I’ve never considered myself a gamer.
My family tends to play a lot of board games like Scrabble, Monopoly or Checkers during inclement weather when the power goes out, but I never really thought those counted. My parents never supported video games, which was what I considered as a prerequisite to calling oneself a gamer. I was probably 15 or 16 years old when my parents caved and bought my brother and I a Nintendo Wii (a freak occasion during a black Friday sale). I dabbled in Dungeons and Dragons my sophomore and junior years on a cheap gaming desktop in high school and enjoyed it, but eventually our group disbanded and I stopped playing.
Throughout my whole life, the greatest extent that I could even consider myself a gamer was that I had gotten to stage 25 playing the coin operated Galaga machine at my local Papa Gino’s.
Basically, I’m what you’d call a “noob” to any sort of gaming.
I hung out with the University of Rhode Island Gaming Club this week and realized that gaming covers a pretty wide spectrum – everything from digital games to card, board and role playing games.
When I first walked into room 360 of the Memorial Union, I was a bit intimidated. Shelves of board games, everything from Cards Against Humanity to Cranium and Lord of the Rings Risk, lined the walls. There were six or seven people sitting around a table, slapping down cards in colorful sleeves and rolling multi-sided dice and saying commands that I didn’t understand. Once I gingerly explained who I was and why I was there, the group was extremely receptive, and I learned the game they were playing was called Magic: The Gathering.
I asked a few questions, and senior Jost Laurino, the club’s former vice president, explained to me that the game was all about strategy, the end goal being to make your opponent lose a life “using all the spells, magical creatures and items you can to make that possible,” he said.
It seemed simple enough, but that’s the abridged version. I soon realized just how in depth the game was and was baffled by how fast the players acted and reacted to each other’s moves. According to Laurino, there’s a huge learning curve, and people can pick it up pretty quickly. Kids, adults and elders play it, he said, because it stimulates your brain.
Junior Cameron Williamson, also in the midst of the intense game, agreed and raved about Magic as a real brain enhancer.
“The game itself involves mental focus. You’re doing math, too, and it really makes you think,” he said. “I’ve suffered head injuries from wrestling, and [the game] really helped me logically think clearer.”
One member, a senior female caught between playing a different card game and a game on her Nintendo DS, told me that she goes less for the games now and more for the people. She explained that students can pretty much come into the club whenever they want, and she herself tries to go a few times a week.
“I like gaming club because it’s just fun,” Williamson said. “More or less, everyone understands that you’re going to be who you are here.”
Laurino told me that he sees all sorts of people coming to gaming club, from students and graduate students all the way up to professors. Formal meetings are typically held once a week, Tuesdays at 5:30 p.m., but basically anyone can come and play any of the 582 games owned by the club.
After getting a taste of the card games, I ventured into the adjacent room, where two of the four different TV screens played host to different video games. I walked over to the one that I recognized–Super Smash Bros. Brawl. I recognized it as the game that I always lost to my hall mates at school and to my younger brother and to my boyfriend, but I was secretly hoping I’d get the chance to jump in on a game and prove I knew something about gaming.
Anyway, I sat down with the group of four guys in an intense team vs. team match (please excuse my lack of gamer vernacular) and started to talk with them about the club. In between on-screen combos and exclamations of agony and victory, I learned that they didn’t plan beforehand to come and play Smash together, but that this sort of thing just happens.
“I discovered games here from my childhood,” laughed Ben Park, freshman. “It’s a pretty good community here. This is how I met people.”
One of the other players explained to me that the club hosts tournaments for different games. This weekend, they plan on hosting a small Smash tournament. He explained that these can get chaotic and pretty intense. But for the most part, it’s cool to meet people with like minded activities, he added.
Finally, I saw my window to prove my worth. Laurino walked into the room and started another Smash game on a different TV, and I knew this was my chance. I asked him if I could play and eventually he let me grab a controller but not before warning me profusely that he would kick my butt.
I didn’t doubt he would, but Parker and another freshman from the former Smash game, Jose Rojas, joined in to make sure that I “didn’t die too quickly.” Playing in the first round, I was a bit confused. I picked my character, the infamous Ice Climbers (a personal favorite from home), and was unsure how to work a Playstation controller. I’d only ever used a Wii remote, and those are not too similar.
After falling to my death a few times I felt I had finally gotten the hang of it and was proud of myself for slinging combos left and right. That was until I realized that I was looking at the buttons on the controller for too long, and that I had already died the max amount of times allowed in the game. I played for several more rounds before I decided the upteenth cartoon death was enough.
As I bid my goodbyes from Memorial Union room 360, I knew what I needed to do. After sharpening my skills, working on my combos and upping my vernacular, I’ll be back to game again another day. I know I’ll return as a noob no more.