As a senior in college, this is a year of reflection for me. While graduating and entering the working world is an exciting prospect, it’s only natural to reminisce on fond memories and cringe at the moments you wish never happened. Upon reflecting on my college experiences I realized each year was basically a video game genre. Here is that list:

Freshman year: Role-Playing Game (RPG)

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Now that you’re done with high school you are finally in control. You’re selecting your own classes—perhaps even living away from home. You’ve gone off on a mission and are beginning to immerse yourself in a new world of academia. Everything is unfamiliar so you spend a lot of time exploring.

You are in a role-playing game (RPG).

RPGs rely heavily on story and setting. They often provide players with complex and dynamic character interaction and long play-through time.

Much like RPGs, freshman year of college is time consuming. Some of you are the kind of players who talk to everyone we see, while others avoid and rush through conversation so they can accomplish their mission. College is slow paced at first with a lot of delivery and gather quests: such as taking your Student ID photo, turning in forms, and getting your advisor to sign off on your schedule.

But remember, for many of us college is a fresh start: a new place with new people. Be sure to construct a good avatar and work towards leveling up or else you’ll be the campus noob everyone dreads having in class.

Sophomore year: Construction and Management Simulation Game (CMS)

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By sophomore year, you’re more settled in. You are declaring your major (if you haven’t already) and have a set of jobs, clubs, and organizations. You walk on campus with a set of friends ready to greet you. It’s nice, comforting almost. Sophomore year is when you try to fix what went wrong the first time around. You’ve done this once before so now it’s just a matter of keeping your grades, social life, and work life working harmoniously.

You are in a construction and management simulation game (CMS).

CMS is a type of simulation game in which players “build, expand or manage fictional communities or projects with limited resources… The player’s goal is not to defeat an enemy, but to build something within the context of an ongoing process” (via wikipedia).

This is precisely the position you are in sophomore year. You are highly invested in your student organizations and intramural sports teams, but none of this has much significance in the world off-campus. Student leaders are scrambling to put together events with limited budgets and fundraising chairs are staving off Greek org bankruptcy. But somehow the campus continues to function just fine. As a student, you’re far from your end goal (i.e graduation) so you’re trying to do well. You are in getting into the thick of your undergraduate career and it’s so consuming you don’t even realize you’re in a simulation.

Junior year: Survival Horror

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The end is approaching and yet it feels so far away. It is probably too late to switch majors and if you do, you risk extending your time here: adding yet another stack to the pile of soul crushing debt. Making friends with people outside of your graduating class felt great at first, but now many of those friends are about to graduate. You’re trying to get research opportunities, fellowships, and jobs but there’s no guarantee of what’s lurking around the corner.

You are in a survival horror game.

The survival horror genre “focuses on survival… as the game tries to frighten players… although combat can be a part of the gameplay, the player is made to feel less in control.” Instead, gameplay is usually centered on finding items and solving puzzles.

So here you are a junior, isolated as your senior friends move on without you. Which only reminds you that your time is also winding down. As you review your schedule for this year and the next, you are desperately trying to unlock the path out of undergrad. It’s up to you to find what you need: whether it’s a class that qualifies as a fine arts credit or $2,100 to pay off the remaining balance on your student account. Junior year is all about the investigation and confrontation of horrific forces: from Organic Chemistry to helping your drunk roommate get her underwear back on a 3 a.m.

Senior year: Beat Em’ Up (Co-op)

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You’ve made it. You are finally a senior. And while there are certainly logistical things to take care of and classes you are required to pass, you’re pretty much done. This is your victory lap. You know how everything works: the readings, the job, the extracurriculars—all of it has become a dance you’ve choreographed yourself. You are finishing up your major(s) and starting to leave your leadership positions to the next generation. Senior year means it’s time to abandon the structure that came before and embrace the chaos a bit.

You are in a co-operative Beat em’ up.

You’re a senior and you’re as powerful as you are smug. You’re done dealing with all the typical undergraduate malarkey so you’re a lot more combative than you used to be. You are progressing through the year, the way you have before, but it feels easier. You take your failures lightly because this is all in good fun. You still have things to accomplish but really you’re just running through—with your friends—with no regard for anything. The more people in on it the better!

That’s undergrad for you. The following years can take many routes and appear mimic many different game genres. As for myself, I’m just looking forward to the experience. After all, gaming—like living—is in the doing.

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