Split-Screen 2016

Split-Screen 2016

The simple joy of playing together.
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In our modern world of constant online connectivity, where the latest tech keeps us in contact despite distances that once divided us, sometimes we forget how disconnected we really are.

Video games have been a major presence in my family's household since I was little. Though my parents have no interest in them whatsoever, my brothers and I have been spelunking in virtual worlds for as long as I can remember. We jumped aboard the online bandwagon pretty late, spending most of our time playing single-player or, as many kids used to do, sharing a cramped television set to play together.

The Nintendo 64, Sony's classic PlayStation 2, and the original Xbox were all staples of our collective childhood. Oftentimes arguments over who got to play next would be solved by our mother or grandmother giving us the exasperated ultimatum to play together or not at all. Whether it was playing against one another in "Donkey Kong 64" and "James Bond 007: Nightfire," or cooperatively in "Halo: Combat Evolved," we spent a great deal of time with the television set split into separate viewpoints.

As we've grown up and tech has improved we've each gotten our own TVs and game systems. We rarely, if ever, play games together. New games or consoles coming out will still send us into an excited chatter with one another, but experiencing them together isn't quite so common. So, when I came home for Thanksgiving and found my brother shoving a PlayStation 4 controller in my hand to play a few rounds of "Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare" and the newest instalment of the Zombies game type in "Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare," I also found myself relaxing more than I had in a long time. There was a familiar comfort to it, even though I hadn't played a "Call of Duty" game in years and found out how bad I'd gotten, something felt weirdly right. I quickly fell back into old patterns of playfully trading insults and desperately asking for help as we battled one another and worked together for several hours of the night. I often tend to prefer more solitary gaming experiences, journeying alone through whatever world the designers created for their players, but moments like these have the ability to feel special far more easily than playing alone.

While it isn't something that crosses my mind very often experiences like this bring a rush of youthful nostalgia that clears my head of the things that normally trouble a millennial college student with anxiety. It takes all the gunk of ever expanding adulthood and washes it off to reveal slivers of the childish joys underneath. Split-screen gaming may have fallen out of style since the dawn of online gaming, but that certainly does not mean that it has lost its worth. Many modern games lack the option to split the screen up like the old days (as unnecessarily grizzled as that may sound), but when one does it allows itself more versatility and intimacy.

Cover Image Credit: Redbull.com

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Does Technology Make Us More Alone?

Technology -- we all love it and we all use it, but how is it affecting us?
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In this day and age, it is near impossible to do anything without the use of technology. You can pay your bills, manage your bank accounts and even chat with a customer service representative all with the use of your smartphone.

Is the use of technology starting to take away from our person-to-person interaction? Think about how often you grab your smartphone or tablet and text your friends instead of picking up the phone to call them or, better yet, making plans to hang out in person.

Technology is supposed to make us feel more connected by allowing us to stay in touch with our friends by using social media sites such as Facebook or Twitter and of course, texting. But are our smartphones getting in the way of socializing? Does technology make us feel more alone?

There is a term that is commonly used, "FOMO" –– short for "fear of missing out." Yes, this is a real thing. If for some crazy reason you don't check your Twitter or Facebook news feed every 10 minutes are you really missing out?

The fact that we have become so dependent on knowing exactly what is going on in other people's lives is sad. We should be focusing on our own lives and our own interactions and relationships with people.

Technology is making us more alone because instead of interacting with our friends in person, we are dependent on using our phones or tablets. We start to compare ourselves and our lives to others because of how many likes we get on our Instagram photos.

We are forgetting how to use our basic communication skills because we aren't interacting with each other, anymore. We are too busy with our noses in our phones. Young kids are dependent on a tablet to keep them entertained rather than playing with toys. That is not how I want my children to grow up.

As a society, we will start to become very lonely people if we don't start making changes. We are ruining personal relationships because of the addiction to our smartphones and checking our social media sites every five minutes.

