Commentary

We Got Game

Toan, DotA?” asked Chuckie T. (Charles Tong ’09), still gasping as he had been running around the dorm finding people to join the teams. “Sorry, dude, I’m busy” – I responded. “Come on, Toan. We have nine people already. You in, and it’ll be five v five” “Uh, oh, if that’s the case, I’ll join,” I replied, as I opened Hamachi – networking software that connected our computers together for the next exciting sixty minutes. At Stuart, Friday night gaming has become almost a ritual. As boys around Andover dorms get wired up by internet access, weird phrases from a motley of games resound around dorms as game taunts are exchanged, as Starcraft’s tanks and hydralisks clash, as Counter Strike’s AWPs and AKs fire, as the heroes of DotA cast their spells. The shouts of “Terrorists win!”, “My life for Aiur!”, “Battle Cruiser Operational!” and “Godlike!” combine into a hodgepodge of sounds that create a joyous buzz of students temporarily freed from the shackles of academic life. Andover is not a place of stress as many lament. Andover students seem to be so miserable that the majority claimed to have only an average six hours of sleep in the All-School-Meeting with Dr. Maas a few weeks ago. Yet whether you know it or not, a diverse and energetic gaming culture still survives and even grows at Andover. Our school is still a place for fun – I mean wicked fun. Two months ago, when I came to Andover I thought I was to give up gaming for good. Yet at Andover I found the best gaming experience of my life. The fact that World of Warcraft is blocked does not mean there are no games to play. There are still tons of games: DotA, or Defense of the Ancients (an interactive customized Warcraft III Map), Starcraft (a Real-Time Strategy game), Counter Strike (the legendary shooting game) and a myriad of others. Impressively, we can proudly say students of a fiercely academic school still manage to enjoy the greatest luxury of teenage life: games. We can proudly declare that Andover students, as good as they are in academics, can perform brilliantly at gaming as well; though I have been gaming since sixth grade in various games as part of a large gaming community in Vietnam, in my dorm alone I have met the best counter-strike player I have ever seen, the best Starcraft player I have ever seen and the best DotA player I have ever seen. Not to mention those in other dorms, who frequently appear in our games and sometimes dominate over us. When I asked my house counselor, Mr. Lisa, what he thought about gaming, he repllied, “I think gaming is okay to a certain degree, you know, as long as you guys still keep other commitments and make yourselves healthy… But on the other hand I’d rather see you guys enjoy your weekend. Maybe it’s better to hang out with friends and socialize.” Mr. Lisa is right about the limitation of gaming. But Mr. Lisa probably doesn’t know one thing: gaming is indeed socializing. Gaming at Andover is not sitting in front of the computer screen wandering in virtual worlds like World of Warcraft, or on Battle.net challenging some unknown boys in some corner of the Earth. Gaming at Andover is interacting with your friends, classmates and dorm mates. Gaming is not isolation, but interaction. After games we would run around the dorm, either to mock the other dorm mates who lost, or to yell at the winners in fake anger and have a laugh at our own stupidity. All too often, my dear friend Max Png ’10 would exclaim “You’re a noob!” as he was trying to tease me after I performed miserably in a recent game against his superior skills, even I have played the game for two years and he has only played for two months. All too often I would retort “You damned lucky noob!” then challenge him for another game. I lose again, most of the time. (Poor me!) Fun as gaming is, there still exists a certain hesitance to talk about it. While enthusiastically playing the games, the gamers themselves balked when I talked about “an interview for The Phillipian about our gaming” as if they were talking to a crime investigator: Andrew Li ’10 : “Uh, I feel a little guilty about that because I’m kinda wasting my time”- said an honest dorm mate of mine who later wish to be identified as anonymous. Wongs Buranaphong ’09 (aka Max B.) : “Uh, oh, gaming is a ….uh…oh… I think it is a good escape from an otherwise stressful senior life” – One of my fellow gamers replied, still scratching his head hesitantly. I continued: “Then how much time do you spend gaming each week”? He answered “Too much. But don’t put me in the article. I don’t want the whole school to know that I game that much” Tony Feng ’10, a master DotA gamer: “Gaming is a good avenue to channel your stress” – “but some people get it out of control. For me, 3-4 hours a week is okay.” Come on, guys. I am not naming the culprits guilty for some evil sins. I am talking about people enjoying one part of the Andover experience with me. Andover is a fiercely academic school, but that does not mean that we should not promote gaming in its beneficial way. Gaming is fun. Gaming is a part of our jokes in Uncommons tables. Playing games, talking about them and enjoying them is still better than going on forever complaining about tests, grades and classes. We can play. Perhaps we can come close to having “varsity Counter-strike” or “varsity Starcraft” as we joked the other day. Or we can have a gaming club. We are gaming, we are having fun. We are not having sex . So there is no reason to avoid talking about it. Toan Nguyen is a new Upper from Hanoi, Vietnam. tnguyen@andover.edu