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Game Day

In 1860, a successful lithographer by the name of Milton Bradley created what has become a classic board game, The Checkered Game of Life. Now simply known as LIFE, the game has since gone through five different versions to accommodate societal change, such as rising inflation and the development of modern technology. From college to retirement, joblessness to employment, and singledom to marriage, LIFE portrays our everyday going-ons as a mere game with a multitude of possible alterations and surprises.
While critics ofLIFE protested that the game was much too simplified to even imitate our quotidian lifestyles, Bradley’s creation does attest to our long-standing tendency to immerse ourselves in games. Whether we’re talking board games, role-playing games, mind games, football games, puzzle games, mind games, love games, or even game theory, games form a great part of our lives. Their magic lies not only in their entertainment value, but also in their ability to draw us from one reality into another, from one life into another.
The escapism that games provide forms an integral part of UChicago. For its 2009–2010 admissions season, the University kept its traditional quirky character by releasing the following question for prospective students to answer:
“…we at the University of Chicago take games seriously. We bet you do, too…. Think playfully–or play thoughtfully–about games: how they distract us or draw us into the world, create community and competition, tease us and test us with stakes both set apart from and meaningful to everyday life. Don’t tell us about The Big Game; rather, tell us about players and games.”
If the prompt itself isn’t enough to drive the point home, consider the first annual Humans vs. Zombie (HvZ) campus-wide game that occurred during winter quarter in 2010. Organized by first-years Kevin Wang, Jessica Goodman, Edward Warden, and second-year Michael Miller, the game was put together almost on a whim as students sought ways to last through a classic and cold Chicago winter.
With midterms, papers, and the weather keeping students indoors, the four students found a solution to try and bring fun to campus. In the end, 100 students total signed up to play the game.
“[Students] have games [like Scav and Assassins] in spring quarter, but there really wasn’t anything going on in winter quarter probably because of course loads and the weather,” Wang explained. “We wanted to give the students something they could really enjoy during the winter to take their mind off of things.”
But was the best part really just about having fun?
According to three players from Breckinridge, it was abandoning their school persona in favour of a completely different one that was the best part. While HvZ’s organizers originally elected to host the game because it “was a game that [students] could play just walking to class in the Quad,” many participants found themselves breaking away from their normal routines and diverting the energy usually reserved for academics into assuming their new characters.
“I feel as though we live in a ‘UChicago Bubble,’ and I found that playing [HvZ] broke the bubble and instead of directing all my skill towards schoolwork, I refined a lot of my talents through playing that game,” explained first-year James Porter. “Games teach you a lot in ways that aren’t necessarily available in the classroom.”
Citing their heavy workload as a major source of stress, students found relief by dedicating themselves to the game—completely abandoning their past routines and delving into their inner nerf gun–wielding or bandana-wearing persona.
But here at UChicago, no other game forces students to forgo their academic-heavy lives more than Scavenger Hunt (Scav), otherwise known as the largest scavenger hunt in the world. For four days students compete (very intensely) to find approximately all 300 items on the Scav list. While many students do choose to attend their classes during the four days, many more are sucked into the Scav machine and remove themselves almost completely from the “UChicago Bubble” described by Porter. The virtually complete break from work draws students into an alternate reality from which, according to most Scav players, it is hard to recover.
Part of what makes Scav so incredibly enticing, according to Max Palevsky Scav Captain Nick Pedroso, is that there is a role for everyone, making Scav an all-inclusive contest. And when students can transfer their talent into the alternate reality that is Scav, not only can they hone those talents in a highly interactive setting, their entry into the second reality seems complete. Pedroso understands the depth of the retreat and laughs when he remembers the transition back to UChicago reality after the event.
“You literally party for days afterwards because you can’t believe [Scav is] over,” Pedroso maintained. “Going back to your academically-oriented life just feels so unnatural. But at the same time, when you go back you feel so calm and almost refreshed.”
College students’ fascination with games only attests to games’ powers of recovery and the importance of taking a break from work. The dedication to games UChicago students exhibit attests to their determination to work hard and play hard—a reflection of the strive to lead a balanced lifestyle in an academically charged environment. Games offer students the chance to recuperate and return to work with a clearer mind and even more vigour.
Therefore, before you return to your planned nightly homework sessions, think about playing for a little while. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, and school need not be dull.

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Annie Pei

U Chicago

Annie is a Political Science major at the University of Chicago who not only writes for Her Campus, but is also one of Her Campus UChicago's Campus Correspondents. She also acts as Editor-In-Chief of Diskord, an online op-ed publication based on campus, and as an Arts and Culture Co-Editor for the university's new Undergraduate Political Review. When she's not busy researching, writing, and editing articles, Annie can be found pounding out jazz choreography in a dance room, furiously cheering on the Vancouver Canucks, or around town on the lookout for new places, people, and things. This year, Annie is back in DC interning with Voice of America once again!
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