This picture was taken from my freshman year dorm. My roommate was from Texas and this was his first snowfall; his infectious glee (as a card-carrying German, I’m rather used to snow) caused me to take out my camera and take this picture. One may note that the building pictured is the Fine Arts Building. This would prove to be my boon many times when I needed a quick nap between classes and rehearsals.
Duncan Fyfe recently wrote an article on Michael Abbott and his journey of teaching the medium of videogames at Wabash College. It caused some nostalgia. You see, that building had the start of many great memories, including my gaming friends (who lived in the building from which I took this picture).
It started simple enough. My friend Matt had the idea to start a gaming club our senior year. We took over the former Anime Club, who had long been defunct, and proposed an idea to our Student Senate: we want to create an environment of gamers. In this environment, we asked the college to give us money to purchase games (Zombies!!! and Munchkin among the first) for the college to keep and allow future students to partake.
All-male college. I don’t even need bothering to tell you how many game systems were lying about in the dorm rooms and fraternities, do I? They proliferated, as did the variety of games being played. Sports, FPS, RPG, casual, et cetera. My group just so happened to play any and everything on which we could get our hands, and we knew others on campus existed.
There was a slight catch, however. Our newspaper, The Bachelor, allowed many divergent opinions to be released. Our group was quickly the target of an opinion article. Why game? Better yet, why waste the student’s money to allow others to game? The premise was that gaming was a futile effort that produced nothing tangible and gave no real reward to its players. It was a waste of time and effort.
Needless to say, we disagreed. This was around the same time that Professor Abbott started giving talks on narrative in videogames and their rising prominence as an artform. Many things were coming to a head at that liberal arts college. It inspired much of how I think about the medium today.
Our response to this naysayer? One was pointing out how there were many clubs on campus that received funds which might be deemed not-worthy by some, but any were invited to join these groups. We certainly had no pop quiz on gaming knowledge as a barrier. The second was one that particularly intrigued me: what do we say about games such as chess? It is a highly regarded sport among minds, and there even existed a chess club. At its core, is chess not a game?
Is playing chess worthless? If so, how is it any more worthless than any puzzle which we may try to solve?
Thankfully, our funding was never a question. The secretary of the Student Senate was one of our group, and we had many friends on the Student Senate who were excited about such an opportunity. It helps to be sociable theater majors, I suppose.
Our budget for that first semester? $200.
What did we do with the sum? As previously stated, we bought some games for the college to keep and oversee for future students (after all, Matt and I would be graduating and moving away from Crawfordsville) and hosted Dorkapalooza. This was an event in which members were encouraged to bring their games, we brought ours, provided food, and had a few professors give small talks. When I left we had a strong membership of over twenty students (in a college of 900, I didn’t feel we were doing too horribly) and had three professors gaming with us.
Which is where games excel. When we create these communities and have them recognized and accessible, we promote a healthy image.
So why this article? Again, Fyfe made me recall those days with a bit of sentimentality, especially as I’ve recently been in contact with all of the old gang recently. Most of us agree that having that core group of gamers and thespians who were quite tightly knit was the highlight of our college experience. We still play online, but there is something to be said for playing in the same room as one another.
After my family moved back to Germany, they served as my family. It’s certainly the ‘holiday miasma’ in which to appreciate what they gave me, and what we hopefully helped foster alongside Abbott at our alma pater.
Now, what of you? What do you see as helping your community and welcoming others into the fold (not just questioning them or playing defense), and how could you aid such?