A Halo 2 Tournament Decides a Residence Hall Conflict

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In University, I worked as an RA for two and a half years. An RA, or Resident Assistant, it is a student who lives in the dorms and whose job it is to support the residents and help keep order. On my list of responsibilities was community building, organizing events (both for fun and education) and assist in enforcing the rules. This generally meant doing rounds in the building at night and reporting people who were drinking underage or smoking in their rooms.

The residence hall I worked in was shaped like the letter “I” trying its damnedest to do a sit-up. Four floors of rooms, divided by gender, and a ground floor with a lounge that once hosted a stripper party . The middle was the common room and then there were two wings – north and south. It was my third year in University and my wing was mostly sophomores and juniors. We were 5 North. 5 South was only freshmen boys.  I had to hold floor meetings with all the residents to go over news and set some guidelines for the year ahead.  While the entire building had to follow a pre-determined set of rules, there was some autonomy on a few rules that could be set on a floor by floor basis – as long as the majority agreed on it. Usually, this was simple since college students generally hate meetings and will agree on something as long as it’s not too inconvenient. But this year, there was a huge division between North and South on when quiet hours would be.

Quiet Hours was the time in the evening that you had to be, well, quiet. There was residence-wide quiet hours at 11 p.m. but students could set them earlier for the floor if they desired. Now, my wing of sophomores were half music students who would return late after practicing all day. The freshmen were into drinking, being loud, and screamo. This did not mix very well, and we had tried to keep the 11 p.m quiet hours but the sophomores were getting increasingly frustrated.  They wanted quiet hours to be at 10 p.m., so they would have some peace and quiet to study and relax before going to bed.

There wasn’t much that the two groups on this floor had in common. This was 2004 and Halo 2 had just been released. It was the only thing that had brought these two groups of people together. At any time, there would be two or three rooms with their doors open and 3 or 4 people sitting on the bed either watching or playing Halo 2. I never got into it because first person shooters on consoles just never worked for me. But the floor was abuzz with science fiction violence and the students would talk about who beat whom and their latest amazing kills.

We were in the middle of the latest failed meeting about setting the quiet hours earlier. The room hadn’t quite devolved into yelling but there were a few aggressive people on both sides. “Enough!” I said, about to lose my patience. “Next weekend, Halo 2, North versus South, the winner sets quiet hours for the rest of the year.” And so it was done.

For the next week, the residents would practice. We nailed down the time and who was going to bring the TVs. We made sure there would be enough controllers and space. And by we, I mean they. Residents from both wings were so into it I barely had to do anything except make sure the common room was free that night. There was excitement, there was shit-talk but it was more friendly than antagonistic. The tournament was a week away but already some of the tension between the two wings had died down. On the night of the tournament, everything got set up in the lounge. We made it comfortable for player and spectator alike. Then we dimmed the lights and it was fragging time.

As I said earlier, Halo was never my thing, so I stayed for a bit and then carried on with my other duties. I would stop in about once every forty minutes to see how it was going and if they needed anything. Every time I entered, it was as if I was walking into a  middle school sleepover. It was dark, it was exciting and loud (but not too loud), the light from the CRT TVs shining on everyone’s faces. Chips and soda were strewn about.

North ended up winning. Quiet hours was set to 10 p.m. for the rest of the year. Surprisingly for me, the arguments that had started before around quiet hours mostly disappeared. I would like to imagine that the love of Halo and respect for people who play it brought calm and understanding. North and South never became best friends although they always did get along. After that night, though, things went just a little more smoothly.

Or you know, South could have just felt extremely embarrassed and defeated.

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