since games are the next big thing, that’s where Christians need to be: influencing that industry while it’s still new, so that when it does have that defining moment, Christians won’t be trying to play catch-up, or at least not quite as much.”
Jarvis is passionate about encouraging Christians to get involved in the gaming industry. He believes that games are the phenomenon of the current generation, much like television and rock ‘n’ roll were for past generations.
“As followers of Christ, we are commanded to be the salt and light in the world—to add Christ’s love to an otherwise dark place. With games fast becoming a major player in our culture, for Christian students to ignore or shun them is a mistake,” Jarvis said. “Games, if used correctly, could become the powerful tool that the up and coming generation uses to change the world.”
After dinner, Jerod heads back to his dorm to get in some quality “Fallout 3” playing time before starting on homework. A gamer to the core, he has found the balance of being an avid gamer, interacting with the world around him and integrating and his faith to impact the gaming generation.