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My Word

Truth, and fun, of video gaming in Laurel [Commentary]

By Ian Kirksey

3:45 PM EDT, August 15, 2013

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When I was in high school, I had a friend over who happened to share an interest in video games. We were both engaged in a particularly rough game of "Dead or Alive," a fighting game. My mother walked in on us and commented on how we were glued to the screen and how when she was growing up, she thought that video games were just a fad.

Man was she wrong.

Today the video game industry is a multibillion dollar industry that is second only to cinema in terms of appeal and could very well surpass it in the next decade, according to DFC Intelligence, a strategic market research and consulting firm focused on interactive entertainment. Video games have been a part of our society for decades, but I do think that the social aspect of the medium is not as respected by those who either weren't among the first brave pioneers of the virtual landscape or were not raised at a time when a computer or game console was as common in the home as a television. For many of the people who I've grown up with, video games have presented a great way to bond and form lasting friendships.

There are two categories of gamers: casual gamers, who are in it to have a good time and enjoy the experience; and hard-core gamers who eat, sleep and breath video games and plan to be a part of the industry or become professional gamers.

In Laurel, I've come together with several other game-lovers in a group called the Shadow Cloud Society. The name is derived from two popular characters in video game history: Shadow from "Sonic the Hedgehog," and Cloud from "Final Fantasy 7."

The SCS began with about 10 members as the Laurel High School Gaming Club four years ago. It has since grown to about 20 people in the Laurel area who are a mix of casual and hard-core gamers.

The group as a whole only meets two times each summer, once at the beginning and once at the end, since most of the members are college students and not in the area for much of the year. However, small groups of members often meet up in what we call "jam sessions" to play games and discuss the industry for hours.

Laurel resident Cleveland Cook, who founded SCS, designs games and has written scripts for several games he hopes to develop into masterpieces one day.

"I really can't wait to get into the field," Cook said. "I've spent so much time playing games that I want to get into it and create the games I know others really want to play."

Cook said that most of the SCS members want to get into game design, and also be part of the gaming industry.

"It's really been a very influential part of my life and theirs, so we want to give back," he said.

I also think that there may be a misconception about gamers by those who think that people who play video games are violent, are lacking in social and practical skills or that their brains are rotted out. I can tell you for sure that most gamers don't follow any of the stereotypes and are just members of another subculture, one that has accrued its own set of rules, rituals and traditions.

Here are a few for those who may be unacquainted with such things:

Treat the equipment (consoles, controllers and cords), games and gear with respect. If not there's no point to being here.

If you lose or die and there are more than two gamers, pass the controller.

Don't spam. Spamming in video games is similar to email spamming and is a continuous barrage of cheap, useless stuff, or in the case of video games, powerups and attacks.

Leave everything in the game. Whatever is said during a match or round stays in the game and should not be carried back into reality.

Ian Kirksey is a 2011 graduate of Laurel High and a student at Frostburg State University.