Editor’s Note: This article is a part of a series of stories with the theme “consequences.” It was originally intended to be published in a print edition of The Collegiate. However, because of COVID-19 we were unable to make a hard-copy magazine.
By Devin Jones
In today’s age of smartphones, tablets, and game consoles, many parents often feel the need to encourage their children to spend less time in front of a screen.
My childhood was no different. From a very young age, I could often be found playing with my mom’s old Gameboy Advance, or my older cousin’s Nintendo DS. Some of my earliest and happiest childhood memories revolve around playing games with my friends while we were at daycare, or competing with my cousins as they played fighting games on their PlayStation 2.
Just like every other child who spends more time playing video games than playing with other kids, I was frequently reminded that spending too much time in front of a screen would rot your brain and that I should be spending more time around other kids my age.
For a while, I did. As a kid, I tried out baseball and football. I also picked up golf at an early age.
Despite my picking up sports and actually being rather successful while playing them, I always ended up coming back to video games in my spare time.
As I grew older, I dropped football and baseball, opting instead to focus on golf. Seeing as I grew up in Michigan, golf wasn’t a year-round option for me. Once the snow would start to fall and the golf courses would close, I would always head back to my room to hide away and play games with my friends into the late hours of the night.
Year after year, I would juggle my spare time between golfing, gaming and studying.
Within my group of friends, we had a routine: we would all choose a game to buy, play it for a month or two until we all got bored of it, find another game to play, then do it all over again. My group of five friends repeated this cycle every couple of months all the way from 6th grade through our senior year of high school, choosing to play almost every type of multiplayer game under the sun.
In the summer of 2016, the game that we settled on was a new first-person shooter game called “Overwatch.”
It instantly grabbed the attention of my friend group. We all bought the game within a couple of weeks and played it nonstop.
But instead of moving on after a month or two, I continued playing. Sometimes with my friends, sometimes by myself.
Something about the game clicked with me. The colorful cast of characters, the strategic element of the game, the mechanics. It all just made sense to me, so much so that it became hard for me to put down.
I ended up playing the game so much that my rank became too high for me to even play with my friends anymore.
Although not being able to play with my friends bothered me, I still enjoyed playing the game for what it was. Winning games, ranking up, and making new friends along the way all proved to be fun and rewarding in its own way.
Eventually, I started climbing toward the top of the ladder on PlayStation. Around that same time, some of my friends in another friend group of mine tried convincing me to put some money into building a gaming PC so I could play games with them as well. I eventually gave in and bought a PC of my own.
“Overwatch” was the first game I bought.
At the time, I was in the middle of my junior year in high school. I was dual-enrolled in some college courses, which consumed the majority of my time. Consequently, I couldn’t really spend much time playing video games. But once summer rolled around and I had some time on my hands, I decided to put some time into relearning “Overwatch” on a new platform. Much to the chagrin of my parents, of course, who would have preferred to see me spend my free time in a more productive way.
I never had a set goal in mind when I was playing. I just enjoyed the process of improving and the feeling of winning games.
As time went on, I started playing less often with my old group of friends. At this point, we had all graduated high school and went our separate ways. Since I had already taken some college courses when I was in school, it only made sense for me to continue down that path and finish my associate’s degree at Grand Rapids Community College.
While wrapping up my general education courses, I continued playing “Overwatch” in my free time. I ended up surpassing the rank that I peaked at while playing on PlayStation, which meant I had achieved my long-time goal of reaching the highest rank in the game.
Towards the end of my second-to-last semester at GRCC, I began looking for a school that I could transfer to in the upcoming fall.
While searching, I was informed that a college near me with a program that I was interested in had a fledgling eSports program that was just coming off of a successful first year. One of the games that they had a varsity team for happened to be “Overwatch.”
I promptly reached out to the head of the program.
Coincidentally, they had an opening at the position that I was the most proficient at.
I was quickly offered an eSports scholarship significant enough to make school affordable for me and my family.
I am currently wrapping up my final semester at GRCC and preparing to transfer to Aquinas College in the fall to be a member of their Varsity Overwatch Team, an opportunity that was only made available to me after years of hard work put into improving at something I never considered anything more than a time-wasting hobby. Although my eyesight might be slightly worse than it would have been otherwise, it seems at this point that the biggest consequence of spending so much time playing video games was a scholarship that is going to help set me up for the rest of my life.