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Video games’ next victim

I was not a big fan of video games. In my experience, they have the power to bind people to their rooms for endless hours, and in worse cases, can warp one’s priorities. I know – my brother’s addicted.

What’s so great about these games? In my quest to find out, I decided to play one – but not just any one.

Halo 2. Online.

I chose a Thursday night to play. As I scanned the game manual, I realized how complex the game was. There is a wide weapon selection, from the BR55 rifle to the M90 shotgun and the Sub Machine gun to the plasma rifle. I was not sure what all those were, but I soon found out.

I named my avatar – or in game character – SalsaChik. I hoped that by seeing my newly adopted name, other players would see me for the “noob” (someone who is new to a game) that I really was and cut me some slack.

Before the game began, I had to choose which character I wanted to use. I chose a Spartan and customized it. A Spartan can be best described as a scientifically engineered soldier.

After putting on my headset, I started hearing the voices of other players. A few guys joked among themselves while others remained silent. I was among the silent.

As soon as the game began, all players began to run around. Moving through the game was easy, but my hands felt awkward doing everything else. I often found myself looking down at my controller before I shot at an enemy, only to find out that I was already shot.

The game was exciting. I felt like I couldn’t run fast enough, and whenever I saw a player from the opposing team, it felt like a true battle for my life. My heart sank every time I saw my Spartan collapse on the ground in a pool of blood. I enjoyed picking up new weapons from the floor and trying them out.

At times I imagined other players questioning my longevity in the game because of my odd behavior. There was one incident when a vehicle named the Warthog (which looks more like a big cat or a puma) drove by and stopped in front of me. Not sure of what to do, I began to run in the opposite direction. My friend started yelling at me, explaining to me that they were part of our team and wanted me to get on and operate the gun in the back of the vehicle. I didn’t even know how to get on the vehicle, so I let it go.

My goal was to kill one player. It may seem a low standard, but I couldn’t expect too much during my first game.

After the first game, I’m glad I didn’t expect too much. I had zero kills, zero assists and zero suicides. I scored slightly higher in deaths: 10.

After the second game, I though I has improved: I’d killed two other players. I was happy with my progress until a friend pointed out I hadn’t improved at all. In fact, I had zero kills, two assists, zero suicides and 16 deaths – six more than in my first game. A big letdown, but I wouldn’t give up.

The only time my eyes strayed from the television screen was between games. I became accustomed to my surroundings in the game, and began to recognize each weapon before picking it up. I was so engaged that I later noticed my mouth was open half the time.

The third game was my final try. I noticed my movement was more fluid this time. I had one kill, no assists, no suicides and five deaths. Eleven fewer deaths than the previous game – I could hardly believe it.

As I turned over the headset to my friend, I began to wonder. As sad as it sounds, I understood deep down why someone could become addicted to video games. They’re highly engaging. My pride had prevented me from stopping. As soon as one game ended, I found myself trying to improve my score again. It was fun to interact with other players while they yelled into their headpieces. I was part of a community that isn’t really considered a community by most.

Would I play Halo 2 again? Definitely – I need to improve my score.