USA Today College Feature

For my work on the crazy video gaming piece, I was featured in a January portion of USA Today | College. Here’s a portion of my interview and the link to the piece in its entirety.

Student plays video games for 24 hours straight… and lives to write about it

By: Dan Reimold

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 University of Tampa student, 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.

Q: First, what motivated you to take on this challenge?

A: 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.

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

A: 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.

The rest of the piece can be found here on USA Today College.

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24 Hours to Game

A piece that began as a simple assignment in my feature writing class turned into one of the most draining stories I’ve ever worked on. The labor bore fruit though as this piece was featured in The Minaret‘s tech magazine and was also featured on USA Today | College.  (See January 10.)

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24 Hours to Game

I sat, on my couch, feeling disappointed. I passed into coverage and ran into blitzes, I couldn’t convert on 3rd down and my defense had more holes than the oldest pair of socks in my drawer. I was 15 minutes in and down 24 points.

I sat, less than halfway through my first game of Madden, losing by four scores, and I pondered what I had gotten myself into. I sat, a disheveled mess in a baggy t-shirt and baggy white basketball shorts on my school-provided couch. All I could ask myself was “how can you do this?” “Twenty-three and a half more hours?”

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I wouldn’t call myself athletic, but I’m closer to that than a couch potato. I’m active. I’m involved in the theatre and I’m a sports writer. I’ll walk before I drive if I can. I grew up playing baseball and football and moving around on a stage. I’ve never been stagnant and I’ve never stared at a television for 24 straight hours.

When I was 8, my mom bought me and my two brothers a Nintendo 64 for Christmas. Naturally, we were excited. My older brother gravitated towards action games, shooting games and the like. I played Madden 2001, Ken Griffey Jr.’s Slugfest and Mario Tennis. My little brother played whatever we told him he was going to play.

My mom didn’t like what video games did to us. She read articles aloud at dinner about the effects electronics could have on an adolescent’s brain. She brought the evil into our house and she began to show that she could take it away. She hid the systems unless we’d done our homework, she’d allot minutes of video game time based on how much yard work we’d done. She began to use our interest to her advantage.

The longest I ever played video games before was maybe four hours. I enjoyed them but I wasn’t someone who could just sit down and game. I have friends, many friends, who can do this. They can sit down at one end of an evening and beat up bad guys until the sun rises. Frankly, I’ve never admired this about anyone. “How can you be so close-minded to the world around you?” I thought.

I think it was a mixture of things that pushed me to this experiment. I wanted to see how my brain and body would react. Would my mom’s crazy rants be correct? Would my mind really turn to mush? And I wanted to try out a different lifestyle. Would I regret the time I wasted? Would I simply shut off and finally relax? (Something I haven’t really done in months.)

I was going to play video games for 24 straight hours. I was going to sit and game and turn my cerebral cortex into applesauce.

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Hour 1

I laid down the ground rules for myself earlier in the day. I get as many bathroom breaks as I want. I eat while I play. I talk while I play. I use the computer while I play. I get two 15 minute breaks. That’s it. I text my friends to come over whenever and I begin with a simple game of Madden ’11 on my friend Daniel’s Playstation 3, (He’s lent it to me so I don’t have to bear 24 hours on my original Xbox, which happens to be the most modern video game console I own.)

I begin my expedition at 11:57 p.m. on a Friday night. My friends think I’m an idiot for trying to stay awake for 36ish hours, but I decide to do it this way, so when I finish it’ll be midnight on Saturday night. I can then go straight to bed and sleep until next year.

As mentioned earlier, I’m dominated by the computer for the first half of my first game and I head into halftime down 24-7. Daniel comes over as my first guest as I begin the second half, and he suggests that I check the difficulty. I do, and it’s set to the hardest possible setting. I bring it down a few notches to give myself a fighting chance but still lose by 10. Daniel puts in a frozen pizza. I sit. I set up my first multiplayer game of the evening. I lose.

The rest of this article can be read here at theminaretonline.com.