On Thanksgiving eve, Ann Arbor got its first true taste of winter. And to many folks, the initial snowfall means much more than just a change in season.
Frigid temperatures and harsh walking conditions breed full-scale lethargy among the Michigan student body. The intense, four-days-a-week workout programs that were so prevalent in the fall become a thing of the past. And that most novel of goals — actually attending the costly classes that force parents to delay retirement a few years — is lost.
Due to an acute wind chill that feeds on any human failing to don at least three layers of clothes, most Ann Arborites have trouble even walking through their front door. The harsh Michigan winter imprisons students in their campus abodes.
So, what the hell does anyone do from December through March?
In terms of the ladies, I’m absolutely bewildered at how the better half survives these next four months. “The OC” is only on once a week, and thefacebook.com has to lose its luster after a few days.
But I’ve got a pretty good gauge on how the male side of the student body endures a tough winter — and it has nothing to do with “Uncle Jack” or even a case of Natty Lights. Ann Arbor’s male scholars enjoy taking sporting escapades in virtual reality. Call us childish or foolish, but we truly immerse ourselves in the pseudo-realities of sports video games.
True, video games are a year-round activity. But during the winter, involvement noticeably increases, as Xbox and PS2 controllers seem to mold to the human hand for days at a time.
Although many people look down on these thumb calisthenics, I’m perfectly satisfied vicariously living my life through the virtual versions of Aaron Rodgers (sorry, Cal QB #8) and Kevin Garnett. Truth be told, I prefer the somewhat tranquil, unperturbed video game venue to the loud and obnoxious scene in the basement that is Rick’s.
I know that many of you can relate to me because in almost every male-dominated house across campus, the setting and characters remain the same …
The Setting: Epic battles in the virtual sports arena hardly ever take place in the most glamorous part of the house. In fact, the game room is isolated. While some people aren’t comfortable keeping the system in a high-traffic room, others are just embarrassed by their virtual passion. So, gamers are quarantined into a room that’s either upstairs or at the end of the hall; many times, the room belongs to the guy who stays up the latest (or the guy who sleeps the deepest). With a slew of couches and chairs, the game room is about as roomy as a hobbit hole. The game area is seldom cleaned; therefore, at least one of the following items can be found on the floor: a receipt from Pizza House that is at least two weeks old, a smooth coat of Funyun dust or a stack of dampened and ripped paper towel. The floor also plays host to a ball of cords far nastier than any Five Cross Sailor’s Knot. In special circumstances, when somebody feels extraordinarily ambitious, gameplay will move to the house’s main room. But this is a rare occurrence.
The Characters: This is what really makes the sports video game experience. With a host of personalities at the helm, the game room takes on a poker-table feeling. Although everyone has his own unique approach, most people can closely identify with one of the following five descriptions. These characteristics become extremely definitive in any game’s Dynasty Mode — in which players man the same team for multiple sessions.
The Champ: This name adheres to its obvious connotations. Every house has one dude that just dominates. The Champ plays a very quiet and relaxed game because his supremacy precedes any talk. His hand-eye coordination rivals that of Barry Bonds. The annoying part about The Champ is that he doesn’t really play all that much. Unlike his opponents, the game doesn’t completely have a stranglehold on The Champ’s free time. He never plays games against the computer, but instead just shows up at gametime and effectively dismantles any opponent. It’s kind of like that guy in your chemistry course that never makes it to class and fails to turn in a single homework assignment, but somehow receives an “A” on the final. He’s just a natural.
Mr. Green Thumb: The rookie — the guy that always watches games from afar, but sometimes feels a need to play. The rookie has a knack for infuriating any serious player with his annoying antics. On top of requiring a pregame button breakdown, Green Thumb constantly compliments his opponent and laughs his way through his own mistakes in careless fashion.
The Silent Assassin: This player possesses the most professional approach of the bunch. The Silent Assassin keeps his composure better than anyone else — hardly ever revealing even a hint of emotion, positive or negative. He also sports a mean poker face throughout each contest. But don’t mistake his calm demeanor as a symbol of somebody who doesn’t care — The Silent Assassin always comes prepared to battle. Besides putting in the most practice time against the computer, The Silent Assassin is the only player that sets all of his audibles, plays and lineups.
Too Cool for School: His cavalier attitude defines him. Too Cool For School is not truly passionate about the game; he’s just looking for something to pass the time until the babes and brews enter the equation. Too Cool For School is a Dynasty Mode killer because he’s hardly ever around to play his scheduled game. In many instances, Too Cool For School has a tendency to play “video game” style, meaning he’ll throw his integrity out the window and fully exploit the inaccuracies of the game system. This is the guy that finds the unstoppable play and calls it every down and also the guy that puts in his fastest wide receiver at quarterback so he can run peewee football-style sweeps.
The Mouth: The most notorious game player of them all. The Mouth is usually a middle-of-the-pack player that constantly claims he’s No. 1. When he’s winning, The Mouth is loud. But when he’s losing, he’s louder. The Mouth complains after every play that doesn’t go his way, and he often alleges computer favoritism toward his opponent. The Mouth can never end the night with a loss and throws the temper tantrums of a two-year-old until the winner agrees to run it back. The Mouth ranks as the most insecure player of the group. If anyone doubts his skill, The Mouth quickly resorts to guaranteeing a win “for any sum of money.” The Mouth bubbles with more lava than anyone in the room, and his eruptions cause mass destruction to the game room.
This motley crew of characters may seem unattractive to some, but I can’t imagine the college life without them. Besides quenching my competitive thirst, this setting has provided me with some of my most memorable times in college. Although I fulfill the role of “The Mouth” to a “T,” I’m generally a pretty relaxed guy. I can’t imagine spending my Saturday nights at a club, and I’m not a huge bar fly. So the game room is my spot.
Many people claim that college students waste inordinate amounts of time. I’d have to agree with this because, during college, I’ve thrown away thousands of hours of my life … outside of the game room.
Gennaro Filice can be reached at email@example.com.