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Monday, May 27, 2024

Gunrock Gaming: Providing students with a new space to game

Games Area coordinator emphasizes the fun pastime and its engaging qualities

Those in the gaming community may recall times in high school when parents would place strict rules on electronic activities. Instead of staying up all night hunting the Covenant in “Halo,” or challenging someone to a quick-scope battle on Rust in “Modern Warfare 2,” they had to be in bed at a certain time or risk losing gaming privileges. The move to college certainly provides members of the gaming community with one assurance: they can game anytime, any day. With the grand opening of Gunrock Gaming, students are encouraged to rally up their friends and indulge in online computer gaming experiences, while also learning valuable information about the technology they’re using to do so.

Walk into Gunrock Gaming and immediately you’ll find it’s a gamer’s paradise. From the two TV screens plastered across the wall showing Twitch livestreams of gamers like Herschel Beahm IV, popularly known as Dr Disrespect, to the 28 gaming computers ready and waiting to be played, it has a little something for everyone.

Ferguson Mitchell, the Games Area coordinator who arranged the arrival of Gunrock Gaming, explained how the new gaming area came to be.

“The Tech Hub used to be here, but now it’s moved down to the vacancy that was in the Games Area where we had an extra billiards room,” Mitchell said. “They were looking for the right thing to place here, but nothing really worked. They eventually came across the idea of a PC gaming space, especially since UC Irvine put up an e-sports gaming area on their campus a few years ago, and Berkeley did in the fall too. So they came to me a little over a year ago and asked if I wanted to turn this place into Gunrock Gaming, and I said, ‘I absolutely do!’”

Mitchell explained how his own background in the esports scene helped him find the inspiration to turn gaming into something all students could enjoy.

“In 2011, I was a student here, and I started the ‘Starcraft 2’ club,” Mitchell said. “With our team, we became one of the top teams in the nation. In 2013, our collegiate record was 17-0. After I graduated, I couldn’t be in the club anymore, but I was still interested in professional gaming, so I worked with CSL [Collegiate Starleague], a collegiate esports organization. I became an e-sports journalist, and I still am today. I was also a coach for a ‘Starcraft 2’ team, I’ve commentated for ‘Starcraft 2’ professional matches, I worked for Riot Games doing match coverage, so I’ve done pretty much everything.”

After 14 months of planning and anticipation, the grand opening of Gunrock Gaming was held on April 25, which gave students the first look at what to expect. The “League of Legends” club and Aggie Gaming sponsored the event and helped put on various live matches for the packed crowd to watch.

“We had a casual tournament where people could race across [a] series of games to complete minor objectives,” Mitchell said. “The grand prize was some gaming gear from Viper Gaming, so we were really excited to offer that.”

While allowing students to have a comfortable space to game with their friends is the ultimate objective, Mitchell also expressed interest in working with professors to create an extended learning space for students interested in game design.

Most of the games available through Gunrock Gaming are free to play and multiplayer games, like “Fortnite” and “Apex Legends,” that students can enjoy together to create lasting friendships over a common interest. The possibility for holding other games that cost money is an avenue that Mitchell is still looking into.

“These are games that students play with others, so they talk about strategy, or they simply enjoy watching them together,” Mitchell said. “The expectation is that, eventually, we’ll have guest accounts for people who don’t own the games we feature. Like ‘Overwatch,’ for instance, that costs money, and if some students can’t afford it, they can come here and play it using a shared account. Of course, if you own the game already, you can log in to your own account and play with your personal settings.”

The social scene of gaming is something Mitchell hopes to highlight through Gunrock Gaming, and he hopes to have a space open to any and all players looking to make new connections.

“We’d like to encourage the social aspect of gaming as well, getting students to work together in different ways,” Mitchell said. “For instance, there’s a controller called the Octopad that allows you to play games like ‘Super Mario,’ but each player can only have one button, so one person can jump, another moves right, another moves left and so on, so you have to work together to accomplish the goal.”

Holding more casual tournaments is part of the goal Mitchell has in mind, to allow students to come together, enjoy their favorite games and meet new people under low-stress circumstances. Creating campus-wide teams for tournaments that would be held throughout a quarter is something Mitchell is very passionate about extending to the students. He also hopes to give them the opportunity to explore gaming in a greater sense. Other social activities include the idea of “Fortnite” Fridays, where students can stop by and play “Fortnite” with friends.

Another expansion of Gunrock Gaming that Mitchell has in mind is an idea he calls the “A to Z of gaming.”

“If people have no experience gaming, we could have an intro class of like, ‘What is ‘League of Legends?’’ We can show them how to play it, share advanced tips if they want to become really skilled and then move on to things like skill workshops. We want to try and link with Aggie Gaming to allow students to become coaches for gaming if that interests them so they can be paired with people who want to learn and get better with games.”

While 27 computers in Gunrock Gaming have the same capacities, the 28th one has been dubbed “The Throne” for its advanced playing capabilities above all the rest.

“It’s something I want everyone to have an opportunity to play on because 99% of students do not have the resources to play on something like it,” Mitchell said. “This is something that does look impressive. We want prospective students to show this to their parents and let them know that this is something the campus cares about. Instead of being holed up in an apartment, they can be here, making friends, learning about computers and socializing.”

Mitchell also made a point to stress the various avenues that are available to students within gaming and how it can be more than just a hobby.

“People can do so much with gaming, such as professional commentary or event management,” Mitchell said. “We’re planning a big [Local Area Network] event next month and we’re looking at getting up to 200 people in the MU playing in a number of tournaments and winning lots of prizes. All of that management and coordination, that’s stuff students will be involved in and can put on their resumes. It’s all in pursuit of helping students become well-rounded.”

Now that the new gaming center has arrived, students are encouraged to find out all that gaming has to offer. Whether it is socializing with friends, meeting new people or harnessing professional skills, Gunrock Gaming is here to put games on the map.

Written by: Vincent Sanchez –– features@theaggie.org


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