Game space

In the UTD gaming community – MERCURY

Every day a small lounge on the lower level of the student association is filled with many students gathered around tables and televisions.

A group of three students buzz around their laptops, clicking on an “Overwatch” game they’ve just lined up. A rowder crowd can be seen cheering on people competing against each other in “Super Smash Bros”, their fingers flying over their controllers. There are people sitting nearby with headphones in their ears bending over math homework. This microcosm is the playroom, teeming with noisy life, and an important place for many students who consider it their home away from home.

Joseph Gibbs, a senior in criminology, first came to the rec room in 2016 with a friend after transferring from another college. He said they immediately hit it off with students playing card games, and he hasn’t stopped coming since.

“We jumped in and played the game and before you know it you know who these people who (become) friends come in the next day like, ‘Hey, what’s going on? I have a game, do you know how to play? or something like that, ”Gibbs said. “It was pretty open, inviting, fun and crazy.”

The concept of a game room at UTD is not new, and UTD students have been playing since the inception of the Students’ Union in 1981. Student Union Deputy Director Andrew Helgeson , said he had worked at the League for 16 years, and when he became deputy director in 2008, the room was called the TV lounge and was filled with ottomans, a six-foot-tall TV, and eight round tables.

“Every once in a while we would give out board games and people could (have) played in them, but that was it. And it would get a little stuffy because the doors would still be closed. It was an enclosed space. It was just a bunch of kids playing cards all the time, ”Helgeson said. “After a few years it would get really complicated in there. There was a bit of a funky smell. So we would talk about it, it would be a good idea to open up that wall and make it more inclusive of the whole union environment on the first floor.

Helgeson said that in 2015-16, after receiving feedback from students about the opening of the playroom, the room was upgraded to include new furniture, wall-mounted flat-screen TVs and seating areas. . Students were able to bring their own consoles and plug them in. Today, around 2,000 people walk through the hall per month, or up to 40 people anytime every day, Helgeson said.

“People are there all the time and it’s kind of become like a little self-contained community of people who are in there. We see regulars every day between classes. They probably even skip classes. You never know, ”Helgeson said. “But that’s pretty cool. They are their own little community. I don’t really know their name, but you know we see them all the time.

Gibbs said he comes to the playroom whenever he’s not in class on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and spends his time meeting friends, playing games or catching up with his studies. He said the variety of activities and types of people in the room creates a more open and welcoming environment.

“It’s variety. It’s a different variety. I mean you can look around you have different people playing games. You know, it’s open to everyone. It is not exclusive. It’s not just for men or girls or just young people playing this. I’m the oldest in this room and yet I play ‘Overwatch’ with these guys every now and then, ”Gibbs said. “And I was playing here once and someone was like ‘Oh hey, are you playing’ Overwatch? ‘I was like’ Yeah, I know that. What are you playing at? ‘ You log out.

Walter Han, senior in computer science, spends his time in the game room playing games with friends or studying, as he prefers to work in a noisy environment. A person usually brings new games to everyone in the room every now and then, like animated fighting games and golf simulators, and a game is rarely judged harshly, Han said.

“We’re pretty damn open about games. I mean we don’t really judge anyone for their choice in games for the most part. As long as it’s reasonable, ”Han said. “I mean we really don’t care, and frankly most of the time we’re pretty willing to strike up a conversation with anyone.”

In addition to playing games, those in the rec room gather to watch gaming lectures, game reveals, and talk about the latest game releases. Jacqueline Thorpe, ATEC Junior, said that while the room is quite loud most of the time, it does get really loud and excitable every now and then during more intense card games or fighting game matches, and for the existence of so many people with common interests in games and anime. makes it a welcoming environment.

“I think we’re a lot friendlier when it comes to gamers and geek culture in general. We’re a lot more laid back about it as well. As you can see a bunch of people just on campus who have like games or cartoons or a show. And then when you come here it’s like boom, there’s a whole bunch of people who share the same interests as me.

The Hall has a group of five friends who frequently play games like “Overwatch” and “League of Legends,” but don’t consider themselves to be good at games. Gibbs, who is part of the group, said they were called “The Benchwarmers” as a joke and a tribute to UTD esports teams.

“We have our leaders here, but we play our games. We get good every now and then, but sometimes we just bombard but we have fun and we’re like “UTD Benchwarmers!” Gibbs said. “……

As the UTD expands to accommodate more students interested in games, additional areas for games have been added such as the SSA game wall and TVs added in the pub. In the meantime, the game room continues to be an open space where all UTD players can meet and play their favorite games.

“Now all you need is a big neon sign that says ‘Open, everyone is welcome here,’” Gibbs said.

Photo by Minh Nguyen | Mercury staff