Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
May 23, 2024

Different ways to game in college

By MINGYUAN SONG | April 8, 2024



Catan is a great board game to own and play with your roommates! 

I never played any games growing up. I didn’t have a Playstation or an Xbox, nor Wii or other Nintendo products. The closest I got were the ipad games like Clash of Clans and the free version of Minecraft that didn’t allow you to save your progress. I mostly just played basketball outside. 

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I didn’t want to, especially at the peak of Fortnite when every middle school boy jumped on after school, or during COVID-19 when most forms of interactions existed online. So when I got into college, part of me thought that I’d be free to explore whichever virtual world I wanted to — but school and life got busy, and it wasn’t until the beginning of my junior spring that those aspirations were realized. 

Nintendo Switch 

At the beginning of this year, my roommates and I finally got around to purchasing a Nintendo Switch, and along with it, Super Smash Bros and Mario Kart. It’s a big purchase for a college student but much less burdensome when split three ways. We had already purchased a second-hand TV when we moved in together, and it has just now proven useful. 

I sucked at both games to start, and my more seasoned friends certainly took advantage of my inexperience. Night after night I was thrown off stage or passed from behind, finishing last in almost every round that we played. But that didn’t take away from the fun. I figured that all the trash talking, discussions over strategies and cussing out of frustration was precisely what I missed out on. 

The Switch makes for a great laid-back party, too. We started to host more events and have people casually drop by for a game or two. It’s a great tool for socializing on nights when people don’t feel like going to a club or bar, but are still looking for something to do to destress from the week. Even if they suck at the games as much as I do. 


Another development that I didn’t expect was my new Minecraft realm. In a moment of brilliance, I came up with a digital date night idea of playing Minecraft together, which was quite well received by my girlfriend, Stella, since watching TVs and movies was getting old. Knowing nothing about Minecraft, I was surprised by the $30 price tag and the $16 a month for hosting a realm, but it was too late to turn back. 

I enjoyed the game a lot more than I thought: The open world provides space for unlimited creativity, the music creates a peaceful ambiance and there’s just something so relaxing about chopping blocks of sand and wood. Well, it was fun until the one infuriating night that the zombies killed me no less than five times (on medium difficulty, which I am ashamed to admit). We switched to creative mode after that. 

We are probably never going to build the fancy projects that we see on YouTube, but it doesn’t take away from the experience. It sounds cheesy but it does feel like we are building a little life together, which offers some intimacy that a long-distance relationship can sometimes lack. If you are looking for a cheaper alternative to a zoom game night date, I recommend “Agent A,” it’s an elaborate puzzle game and only $5.99. 


The Minecraft made it out of zoom and into real life over spring break!

Board Games

It doesn’t fall under the traditional definition of gaming, but I’ve always fancied a good board game night, and that hasn’t changed in college. It’s another great option for a laid-back Friday night with friends, and usually elicits more jolly conversations and less swear words than the Switch games. Well, perhaps Catan is an exception to that. 

Board games can get expensive, most of them ranging between $30 to $50. But I’ve always found that you don’t need many to have fun, and the replayability is key in selecting your collection. Currently, I only own Catan, Monikers and Phase 10, but each can be played many, many times over and combined can host a wide range of players. 

Those three are my personal favorites and great to start with, but if you can’t narrow them down, head over to No Land Beyond! It’s a board game bar that allows you to sample many different board games for five dollars per player. You can try out your options and pick your favorite to make it permanent.

For me, the Switch, Minecraft and board games are ultimately conduits for maintaining and deepening friendships and relationships. You probably won’t catch me building a house in Minecraft or playing against CPUs on my own. Everything should be done to a healthy dosage, and if you have some degree of self-control down, there’s nothing wrong with gaming away in college!

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