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Monday, May 10, 2021

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Gaming with your friends used to mean riding your bike over to a friend’s house, or meeting up at an arcade.

Now, most video games are played online, resulting in the loss of social interaction with the people you play with.

The Western Washington University Gaming Association aims to solve this issue, and wants to turn gaming into a social experience for student gamers.

Admissions counselor Brian Swanson is the staff adviser for the association. His role is to help the association understand university procedures and policies surrounding clubs.

Swanson said having a community is something everyone is interested in, regardless of what games the students are playing.

“Getting everyone in a room and talking, networking, realizing they have shared interests and they’re all welcome,” Swanson said. “Whether they’re a hardcore Destiny raider or if you just play mobile games on their phone.”

Freshmen Rhain Zipeto, eSports director for the association, said being part of the association provides an opportunity to meet other students who game and build relationships between them.

“It’s nice to have a room filled with a bunch of nerds on their computers and playing games,” Zipeto said. “Even if it is more of an online setting now, it’s still really easy to pull all of these people together and have a good time.”

Senior Linden Warner, president of the club, said she wants to bring people together and have gaming be less isolated to the individual.

“Being involved with the Overwatch club, I’ve made a whole new group of friends and we hang out all the time and do things together,” Warner said. “It’s just crazy-awesome to make new friends and meet people you wouldn’t normally see.”

Warner said if she had never seen the Reddit post about the Western Overwatch club, she would never have gotten involved with the association.

“I just want to see [the association] be more legitimate instead of just, ‘all those nerds playing games again.’ It’s a real thing,” Warner said.

Senior Michael Lee created the club fall quarter of 2016.

Junior Russell Goebell is the director of the Hearthstone club. // Photo by Kirstyn Nyswonger

Lee said playing video games in person helps create a connection with others. It shows you’re willing to put in the effort to get to know others.

Although online gaming has made it easier to meet people, Lee said it doesn’t compare to the enjoyment you get by gaming in the same room with friends.

“Sharing a space with someone else and physically being there, playing games and talking about everyday things, truly helps create memories that would last a lifetime,” Lee said.

When Zipeto was younger, he said he would play video games with his dad and sometimes he’d participate in local game parties with his mom’s coworkers.

When Swanson was a student at Western, he said he wasn’t a part of any gaming clubs because that community was lacking a presence on campus.

“I like the whole goal of fostering a really inclusive club or at least an umbrella organization that helps direct students to the clubs they’re interested in,” Swanson said.

In addition to building a community of gamers, the association is also seeking more of an eSports, or competitive video gaming presence, and the option to compete against other schools. Lee said they’ve been speaking with Campus Recreation Services to have eSports compete as a recreation club.

“Ideally, we’d want to move over as an athletic club eventually, like most eSports clubs dream of on a college campus,” Lee said. “It provides them that official title being able to play for the university.”

Zipeto said the association will have its own Twitch channel. The channel would allow all gaming clubs who are part of the association to stream.

Twitch is a streaming website that allows viewers to watch a person play their game.

“Getting everyone in a room and talking, networking, realizing they have shared interests and they’re all welcome.”

Brian Swanson, staff advisor

“We’re also going to stream our tournaments on the [Western Gaming Association] channel, and that goes for Overwatch, League of Legends, Counter Strike Global Offensive and whatever tournaments we’re participating in or hosting,” he said.

Both Swanson and Zipeto stream their gameplay occasionally.

Zipeto said watching streamers is another way of enjoying video games without actually playing, since sometimes those specific games aren’t available to everyone.

“Some people are really entertaining to listen to, and in combination to the game you really enjoy, it just makes it a lot more fun,” Zipeto said.

Zipeto describes video game streaming as having more shenanigans. He said the reason why streaming becomes more comedic is because the streamer knows they are being viewed.

“Often times [streaming] is a lot funnier and there will be ridiculous moments or funny one-liners that streamers will say,” Zipeto said.

Lee was a public relations officer for the Overwatch, Dota and League of Legends gaming clubs on campus before he started to work for the association. He said the position wasn’t ideal for bringing gaming clubs together, since he was only a public relations officer for the three separate clubs.

“It doesn’t allow you to really connect with other clubs, in my opinion,” Lee said. “Connecting clubs with each other is something that the public relation officer role didn’t provide.”

Lee said that by having all the gaming clubs under one association, it would provide an identity for student gamers on campus.

“I just want people to actually know there’s gaming clubs on campus because I feel all throughout my years [at Western], it’s never been a real thing,” Warner said.

Warner said she’s been working with Lee on getting sponsorships for the association and communicating with the individual gaming clubs.

“I play a lot of PC games. Formally, a lot of World of Warcraft,” Swanson said.

The association provides an opportunity to create a shared experience among gamers by playing the same games. Lee said it’s all about creating memories with each other and getting to know them as a person.

Lee said the future of the organization depends on Swanson.

“He [Swanson] will be the one that helps officers in the future become the success they can be,” Lee said. “He’s the guy who carries the implicit knowledge.”

Swanson is a gamer himself and writes for Infinite Dogs, a website which provides gaming related content.

The association is open to all students who want to start a gaming club. For more information, Western Gaming Association will have an information table at Back2B’ham on May 18-21.

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