A Student Editor’s 24-Hour Video Game Experiment

Late last semester, Miles Parks decided to play video games for 24 hours straight.  Or in his words, “I was going to sit and game and turn my cerebral cortex into applesauce.”

The student at the University of Tampa (where I teach and advise), an admittedly light gamer, conducted the multi-player, multi-platform, multi-game experiment in part to better understand his many friends and classmates who “can sit down at one end of an evening and beat up bad guys until the sun rises.”

Amid the endless sports games and a helping of Mario Party, Parks kept a running diary and a video log, enabling his audience to slowly follow his descent into cranky numbness.

“Honestly, I’m spent,” he wrote after hour 12.  “I eat pasta and I can barely even enjoy it.  I’m so hungry and so tired and I feel nauseous.  My stomach hurts and feels queasy and I’ve had a headache for five hours. . . . I’ve given up keeping track of my wins and losses.  The outcome doesn’t really matter anymore.”

At the close of the marathon session, he slept heartily and awoke feeling guilty about the time he had wasted in front of the Wii, Xbox, and Playstation.

Yet, gaming’s pull still proved strong.  The next night, he watched football at a friend’s house.  As he recounted in a piece for The Minaret, “I get up to leave and he asks if I want to play a game of NHL with him on Xbox. . . . ‘Just one,’ I reply.”

In the Q&A below, Parks talks more about the challenge’s rigors and rationale and video games’ role in subverting students’ undergraduate experiences.

First, what motivated you to take on this challenge?

I’ve been reading a lot of first-person writing over the past few months and it’s pretty obvious that if you truly want an entertaining story, you’ve got to go big and you’ve got to do something you relate to.  I’m in college; half of my friends spend their lives attached to a television.  As I mention in the story, my mom has always drilled into my head that video games are bad for your soul.  Basically, I’ve had these two opposing viewpoints shown to me about a prominent part of pop culture, and I wanted to see who was right.  The best way to do that was to write about it.

What are your thoughts on the video game culture you see among students nowadays?

What I’ve begun to realize is that this culture and these electronics affect everyone differently, similar to drug use.  Some people can smoke [ahem, certain illegal substances] and still write papers and get straight As.  Others are going to end up on their couch with a bag of Fritos and a 1.8 GPA.

I think the ones who are really obsessed with video games need to take a deep breath and a step back.  You’re paying your tuition (which for me, at a private university, is upwards of $30,000 a year) to sit in your bedroom or living room.  At some point, you’ve got to take advantage of your environment.  It’s cliché but it’s true.  You’re not going to remember what you did in that game on that couch in 30 years.  We’re not truly diving headfirst into our education if we’re spending even a couple hours a day in front of a television.

What was the toughest part of your 24-hour challenge?

I would say staying motivated within each game.  After 15 hours, there comes a time when being down 14 points seems like the largest deficit in college football history.  I had to keep trying to win because it’s that focus and drive that was probably the most draining part of it all.  I lost more than 60 times throughout the adventure.  For a competitive guy like myself, that starts to get very, very frustrating.

Also, it was challenging writing the story in a way that didn’t come off as insulting to video game enthusiasts, but still ended on a strong note with a clear idea.  Writing diary style in chronological order is easy, especially with the help of the video diaries I kept. I found myself sometimes getting too philosophical.  It’s a serious issue, but it was still light, funny, and most importantly, supposed to be an easy read.  There’s a weird balance there.  I was legitimately distraught at the concept of a whole day down the crapper, but I had to write it in a way that didn’t feel forced or exaggerated.

At the end of the 24 hours or as you later reflected on everything, did you learn any lessons or uncover any truths?

I learned a lot about motivation.  It’s amazing how quickly it can be zapped from you and be gone indefinitely.  Once a day is gone, what’s a week?  What’s a month or a year?  You can so easily get into this zone without a clear end where you’re just floating along, especially as a student.  Video games seem to shift me into that zone, and it’s a terrible place to live.

I think the great part about higher education is that we can make it what we want.  We can choose almost everything we associate ourselves with.  If you end your college days with no job experience, internships, good grades or memories to show for it, then that stinks.  But chances are, you put yourself in a place that led to those outcomes.

One Response to “A Student Editor’s 24-Hour Video Game Experiment”
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