Aaron W. Voyles looks at the way video games positively impacted a member of his campus community.
Statistics-wise, I am unsure on videogames. A lot of what is reported is about negative trends and consequences of gaming. The same often happens in articles about collegiate men: we start citing statistics. We start talking about how “men are falling behind” and then begin the list of negative trends that they are experiencing.
These trends don’t really do justice to relaying the experience that many are having, though. There are plenty of men at my current institution not getting into conduct trouble and not having bad GPAs. In fact, there are plenty of men doing great in college.
And there are also men who do great in college but then have maybe one aspect that they are really struggling with. I am believer that sharing stories helps us learn, so I want to share a little more about a specific struggle I have seen from a college man.
When I took over the all-male residential community at a previous job, I had a Resident Assistant working for me who was really into World of Warcraft. I must admit I don’t know much about clans or where to get the Mr. T grenade. When he spoke of Orcs, it sounded like a different language to me. I dismissed it as a hobby and not much to offer to our educational mission.
One of my Graduate Assistants, however, was also into World of Warcraft and bonded with this Resident Assistant over it. They started talking about it on the hall. It led to programs and events based around videogames. They developed a triathlon that involved Chess, Madden, and ping pong that involved much of the community in both videogames and not.
As I was discussing the performance of our staff with my Graduate Assistant, videogames came up again. This Resident Assistant, it seemed, was using World of Warcraft to interact with some of his residents. A resident on his hall, it seemed, wouldn’t really interact with anyone. He kept to himself. He kept quiet. He stayed in his room. Nobody was sure if he was okay.
We would consider this resident “at risk.” We know that if we keep residents connected to programs, their hall, and the university, they are more likely to complete their degree. We also know that residents who aren’t connected are at a higher risk for depression and potentially suicidal ideation.
What our Resident Assistant found out, however, was that through connecting on World of Warcraft, he was able to talk to the resident. The resident opened up to him more through that videogame than he did in person. Because we were able to make that connection online, we knew more about the resident’s wellbeing and how to keep him connected to the community as a whole.
Where I question this method is as to whether or not the videogames have increased the isolation of residents or if this videogame offered an outlet for a resident who otherwise would be completely isolated already. It’s possible that videogames tap into and develop a more isolated personality in people. But I think it’s equally possible that they provide a positive outlet and communication venue for people who otherwise wouldn’t feel comfortable.
No matter how that societal structure is formed, however, it was firmly in place for this resident when he arrived at our campus. By being able to reach into his world in a videogame, the Resident Assistant was able to communicate with him and connect. We weren’t able to bring this resident completely out of shell throughout the year, but we were able to let him know that we were a support for him and he could talk to us if he became overwhelmed.
When I think about videogames and the college male, I think that a lot of us practitioners are not pushing far enough into how they could be a positive resource. I am thankful to this Resident Assistant for showing us a new way to connect. I, for one, now look at something I thought as frivolous as potentially developmental, and that’s a great reminder for how we have to continually adapt in order to support young men.
Ditching the Dunce Cap is a weekly Friday column from Aaron W. Voyles on the University of Texas-Austin. He welcomes your comments. This column is not affiliated with the university.
—Edits by Nancy Lien
Also in Ditching the Dunce Cap:
Could I Be an Expert on College Men?
Commitments that Compete
Broken Lantern Blues
Speaking with the Language of Responsibility
My “Career” as a Rock Star
Do We Just Complain About College Men?
I Can’t Write About Football
To Ditch the Dunce Cap
Can You Manage the College Male?
“Have at it, Boys” and College Men
The Challenge of Male Mentorship
Becoming a Beard Mentor
College Made Me Think I Hated Beer
An Ode to My College Roommate
Examining the Axe Effect
When Will You Grab Your Saw?
Do You Know the Mega-Dump?
If the Shoe Fits, Cheat