FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 9, 2007
EDITORIAL CONTACT: Lisa L. Rollins, 615-898-2919 or email@example.com
VIDEOGAMING RANKS AS TOP ACTIVITY AMONG COLLEGE STUDENTS
MTSU’s Kalinsky Says Hollywood Notes Industry’s Rocketing Popularity, Revenue;
Avid Gamers Insist They’ll Keep Overexerting for Nintendo Wii, Favorite Titles
(MURFREESBORO, Tenn.)—While there are many activities to constructively fill a college student’s free time, playing videogames continues to rank as a favorite pursuit of many.
According to one article in U.S. News & World Report, for instance, the ever-growing popularity of the videogaming industry has progressed far beyond its initial “stereotypical skate punk in the basement playing Doom” and continues to rival the popularity of TV. Never minding, of course, that in 2001 the videogame industry—for the first time ever—generated more revenue than did Hollywood’s box office.
“Hollywood’s definitely paying attention (to the videogaming industry),” said Dr. Bob Kalwinsky, assistant professor of electronic media communication at Middle Tennessee State University, who cites Blizzard Entertainment’s online World of Warcraft game as an unprecedented revenue generator for its makers.
Commonly referred to as WoW, World of Warcraft is a pay-to-play online role-playing game designed for multiple players. And in spite of initial performance issues, WoW has become the world’s most popular subscription-based online game franchise, with a spring 2007 subscriber base of 8.5 million players worldwide, including 2 million players in North America.
“World of Warcraft reportedly made $900 million in one year, and big box-offices such as ‘Titanic’ don’t make that much in a year,” noted Kalwinsky, who added that, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, the videogame industry generated some $10 billion in 2004—more than Hollywood cleared in the same period.
But why is gaming so popular, and especially among young adults?
“It’s a social experience, and we’re social animals,” Kalwinsky explained. “We want to interact with others, but gaming’s appeal goes beyond the interactive aspect. With gaming, you can explore an environment that’s different each time you play it and you have a great degree of freedom to explore.
“Beyond that,” he added, “look at the skills it’s developing such as your analytical abilities and flexibility. They’re wonderful things, these videogames. They’re experiential and you’re learning … and no other medium is going to offer you this.”
According to information from Gartner Industry Advisory Services, a Connecticut-based information technology research and advisory company, more than a third of all software purchases are for gamers 18 and over, with at least 22 percent of adults ages 25-34 playing online games at least once a week, including women.
What some videogamers might not know, however, is that playing these games—including the new but increasingly popular Nintendo Wii system—can be dangerous, if the gamer isn’t careful. Player warnings, in fact, are incorporated into game manuals such as the Wii instruction booklet, which advises, "WARNING—Repetitive Motion Injuries and Eyestrain. Playing videogames can make your muscles, joints, skin or eyes hurt.”
Few games, however, have made these dangers quite as real as those on the Nintendo Wii system, according to reports from avid gamers, including MTSU junior Jared Brickey.
"After a few rounds of Wii Boxing, Wii Tennis and Wii Bowling, I started to really feel sore in my right tricep and my right thigh muscles,” confirmed the Murfreesboro native. “It wasn't so bad that night, but man, was I sore in the morning."
Wii Sports, the game packaged that features the boxing, tennis and bowling games that gave Brickey’s muscles such a workout, has been the culprit of most injuries seen on gaming Web sites that report injuries by users.
In spite of the muscle strain that playing the system inflicted, however, Brickey said he intends to keep utilizing the Wii gaming system.
"I really do consider most Wii games to be more exercise than just about anything, at least with Wii Sports," he said.
Some videogamers, though, are quick to concede that they wound up on the wrong end of a Wii controller and sustained injuries they don’t care to repeat. Further, a perusal of gamer Web sites such as wiihaveaproblem.com reveals pictures of injuries endured by players as a result of indulging in videogaming, including photos of injuries sustained by players who said they overexerted themselves while playing, became too involved in a particular game, and ignored their physical limits.
One Nintendo Wii gamer known simply as Fred, for example, relayed his gaming-turned-injury story via wiihaveaproblem.com, saying, "My left foot slipped mid-swing, and my body was being twisted at (that) time … and my whole body weight went onto my right ankle!"
Admittedly, wrote Fred, he was playing Wii’s Homerun Derby game in his socks when he tried swinging the remote "as hard as I could." Consequently, he lost his balance and his ankle paid the price, but it’s not as if the console’s creators don’t warn players to guard against overexertion.
Aside from the "take a 10- to 15-minute break every hour, even if you don't think you need it" precautions outlined in user manuals, the Wii Sports games feature a pause menu that encourages players to take it easy, with a "Why not take a break?" message. Still, many do not.
Brickey, for instance, said he never pays attention to the break messages that appear on game screens.
“I'm going to play for five straight hours in Zelda when a game is that good,” said Brickey, who’s been an avid gamer for 15 of 21 his years.
Meanwhile, Shandora Dorse, a physician’s assistant at MTSU’s McFarland Health Services, said that college-age gamers such as Brickey who’ve played for years may be able to handle physical videogames better than older players, but it’s important for individuals to know their own limits.
“Let pain be your gauge,” advised Dorse, who said any stretching related to the upper body, neck and shoulder muscles can help reduce the risk of soreness or possible injury during gaming.
No stranger to seeing patients with gaming injuries, Dorse said, “What the Wii tries to do is get the kid motivated to play a game on their feet.” And Wii’s game-related aerobic workout, she noted, is preferable to the typical sitting-on-the-couch gaming that many participate in.
“Anything that you can do to move can be of value,” Dorse observed.
As for Brickey, “(The) Wii Play and Wii Sports … may be the best workout videogame console ever created,” he said. “At first I figured I was bound to be sore, but the more you do it, the more you adjust to it, and you aren't sore any more.”
Indeed, in spite of the potential for injuries, it’s unlikely that videogame enthusiasts will lose their zeal for the popular pastime.
“You can’t explore a film in the same way (that you can a videogame),” Kalwinsky observed, “and the game’s actually changing on a lot of levels each time you play.”
Unlike other media-related activities, he noted, when it comes to videogaming, “You engage with your imagination constantly … and it’s socially experiential, there’s interactivity and learning—and those are big things.”
As for whether it’s an enduring trend or merely a fad, no one can yet predict.
“I can’t say that it’s with us forever but it’s certainly with us for the immediate future,” Kalwinsky said. “Gaming is strong, and really, when have we not played games to begin with? Just on that basis alone it’s likely to be around awhile, but no one can predict for how long, really.”
• ATTENTION, MEDIA–For editorial needs, including to secure a jpeg of Kalwinsky or Dorse for editorial use, or to to request an interview with experts quoted in this story, please contact Lisa L. Rollins, Office of News and Public Affairs, at 615-898-2919 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.