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Commentary: Intramural video gaming?

BY IAN MARTIN | DECEMBER 16, 2009 7:30 AM

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It’s far-fetched, it’s unlikely to ever happen, and it’s not even a real sport. But intramural video games ought to be the next step for Recreational Services.

While no formal survey has been done at the UI, a quick walk down my dorm floor found that at least eight out of 10 males play video games either on the modern Xbox 360 or the nostalgic Nintendo 64.

So why not make virtual reality into an intramural sport?

No, it’s not really an sports event, but if we have Bowl Pick ’Em and NCAA Tournament predictions, there is some precedent to the hand-eye coordination and experience that so many Iowa students have developed in their spare time.

Using popular titles such as Halo 3, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, or old-school cartridges such as NBA Jam or Super Smash Bros., Recreational Services would gain more exposure among a community that stereotypically is not athletic.

Although, one may be surprised by the number of players a video-game tournament could attract.

At Youngstown State University, an innovator in intramural video games, the 64-person field Madden tournament filled up in just hours, and had an extensive alternate list.

And in Iowa City, the majority of players I know are people who are athletic, socially normal, and relatively acne free — the opposite of the normal gamer stereotype. This plays on to the next idea: a fusion between the actual game and video games.

Much like the sport of chessboxing, which alternates between mental and physical prowess, there could be a game where your actual basketball game score is added with your two captains’ scores from when they played NBA 2K10.

Or imagine the title of being the intramural gaming champion. Seems nerdy at first, but I would wear this shirt with pride.

If there was a shirt that said “Iowa Madden champion” — or in my case “Iowa FIFA champion” — that’s an instant attention-grabber, albeit not an aphrodisiac of any kind.

Pertaining to the women, though, is the probability that this idea will in no way attract female participants to Recreational Services. Yet, as a decent gamer myself, I can think of numerous times women have held their own in virtual gaming.

Mariokart, Mario Party, and Wii Sports seem to be of a particular interest in my personal defeats. And just think, this is finally the intramural sport where men and women compete on a completely even level.

I’m not advocating that this should replace intramural sports or even become a main event. The most important thing Recreational Services does is promote active lifestyles for students and give kids a forum for being active.

But it is also a social activity, allowing for students to meet other students who have a common interest.

There is one more possibility the university might thank Recreational Services for.

Let’s say these tournaments or leagues are held on Thursday or Friday nights, as part of the “alcohol alternative” program. Intramural sports typically do not operate on these nights, seen by many students as a time to be social and drink.

If it was a one-off event instead of a league to commit to, though, I know I would stay sober on a Friday to prove my worthiness in NCAA Football 10 or even try my hand at a lesser game.

There’s obviously a lot of different possibilities that could come from intramural video games, and Recreational Services should try it at least once just to see how it would work.


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