It's time for us to own our mistakes and start to change. Next time you reach for your phone, stop yourself. When you are with your friends, ignore your phone and enjoy the company of your loved ones around you.

Technology is a great thing, but it is also going to be the thing that tears us apart as a society if we don't make changes on how dependent we are on it.

Cover Image Credit: NewsOK

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4 Substitutes For Social Media

From an existential crisis at the eye doctor.

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Perhaps the most perplexing question I have ever received has been from my eye doctor. I go for a checkup every summer, and I get asked this same question every time, but for some reason, it always ignites an existential crisis in my soul. "How many hours do you spend on your phone?" Yikes. The first couple times, I tended to underestimate my addiction to my screen, "Maybe two hours," I would reply. This answer was always met with a scornful stare that dug deep into the brain. After a few years of back and forth, we settled on six hours, but part of me believes, in fact, knows, that I am once again underestimating myself. So how many hours do I truly spend on my phone? I am not one hundred percent sure. I know that there is a feature in the settings of my iPhone that can tell me, but there is no way I am ever checking that.

Why am I so scared of finding out the real number? Well, because it will simply confirm what I already know about myself: I spend way too much time on my phone, and I know I am not the only one. Besides the fact that my generation's eyesight will probably be shot by forty, we are locked into a virtual life and missing the one that is flying right before our eyes. We are all constantly trying to live the best lives, but is it for our own benefit or for the benefit of our social image? Graciously, I say that fifty percent of my efforts are heard towards the latter. So in this season of my life or extreme self-evaluation and in an effort to rewire my brain before I'm set in my ways when my brain stops developing, I am offering up substitutes to social media for my own benefit and for the benefit of my generational counterparts.

1. Instagram? Go on a walk instead

https://goodstock.photos/people-walking-by-street/

We love posting pictures of pretty things, but do we actually enjoy the pretty things? I mean, I rarely look at my 107 pictures of the Eiffel Tower. So maybe if we could substitute taking and posting pictures for Instagram, we would see so much more than our limited screen has to offer. There is life in nature and in cities. Breathing life. Not digital life.

2. Twitter? Why not hang out with your friends?

https://pixabay.com/en/fashion-young-people-teens-1219507/

I love a good laugh just as much the next guy, so Twitter is my go to for giggles. But how often do I actually laugh out loud to tweets in my bed? Okay, sometimes, I will admit it. But I have found that sharing tweets with my friends gives me the most joy, so why not, I don't know, share thoughts with my friends? Conversation. If you think your friends are funny online, boy oh boy you'll be surprised to see just how funny they can be in real life.

3. Facebook? Dear God, anything else. How about a book?

https://stocksnap.io/photo/H0VXBZUZP3

Ah, Facebook. I love reading posts that share every part of someone's daily life. You did laundry today? Awesome, Mom! A book, though, a book shares all the essential parts of a story. It's exciting. Riveting. I think we can all agree that we lose brain cells spending time of Facebook, but has anyone ever got dumber from reading? I think not.

4. Snapchat? Stare at your friends. It's awesome, trust me.

https://pixabay.com/en/boy-children-guys-human-watch-1105891/

Okay, this one is a joke. But seriously. There are a million things you can do other than sending pictures of your face back and forth with your friends (or you feet if you're having a fight). Bake a cake. Do some work. Discover your passion. Build real relationships. Half of the people I Snapchat, I don't even to.

TNow I'm not damning social media to Hell. It can be a fun thing, and it is engrained in our generation; it is not going away any time soon. My suggestions seem simplistic and silly, but are we actually prioritizing these things over social media? Probably not. But maybe we can learn to take a step back. Maybe we can learn to live our lives rather than living through our favorite vlogger. Maybe we can be able to face our eye doctors with honesty. Maybe we can gain back some of that wondrous gaze in our eyes that we had before they became blinded by the light of our smartphones.

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