The popular wisdom fed to kids these days is that college is the cutoff age at which they become adults, and that the beginning of college is when they have to start working towards their futures. College is tough, and if you’re like most young people, this might seem like a point when you have to abandon frivolous hobbies you’ve enjoyed as a kid – such as video games.
But that is not only very wrong, it’s also ridiculous! It’s completely possible to keep gaming in college, as long as you do it right. So here are a few tips for how to survive college as a student gamer!
Bring (The Right) Consoles
Packing for college is an ordeal all on its own, with countless online advice articles dedicated to telling you what a freshman student should and should not bring to their dorm/apartment/residence. One thing that is usually absent from such lists is gaming devices, and it’s not hard to see why. Most consoles and gaming PCs are designed to be kept in one place, and can be cumbersome to transport even without the added baggage of a college move.
But consider bringing games along on your college journey. Just one console and a handful of games can go a long way towards easing some of the growing pains that come along with college. Scientific evidence suggests that gaming can help people more easily adjust to high-pressure situations and recover from high-stress periods.
But before you grab your nearest black box, or prepare to pack up your powerful gaming PC, consider how you want to game in the long run.
Say, for example, that you’re going for a degree that requires you to work in an environment where you’re not likely to be in a social space – such as in front of a TV with a console hooked up – for very long. Or your schedule requires you to be on the move a lot to get from class to class. Or you live far away from campus and you have to take public transport to get there.
These are all very common scenarios for college students. You could bring the most expensive console or the most tricked-out gaming PC on the planet to college with you, but it would be pointless if you aren’t going to be stationary long enough to use it. If you know that your college life won’t allow you to spend much time with your bigger consoles, consider bringing a handheld system with you to college.
Handheld devices like the PlayStation Vita and the Nintendo 3DS are compact, easy to store in a safe place, and can be turned on and off at a few seconds’ notice. If you are new to the 3DS, or you don’t have many games for it, we have a starter list of the best games for the 3DS. The Vita also has a number of games available for reasonable prices.
Gaming PCs are not technically consoles, but I’m classifying them as gaming devices for the purposes of this article. That being said, PCs have one advantage that regular consoles don’t: They can be used for many more things than just gaming. Even a desktop built from the ground up with just gaming in mind can have a word processor installed on it, meaning it can become a starter computer for a student gamer without wasting any of its potential.
But suppose you just have a desktop and you need portability? Many times in college you will be required to spend time in places other than your living space, or wherever you keep your desktop. If you have a tablet, this might not be an issue, as it is possible to turn your tablet into a makeshift laptop very easily.
If you have the money to spare, are a committed PC gamer, and want to bring your computer along with you, then consider getting yourself a gaming laptop. While it’s true that laptops are demonstrably less powerful than desktops, they do have the same advantages of a desktop PC while still retaining at least some of the power and adding portability. Also, Kannon has pointed out that gaming laptops can actually be a great choice for STEM students.
Consoles for Crowds
While consoles may not have the versatility of PCs, having certain consoles on hand means you also have an entertainment center. Xbox 360, Xbox One, and PlayStations 3 and 4 can play DVDs, with Blu-Ray being available in the two current-generation consoles. They also have apps that allow you to access various video streaming sites such as Netflix, Hulu, and HBO, as does the Wii U.
No matter what stationary console you have, consider bringing along a local multiplayer game and an extra controller. Beyond that, which console doesn’t really matter. You’ll find that most people will even be willing to play with older consoles like the Super Nintendo (which can be hooked up to a modern TV very easily), provided you have at least one good game for it.
Consoles also come with the added benefit of being easy for everyone to use. If you have a friend over and they want to spend a few minutes on your console, you won’t have to explain in detail how they work. Which raises another topic…
Connect with Other Gamers
One of the benefits of gaming is the multitude of ways it can bring you together with other people. If gaming is your favorite hobby, you already have something in common with millions of other people.
This is another reason why it’s advisable to bring a game with couch multiplayer potential along with you to college. The power of gaming to make friends locally shouldn’t be underestimated. You might find that even people who aren’t gamers – or don’t usually play your preferred genre – are willing to give it a try.
But even if you don’t have local multiplayer games, you can still make friends with other gamers. Many colleges have clubs specifically for gamers, and companies like Blizzard have involved themselves with college esports clubs. If you search online for clubs around your college, you might find a group of like-minded people on your campus.
Take Security Seriously
Depending on where you live in college, you could be in close quarters with other people on a fairly regular basis. And no matter how much you might think you can trust your new friends or roommates, the balance of probability is that someone with sticky fingers will wander into your living space — and your tech is likely to be the first thing they’ll grab.
There are steps you can take to protect your desktop PC from thieves, but you should take care to protect your consoles as well. It won’t be as daunting as it sounds. Sometimes protecting your stuff can be as simple as keeping it in a cabinet with a lock.
If you want to be extra careful with consoles that remain in a social space, a company called Secure Entertainment sells locking security cases that can be mounted to a flat surface, making your console more or less immovable. They have different models for each console, and they also sell security accessories for Kinects and controllers. If you know you’re going to be living in an area where strangers are going to be coming into contact with your consoles, this might be something worth investing in.
No matter what, take the same precautions that you would with any other kind of personal possession. Don’t leave your electronics unattended in a public place, even for a moment. If you think it might be unavoidable, consider investing in a locking cable.
Most laptops have a port for a Kensington lock and cable, but not all of them, so be sure to look. Some laptops have ports for different lock companies – Dell has ports for Noble Locks, for example – and you want to be sure you have the cable that works with your device.
Budget Your Time & Money Appropriately
One viable argument against taking games to college is that it can be a distraction from the work and social life that is supposed to take up the vast majority of a college student’s time. And, if you’re a gaming addict, then games are indeed likely to have a detrimental effect on your productivity.
On the other hand, there are other ways technology can make college easier. Check out this list of apps that every college student needs for a starting point. Beyond that, there are a number of productivity apps and sites that can help a freshman student with time management. With diligence and helpful resources, you can easily fit gaming into even the busiest of schedules.
Money might be another concern for young students. College is growing more and more expensive, and we’ve given college students recommendations for how to save money before, as well as a list of sites to help them find cheap college textbooks. But gaming can be a fairly inexpensive hobby.
Sure, if you are the type of gamer who buys every new release, you might have to curtail your habits. You might also, depending on your level of income, have to consider getting rid of things like MMO subscriptions, PS Plus, etc. But if you invest in a few games with replay value, and stick to only buying new games you know you’ll enjoy and play for a while, you might find that this is enough to satisfy you while having a minimal impact on your budget.
Gaming is the same as any other hobby that you carry over from before college. It requires some forethought to incorporate it into your new life in higher education, but it can actually be beneficial to you as you start a new phase of your life. So don’t stop being a gamer just because you’re going to college!
Are you a gamer going to college? If so, we’d love to hear from you! Have you managed to bring your games with you? Do you have any advice for freshman gamers? Let us know in the comments below!