Eat. Sleep. Play Nintendo Wii.

Having spent the past week suffering from a bout of strep throat, and luckily graced with a break from the madness of midterms, I was strangely in the possession of free time. Usually my spare time would be spent catching up with friends or frantically trying to do a photo assignment for the Journal, but in my slightly contagious and debilitated state, I was resigned to staying at home, wondering what I could do instead of sleeping.

In homage to my earlier days, I picked up my Gameboy, flicked the “on” switch and began once again to try to save the Princess from the evil bad guy.

It was awesome! Now to be fair, I’m no longer playing that old bible sized gray box with purple buttons, a green screen and four AA batteries, but a new evolved incarnation called a Nintendo DS—a PDA-sized, dual screen, sleek white device that displays more pixels than most TVs and more colours than a rainbow. As I was playing for minutes, which turned to hours, I wondered how long video games have played a role as entertainment in my life. How much money is spent on Nintendos, Playstations, cartridges, discs and controllers, and more importantly, how many other people are just like me?

The video game industry has transformed from the expensive niche culture of the early ’80s with characters like Ms. PacMan to a multi-billion dollar mainstream industry of Link and Master Chief—an industry that controls a decent amount of the entertainment sector of today’s society. Whether it be fantasy, science fiction, action, simulation or sport simulation, video games have found a way to invade every aspect of our imagination, digitize it and then sell it back to us for a nifty price of at least $50, and that’s just the games. Let’s not forget the huge expense of consoles starting at $300.

The industry is pure money-making genius, and we’re clearly hooked on it: millions of people worldwide wait in lines outside stores to be the first to get Halo 3, or the new Nintendo Wii.  I personally have gone through the agony of waiting in line for the Nintendo Wii, only to be rejected as the person in front of me got the last console in the store.

What drives us to spend hours of our time and money on these digital incarnations of our imagination? Is it purely visual entertainment? How do we derive emotional satisfaction from grabbing all the coins or saving the world of Warcraft? After all, what we accomplish with our digital avatars has no real bearing on the real world, except for maybe an expanding waistline or a widening hole in our wallets.

What I do know is that, at the end of the day, I’m still wondering if I have what it takes to find all the gems and heart containers, how cool the final boss will look like, and whether the in-game ending was worth all those hours. Have I learned anything from dissecting the industry? I guess I’ve realized that I’m hooked, too, and have no intention of stopping.

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