I strolled into the Chase Hall Longue a couple of minutes before 8 p.m. with some friends and settled down on one of the modest-but-comfortable couches. Around the room, laptops were being plugged in, televisions arranged by seats, and a large projector pointed towards the center. Bates students aren’t ones to turn away the offer of free cookies and cocoa, but on a social Saturday night, the temptation of meeting up with friends tends to trump the idea of a bunch of guys in a room playing video games. I happen to be friends with a few people in the club, but I wasn’t just pulling up for their sake. The extent of my video game skill is a couple of games of Mario Party and Mario Kart in high school, so curiosity was part of my decision to attend. The real reason? I’m a cookie-decorating connoisseur and I didn’t want to miss a chance to show off those skills.
The Video Game Club (VGC) was holding a raffle that Saturday, sponsored by Tespa, to give away water bottles, shirts, pillows, and an elite gaming mouse and mouse pad. Tespa, a subsidiary of Blizzard Entertainment, aims to bring college students together by supporting gaming clubs and E-sports. The VGC has hosted tournaments, smoothie nights, raffles, and video game nights before, but the more people come, the more awesome gaming loot Tespa sends. I came away that night with a free water bottle and a fluffy green pillow, and pretty much everyone else who showed up earned an item as well. The mouse went to my friend Naythan, a serious gamer and champion at Smash Brothers. He’s a club officer, so we have talked a lot about how he and his friends want to expand the club to allow new members to learn, compete, and create teams together.
If hardcore ‘nerd’ gaming doesn’t sound like your cup of tea- and trust me, I’ve never played a Blizzard game in my life- you probably still would have had a blast. Boys and girls sat on couches, fiercely competing in racing games while sipping hot cocoa. The more competitive club members had pulled seats next to each other in front of a small television and were whooping and catcalling their friends as virtual avatars punched and kicked. As I smeared frosting and M&M’s all over a chocolate chip cookie, I watched two friends sit next to each other on their laptops. With only a few words here and there, they battled together in the same game of Overwatch for over an hour. Conversation was sarcastic and competitive, but the atmosphere was incredibly relaxed. I was surprised to see people trickle in to grab a steaming cup of hot chocolate and slowly get drawn in to one group or another. The highlight of the evening for me was a game of Quiplash with about ten people. All of us typed in witty answers to questions on our phones and cracked up as we picked who had the cleverest retort. I won the first game, giggling the whole time.
As the event wound to a close around 10:30 p.m., the coordinators began to call out raffle numbers and snap pictures for Tespa. I saw smiles all around the room as virtual games ended. Gear was snatched up from a well-laden table and the box of cookies had rapidly depleted. Organizers were urging stragglers to grab whatever they wanted as laptops were unplugged. As I waved goodbye to my friends and headed back to my dorm to drop off my prizes, I found myself well contented with my use of a Saturday night. If you’re looking for something to do on a weekend, and dancing isn’t quite your thing, try stopping by a Video Game Club event. There’s more to it than nerds. I promise.