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Students still plug in to video games

When students from one of the top public universities in the nation get together to play computer and video games, the hours often pass quickly.

Most students remember the days when Atari was the latest in video game technology and Pac-Man died by not eating enough pellets or because a ghost "haunted" him. Then cartoonish characters in games like Donkey Kong made Pong's three bleeps on the screen look boring and simple, rendering it obsolete.

According to Atari's Web site, when Atari first debuted in Japan, it was not officially supported nor was it heavily promoted because Nintendo hit the Japanese market at the same time. However, Atari was well received in the U.S. when it debuted in 1983.

Since Atari and Nintendo, other video game systems have emerged, such as the 1989-released Sega Genesis, which brought a new level of graphics and sound quality to the video game market. Now both Sony PlayStation and Dreamcast, with a retail price of about $200, set industry standards, according to the Sega Web site.

And although the video gaming industry has grown and changed with time, students have managed to keep pace with the latest games.

"The games and the graphics are supposed to be a lot better than before," first-year Engineering student Tyler Boon said.

Some games today retain Pac-Man's innocence. Boom and his friends frequently play video games on Nintendo 64 in their dorm. He said they like to play because the games are fun and challenging.

"Lately we've been playing Mario Kart," he added.

Super Mario Kart is a racing game with 3-D graphics and several different racecourses. Each character has dynamic personalities and unique powers. It also has a four-player option.

Boon said he prefers four-player games because it creates more competition.

Yet students' loyalty to games can be fickle.

"Doom used to be the hot one, but now it's Quake III Arena," Boon said.

Quake III Arena is a first-person shooter game in which, like many games today, players try to kill each other.

"Any person you see, you shoot 'em," first-year College student Greg Zawanda said.

Zawanda said he plays video games about three hours a day.

"I like the trash talking," he said. "Being able to beat someone else at something is fun."

He added that he and his friends frequently play a game called GoldenEye 007, an elaborate spin-off of the James Bond movie, complete with spy activity. GoldenEye allows players to use a substantial arsenal of weapons in their fight to save the world. When video characters get wounded, they bleed from the location of the injury and exhibit their injuries appropriate affectation. GoldenEye also imparts morality lessons of a sort: Overzealous assassins who shoot or otherwise maim civilians are penalized.

Many advocates of video games argue that, contrary to popular belief, video and computer games can be beneficial as a fun way to relax and relieve stress.

"Video games are better for you than TV," first-year College student Jeremy Schutte said. "You can learn stuff."

Schutte said he never played Nintendo 64 before he came to college - now he plays about two hours a day.

Although advancements in video technology may have improved how real video scenarios appear, there are those who still yearn to shoot ducks rather than people and want to reenact the Mario Brothers' adventures.

"The original Nintendo is untoppable. It is king," Boon said. "The games were the best. They were more difficult, the plots were better and the games were more entertaining."

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