Elias Iraheta, Watchtower Yearbook staff writer
She’s holding on for dear life. She sprints through the densely wooded area with a gun in her hand. She circles back and traps her enemy, sending a barrage of bullets into his surprised body. With an air of triumph, Elizabeth Loranger sets down her game controller. The match itself took about two hours, but Loranger feels as though only 10 minutes has passed since she started playing.
Loranger is a video game enthusiast, often seen sporting shirts and other merchandise from her favorite game franchises. Loranger regularly competes in gaming competitions such as Major League Gaming and the Pokemon League Nationals. Winning so many awards from these competitions, you might think she was a born natural. You wouldn’t be entirely wrong.
“Elizabeth first started playing games when she was five,” Loranger’s mother Desiree said. “Me and my husband were huge gamers ourselves. So when she was little, we let Liz play for us if we ever needed to answer the phone or do other adult things. I think it’s safe to say she’s been hooked ever since.”
The first game Loranger ever played was Tom Clancey’s Splinter Cell, which is about espionage and mystery. Loranger’s pallet for games has grown from Splinter Cell, varying from light-hearted fantasy games to dark and macabre games of war and destruction and anything in between.
“I enjoy games that let me explore, like role-playing games (RPGs),” Loranger said. “These games usually have a lot to offer visually and always help me relax. When I want to play something a little more fast-paced, I have a good supply of first person shooters (FPS) to choose from. Sure they’re not the best thing to be playing morally, but they have a realism that is very attractive to me.”
Some people like to say that video games don’t require skill. Loranger claims differently, saying that video games do indeed require a certain amount of skill so that the game can be enjoyed to its full capacity.
“Video games do require skill,” Loranger said. “If it’s not rated ‘E’ for everyone, you should probably practice before you invite friends over to play. Playing video games is like a musical instrument. It requires muscle memory, good hand-eye coordination, and being able to think quickly so you can keep playing smoothly.”
There are two simple ways you can play video games, competitively or relaxed. Though Elizabeth does both, she says she prefers competitive play.
“Some people do drugs because it makes them feel good. I play competitively for the same reason. It makes me feel good,” Loranger said. “I like playing competitively because I can play with my friends and have fun matches or play against random people and still have fun. It’s also fun to hear people rage when I beat them.”
Though Loranger plays games from a variety of different genres, she ranks first person shooters and fantasy RPGs as her top favorites. That being said, the two genres are almost completely polar opposites. They differ in general areas such as story, character exposition, and gameplay.
“FPS games usually only let you see in first person, while RPGs allow you to change camera angles in almost any angle imaginable,” Loranger said. “Also, in an FPS, you normally only play as one character who you know only by name and never see his (or her) face. In an RPG, you can play as multiple characters who are dressed intricately and usually have creative and imaginative appearances. You can even change the characters’ clothing to something that fits your style and liking.”
Before high school, Elizabeth was playing games every free moment she had. Now, however, she’ll go for days, even weeks, without so much as touching her game controller. This also has caused a decline in the number of competitions she has been able to attend in the past two years, which was six in total. In contrast to when she was 12, Loranger would have gone to about eight or nine regional competitions and three or four national competitions. However, Loranger does not let this discourage her.
“It makes me kind of sad that I have to let go of gaming for a bit to keep up with school. I know it’ll pay off in the future but it makes me feel different not being able to play for at least once a day,” Loranger said. “I have been starting to keep a new schedule though. Once I get into the swing of things, I’ll hopefully have my time balanced so that school work and my digital world can coexist in harmony.”
Besides playing for recreation, Elizabeth also plays her games as a form of therapy, which she claims to need due to stress brought on by school and life in general. Whenever she feels overwhelmed, she drops what she is doing, goes to her living room, and flips on her console to play whatever game is inside.
“I’ve been to the point of tears many times because I get so swamped with work. When this happens, I make sure to breathe and count to 100 as I walk into the family room, where the consoles are,” Loranger said. “It may not be the most effective stress reliever because it conflicts with my studying, but it at least calms me down. That’s enough for me.”
Though video games affect Elizabeth’s school life, they also affect her relationships with people. Loranger says that her appreciation of video games is both a blessing and a curse.
“Through video games, I have met so many great people and have learned things from them that I probably wouldn’t have from anywhere else,” Loranger said. “However, the exact opposite is true also. People that I thought were close friends decided to stop associating themselves with me because I had ‘an unhealthy obsession.’ The world is full of people that will support me or put me down because of my interest in pieces of digital art. If they support me, that’s great. If they don’t, it won’t affect me in the slightest because I’ll be too busy with my ‘unhealthy obsession.”
Being a gamer of about 10 years, Loranger knows a few things about gaming and competitive play. She also knows how there is a certain type of person for each genre of game, which has helped her introduce many of her friends into the gaming scene.
“People think that gaming is a grab-and-go type thing, when it really isn’t. First of all, if you can’t enjoy the opening moments of the game you’re playing, you’ll probably get bored with the game and maybe end up not finishing it,” Loranger said. “Also, don’t be afraid to change the default settings. Settings are there to make the game more comfortable for you. If you’re ever stuck in a game, don’t shy away from walkthroughs or game guides. They are there to make sure that you are having fun and not stressing out over a certain level (I’m looking at you Water Temple from Ocarina of Time). When playing competitively, it’s best to remember to keep a level head and think about what your opponent would do. My last piece of advice, don’t worry if it seems like you can’t find a game to get into. There are literally hundreds of thousands of games to choose from and just as many genres. Chances are, you’ll find what you’re looking for.”