Archive Opinion The Orion

Games heal wounds of incompetence

January 1, 2007

I spent my winter break trying to free the world from shadows by either swinging my mighty sword, launching the occasional bomb-arrow, or even transforming into a mighty wolf and leaping for the throats of my enemies.

No, I’m not writing this column from a maximum-security prison or while on the lam.

After a two-year wait, I finally got my hands on the new Legend of Zelda game, “Twilight Princess.” Now that I’ve beat it in time for the semester to begin, I’ve been handed an excuse for why I spent roughly 60 hours of my life drinking up every pixel and enjoying every note of the soundtrack.

Research from the University of Rochester found that video games help to satisfy people’s needs. They can give people a chance to escape from the harsh reality of life by themselves or with friends.

Before the e-mails calling me Capt. Obvious come pouring in, there’s one last important detail. This study, unlike so many others, actually says that this escape is a good thing.

Now, let’s apply that to my winter break.

Those days I spent trying to dispel the dark veil of Twilight over Hyrule could have just been to settle my journalistic urge to shed light on the truth. Those evenings of leading the Roman armies to annihilate the Aztecs in Civilization were really just to ease my nationalistic tendencies. Those morning rounds of “Mario Golf” in which I made a puking piranha plant drive the ball 300-plus yards were to – well, I have no clue. That one makes me seem like a freak.

The point is, video games can actually fill a void in people’s lives. The most frequently used word in the study to describe this void is “competent.”

The New Oxford English Dictionary defines competent as “acceptable or satisfactory, though not outstanding.” So if someone really sucked at golf, playing as a puking piranha plant might be good to overcome those tendencies. However, this doesn’t make video games an end-all solution for life.

From my brief stint as a philosophy minor, I learned about Aristotle’s Golden Mean. In a nutshell, the golden mean is living between the two extremes.

In this instance, it’s living somewhere in between saying, “Video games are the devil,” and p’wning noobs to raise your Horde warlock to level 60 and beyond. If you understood that last sentence, odds are you aren’t living on the Mean.

Somewhere in between, there’s a happy medium. It’s something like the other thing I did over break. I got my nephews hooked on “Mario Golf.” But what they didn’t know is they were getting a lesson in higher-level math.

While the puking piranha plant (whose name happens to be Petey Piranha – there’s a tongue twister for you) was fun to watch, they also had to factor in the heights of their shots, wind speed and the slope of the green.

Physics, algebra and geometry are all hidden in the pile of red and white vomit on the green. Just don’t step in it. It looks a little slippery.