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Playing With Others: The college years

3:00 PM on 02.01.2009 // Count Grishnack

[Editor's note: Count Grishnack talks about making new friends through videogames for January's Monthly Musing topic. -- CTZ]

[Authors note: I was inspired by neveranything's awesome blog about overcoming bullies through gaming. Go read it. Also, apologies for beating the buzzer, I hate when people do it and I'm sorry. -- Count Grishnack]

Growing up in a small town (my '04 high school class had 50 graduates) has its benefits. You know everyone, most of your friends live a stone's throw away and it's much harder for cliques to form. My close circle of friends and I hung out and played games all the time. Smash Bros and Bomberman 64 were awesome, even if they were years old. We ate lunch together, goofed off in class together and generally had a great high school experience.

But as it usually happens, we all went our separate ways once college came around. To say college was a difficult transition for me would be an understatement. Not wanting to leave all those great friends behind, I roomed with a friend of mine from high school freshman year of college. That was a big mistake.

Not wanting to make this intro any longer than it already is, let's just say he was a party animal and not the person I thought I knew. By the end of my first semester, I had no new friends, my roommate sucked and my only comfort came from gaming.

One game blew the doors open socially for me: Halo 2.

In 2005, Halo 2 was the game. My high school friends and I played it religiously -- having late night LAN parties with one TV upstairs and one in the basement. College brought a network that spanned the entire school, allowing for one to plug into the wall and join any game that was connected.

After a while, [warning: self-back patting ahead] I became somewhat of a legend among Halo 2 players. When my dorm held a Halo 2 tournament, I heard a few people talking about Grishnack and decided to admit that I was him. “Fuck you” someone told me, “You always own me.” I narrowly won the tournament and made a few friends on my floor who played the game. I also earned my college nickname: Grish.

The reason my grades weren't great.

But after more roommate drama, I decided I needed a move. I had heard rumblings that the sixth floor of my building was the “Halo floor” -- that all the most skilled, trash-talkingest and most ardent players lived there. I found my people.

Once I moved there and people found out Grishnack moved to their floor, I put faces to screen names. Some were bro-dudes, some were nerds, some were just your everyday college guys. But we all shared the common love of killing one another -- a bond that brought people of all different social groups together.

But I still wasn't “friends” with these people. They knew me through Halo 2 and only Halo 2. I wouldn't eat dinner with them or go out to parties with them. I was glad to have acquaintances on some level, but I still didn't seem to have as many friends as my high school buddies did at their schools.

Fast-forward to my senior year. After meandering around with a few close friends, I finally broke out of my shell and realized what everyone was talking about when they say college years are some of the best of your life. Most of the Halo 2 crew had graduated and the game had fallen out of popularity. Halo 3 wasn't nearly as big for as long, although I finally found a good roommate and that's how we first bonded.

But my floor was still heavily into videogames and I first found my best college friends through gaming. I would simply walk by someone's room, see them playing a game, strike up a conversation and bam, we'd be playing Smash Brothers or some Wii game.

My final two semesters at college were far too short, as the friends I had made were all awesome -- people who were into games as much as I was and people I hung out with outside of virtual worlds. We could spend a Friday night playing Brawl or Mario Kart or go to some house party, get drunk and pretend we were running to the safe house or we were Boomers as we puked. It was great.

That stomach is full of Bud Light.

I made some great memories senior year and left college on a high note. I went from a quiet kid from a small town on the Cape, to Grish -- a socially normal college guy with a bunch of great friends. And I have gaming to thank for that.

Count Grishnack,
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