Higher Learning: Rehabilitating My ESPNU College Town Addiction

B.M.O.C.

My college years are gone but not forgotten. I graduated in the winter of 2004, walked earlier that May. It was important for me to participate in the same commencement as my closest friends, as it was to get my diploma a semester after my homies got theirs. Seven years later, my last memories from going to school Upstate New York are highlighted by the adventures lived by me and my crew. We became tight the summer before we began our freshman year. Thanks to the college’s summer program that prepped its recently admitted high school grads, we were in for an experience that would be like no other at a learning institution. So they would hope. Whether or not we were on campus, or if class was in session, we left an impression on the student body (racking inventory from the student-run convenient store) and on our professors (taking over their lectures). Our jokes don’t even have an expiration date. “Yo Deenda called you today.” “Who?” “De end of my dick!” Pause. Rehashing moments from our past actually get better over time. Any topic is fair game, including the girls that got away. Moment of silence. Camaraderie like that between friends shouldn’t be complicated, nor duplicated. That’s in part why people take graduate school so seriously. You’ve gotten four years of fun, games and debauchery out of your system during undergrad, now there’s no time or money left to waste on getting your Master’s, PhD, or what have you. These days, tapping our alumni peers has become easier because of the improvements in communication. Our intravenous connection to our smartphones and computers make our friends more accessible. But there is still a disconnect with the human element that can’t be replaced.

Praise Facebook for building bridges to people we might have grown far from. A Facebook account grants you access to a database of individuals, sharing the most minuscule parts of their lives like the tipping etiquette for taxi cab rides to the details of their baby’s birth. On the other side of Facebook’s promising improvement to your relationships lies its other vice, social gaming. The addiction to keeping up with what your friends are doing is nothing compared to Facebook’s Bermuda Triangle of game applications. Once you go off the reservation, you can be trapped by games like Mafia Wars, Car Town, and my most hated, ESPNU College Town. It got me, and it can get you too. Beware, the shit is real. But it’s virtual, so it’s fake. You follow? Okay. College Town for all intent and purposes, shares a common thread with one of its precursors, Sim City, and the many subsequent incarnations of simulated life where players get to play God. College Town grants you the ability to erect places like admission buildings, dormitories even skate parks for your student’s recreation.

While I was creating a miniature version of the college life I already lived, present day was passing me by. But it was so much fun! It was like drinking without the messy hangover; smoking without the early signs of emphysema. Enough time playing College Town though, my brain became numb. Nothing a little cat nap, forehead planted on the keyboard couldn’t remedy. During the 2010-11 NCAA college basketball season, I built basketball arenas running championship games while I watched them from my living room. After waiting an hour for my fake basketball game to finish, I earned thousands of campus dollars that I could use to buy more virtual real estate for cafeterias, hair salons, or video game cafés. Disgusted yet?

No matter how much property you own in College Town, the ultimate goal is to keep school spirit high. One fast way to that happiness is through this little kicker: by building campus amenities charging the campus cash to your credit card. Things like a bungee tower, or the upgrade from an academic building to a complex can cost you $5-$10 bucks of real money you could use on a sandwich. This is the power of Facebook Credits, which can be purchased at stores like Best Buy, Wal-Mart or on FB to be spent on items with a Facebook Credit price tag. That was one of my breaking points. I couldn’t resort to using virtual currency for such a meaningless purpose for video gaming. It just didn’t seem worth it even though I was already used to paying a yearly subscription fee to play against a millions of players on XBOX Live. A player’s expertise in College Town is based on how often they are logged in to the social network to play it. While its gameplay is worlds apart graphically from Halo Reach or Lego Batman (available on XBOX, PS3, and Wii, respectively) College Town reinterprets complex button combinations to simple clicks of your mouse. Essentially any age can play a Facebook game. Also because they are free, the audience is even greater. Truth be told, (I apologize for offending die-hard gamers of College Town or any of the like) but many of these games are actually not played by Americans. In countries where Facebook is accessible, like South America, India, or parts of Europe, these social applications rival the popularity of Microsoft XBOX, Sony Playstation, and Nintendo Wii titles. Who cares if you went to college or if you don’t have ties to the mob, here’s your chance to live vicariously by exploring the social nuances associated with these intricate worlds. It’s not for everybody. Consider yourself lucky if Facebook games are a complete mystery to you, and you have no idea what I’m talking about. Below are snapshots of the properties I own in College Town. It doesn’t matter how much time it took to make them, plus maintainance. There’s absolutely nothing to be proud of here.

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