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Video game obsession affecting grades even at college

Months after its release, Pokemon's newest game still causes huge distraction for college students.
A Nintendo 3DS with Pokemon Y.

A Nintendo 3DS with Pokemon Y. /LEJ Studios

The machines are taking over the world, and at Calvin College, it is sooner than expected.

On Oct. 12, the highly anticipated Pokemon X and Y games were internationally released. Stores worldwide like Gamestop, Wal-Mart and Meijer held midnight releases, according to each company’s websites, and sold out in many locations across the United States. Several months later, students at Calvin College are still obsessed with the game.

According to the Japanese company Game Freak Inc., in the short time it has been available to the public, sales for X and Y completely “shattered” previous records held for both pre-sales and actual copies sold for any Pokemon game in the historic franchise started in 1996. The late Hiroshi Yamauchi, president of Nintendo, the parent company of Game Freak, released a claim earlier in 2013 stating the sales of Pokemon games have been dwindling for the past two decades.

Clearly, that decline has been reversed.

Many college students across the nation, including notably at Calvin, picked up the handheld gaming systems for the newest installment in the Pokemon franchise. Some like Nick VanZalen have never stopped playing despite the franchise and still continue to play, having completed the game months ago.

“I went to the midnight release on Friday night,” VanZalen says. “And by the time I went to church on Sunday, I had completed the game.”

Gamers can interact with other players globally and can keep playing Pokemon X and Y long after the storyline is finished, contributing to students’ obsession with the game. A growing community of gamers has kept the game alive.

“The game alone has become a hobby of mine,” VanZalen says. “You can play online competitively and really get into it… and it takes up a lot of my free time now. It's better than other titles I play and really is huge for us.

Even those who haven’t spent the better part of two months glued to the Nintendo 3DS plan on logging in many more hours. Senior Northern Williams admitted the game has become a time consuming habit and takes more time out of his day than he’d care to admit; as the end of semester exams approach, he became worried about how this might effect his grades.

“I often carry around my [Nintendo 3]DS so that I can play when I’m not doing something else,” Williams says. “If I have some random time to check e-mails or study or something, it’s probably going to be spent playing [Pokemon] if I can. A lot of my friends play, which isn't helping me study."

Other students are catching on to this obsessive trend and have actively refused to be swept up in the hype. Underclassman Tyler VanZanten has resisted the growing urge to purchase the game, but his motivation for not buying the game is partially a financial one.

“You have to buy a new console,” VanZanten says. “If it wasn’t for that, I’d definitely already bought the game. But I’m glad I didn’t. I need to study. The tipping point for me was the cost; otherwise, I would have long ago bought [a Nintendo 3DS and Pokemon X.]"

VanZanten, a double major in mathematics and computer science, says he concentrates on school and devotes most of his free time during the week to studying.

“If I had bought the game, I know my grades would be in the tank,” VanZanten says. “I’ve seen how consuming this game can be for other people, and this isn’t middle school anymore. Grades matter.”

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