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Video Game Enthusiast

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In your spare time these days, you're an international spy, a pro race car driver, a super hero and a BMX trickster. You're conquering thousands of enemies in a post-apocalyptic world and you're racing down cliffs at top speed on a mountain bike, pulling back flips along the way.

Clearly, you've discovered the latest generation of video games.

There have been a lot of waves, or generations, of video games over the past few decades. Shortly after home video game systems first came on the market in the mid-'70s, classic systems like the Atari 2600 were popular. In 1985, the Nintendo home video game system appeared, which led to a new era in graphics and ease of play.

Systems like the original Nintendo video game console were 8-bit machines. This means it took 8 bits of computer memory to run the game console. When systems like the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis were introduced in the early '90s, they amazed players with their 16-bit technology.

Then along came the Nintendo 64 in 1996, with 64 bits, and a level of graphic design and play that no one could have imagined two decades earlier. Sony, with their very popular Playstation, became one of the big players. And Microsoft's Xbox is very popular today.

That's only a quick history of video game consoles, a history that involves at least five "generations." A new generation begins when a major technological advance occurs, such as the jump from 8-bit to 16-bit consoles. Today's games are fast, engaging and often quite time-consuming.

Like many technologies, video games change quickly. Certain systems get outdated fast. If you want to keep up, this can be quite an expensive hobby. Both new systems and new games can come with a hefty price tag.

"Games are expensive," says gamer Vangie Beal. "This irks me to no end. Obviously the prices of a new game reflect the industry's knowledge of just how much parents cave in to their kids' requests. The fact that games clearly intended for young kids carry a $50 - $80 price tag annoys me."

She recommends buying used games or looking in department store bargain bins for new games to save some bucks. But no matter how you go about it, this hobby can put a bit of a dent in your wallet.

"Early adopting of new technology is expensive," says Drew Northcott. Northcott is the president of a video game club at a university. "When systems first come out is when they're the most expensive." "Prices do drop eventually," he continues. "I always think it's a good idea to wait before jumping on a new system. A Playstation 2 was $500 when it was first put on the market, but now you can get one for about $150 and a couple games for $30 each."

If you're really interested in video games, there are lots of careers relating to games. Programmers find many jobs in the industry, but places like video game magazines and arcades could also be hiring. Many companies need video game testers to test new games.

Video games can be played alone, but they can also be a very social. However, there is video game etiquette that must be followed.

"Share the game when in a group," says Northcott. "No one likes a game hog. Also, try not to be a sore loser or a bad winner when playing. Certain games can be very competitive, so good sportsmanship is always an important thing to have."

"It tends to be similar to etiquette in sports," says Duke Ferris. He's the executive producer of an online video game magazine. "Skill is respected, as is good teamwork. A certain level of sportsmanship is expected -- although it is also expected that a certain percentage of people are going to be jerks, anyways."

That's another aspect of modern gaming that didn't exist in past generations of consoles. Through the Internet, people can play against other gamers on their console. You could play someone you've never met who lives on the other side of the world! That option wasn't available when poor Mario was first struggling to save Princess Toadstool on an 8-bit Nintendo system.

Getting Started

When looking for a system, ask some friends and video game store employees which system might suit you and your needs best. Try to find one that's not already going out of date, though.

"My advice is to look at the games each system has to offer," says Northcott. "Whichever one has the most games that you want to play the most is the one you probably should be looking at. As long as it's within your budget."

You won't need to buy anything besides a television to hook your console up to. The systems often only come with one controller; if that's the case, you'll have to buy a second controller for two-player games.

You do need to be cautious about the potential health hazards of playing. If you have epilepsy and are photosensitive (which means you can have seizures triggered by flashing lights), there may be a risk of seizures. There are also other concerns, such as wrist or eye strain and nausea brought on by the fast-paced graphics.

If you're going to keep up with the current generation of video games and be on board as soon as the next generation comes around, you'll want to stay updated. There are several magazines and websites devoted to video games. Don't be left behind, and have fun!


Entertainment Software Association
Find stats and information about video game usage here

Game Girlz
A place for girl gamers to come together

Game Revolution
Excellent online resource for game

Electric Playground
Insider news

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OCAP believes that financial literacy and understanding the financial aid process are critical aspects of college planning and student success. OCAP staff who work with students, parents, educators and community partners in the areas of personal finance education, state and federal financial aid, and student loan management do not provide financial, investment, legal, and/or tax advice. This website and all information provided is for general educational purposes only, and is not intended to be construed as financial, investment, legal, and/or tax advice.