Video and board games keep the research technician connected

Christine Kitchens loves the outdoors.

As a research technician at the Cooperative Great Lakes Research Institute who spends every week of the summer on Lake Erie collecting water samples to monitor harmful algal blooms, it comes with the territory .

So it might come as a surprise to learn that Kitchens favorite pastimes involve being cooped up inside.

“I always feel a little out of place when I talk to people in the environmental field who say, ‘I like hiking and I like paddling,’ and don’t get me wrong, I like those things too. ,” she says. “But one of my favorite pastimes when I’m not working is playing video games with my friends. Nothing is quite as enjoyable.

Christine Kitchens, a research technician at the Cooperative Great Lakes Research Institute, sits among dozens of board games she and her partners have accumulated over the years. (Photo by Rad DeLong)

The kitchens and three others share a house, and she said that when it’s time to play “Final Fantasy 14” or another multiplayer role-playing game, the living room turns into a game room.

“We all like to cram into the living room, and it’s a lot like what you’d expect a gamer’s den to look like: 2 liters of Mountain Dew, a couple bags of Doritos, we’re all yelling at each other.” she said laughing.

She said they tend to play video games with elaborate storylines, “so in a sense you could even say it’s a bit like reading but with a much more hands-on implication.”

Besides the entertainment value in playing the games, Kitchens said there’s a sense of team building that comes with racing through a dungeon, dodging monsters, and trying to progress through a level.

It also provided a welcome diversion and opportunity to connect when the COVID-19 pandemic kept in-person gatherings to a minimum. Kitchens and friends outside the home ventured onto Steam, a major gaming platform that offered the ability to buy tabletop simulation board games online and gift them to anyone. others.

“It was an engaging activity for people to play together that wasn’t just sitting in a Zoom call talking to each other,” she said.

Kitchens and its partners and friends joined the craze that was “Among Us”, a multiplayer game inspired by the game “Mafia” with influences from the film “The Thing”.

Multiple players would join a mission, with one or more of them secretly designated as impostors and the others as teammates assigned with tasks to complete. The object of the game was for the teammates to complete their tasks before the Imposters killed them or caused a disaster.

Through the game, which she played more than four times a week during the pandemic, she interacted with friends of friends and bonded with family members who played.

“We were all united by our joy of playing,” she said. “It was actually a really wonderful opportunity to meet and talk to people that I wouldn’t have talked to because I would have relied on in-person activities.”

Kitchens said board games are also a big hit at home. She estimates they have around 150 board games and not just games like the classics “Monopoly” and “Scrabble.”

They prefer games with a more “Dungeons and Dragons” story. To find games of this nature, they visit Kickstarter and order “very elaborate campaign-style board games” and set aside Thursday night as “game night”.

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Kitchens traces his love for video games back to his childhood. She said that when she first played “Sonic the Hedgehog” on the Sega game console at age 5, “it was game over.”

One of two children raised by a single mother living on a meager income in North Carolina, Kitchens enjoyed any kind of entertainment available and affordable. She took her excellent report cards to establishments offering free game rentals to students with all A’s.

The family budget didn’t allow for travel, so video games helped fill the void.

“I did a lot of reading and playing video games because it was a form of escapism,” she said. “Video games have always been an important part of my life. They allowed me to see worlds and places I would never have seen otherwise.

She said she learned a large vocabulary by playing video games and distinctly remembered learning the word “theocracy” from one of them.

Kitchens would now like to create its own video games that help educate people about the world of science. She is taking night classes at Michigan State University to pursue this pursuit.

“I have a passion for science and I really like it, and I think video games are an interface that a lot of people are familiar with,” she said. “It’s a really engaging way to learn stuff, and I’d love to share that with other people and make things a little more accessible and maybe someday teach people some cool science through video games. nice.”

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