Justin Mackey’s eyes are glued to his screen as he plays Overwatch in a cramped room hidden behind the Hatch Art Gallery in the University of B.C.’s student-union building. He swings his mouse across the desk, ambushing a team of six veterans.
Despite having his own gaming computer at home, Mackey often plays games at the UBC gaming lounge. But the reason goes beyond free access to fast computers and entertainment.
Socializing through a gaming room
“The way that I made the most friends ended up being by coming here and finding people with common interests … people who play the same game,” said Mackey, who volunteers for the UBC eSports Association that created the gaming lounge two years ago.
In a world where gaming is becoming more popular — one study from the market research company Newzoo estimates the global gaming market has grown by roughly 13 per cent last year — student gamers say that having a place to play games at UBC alongside other gamers fosters a healthy sense of community.
Mackey, a devoted player of Super Smash Bro, said it wasn’t easy for him to meet people during his first year at the university outside of lectures. The gaming lounge, instead, became a special space for him.
“I would say the majority of my university friends are from this club, ” said Mackey.
A surprise encounter turned into a friendship
Annie Chang, who is an aficionado of PC gaming and computer-building, has a similar story.
Last year, she met a student named Clara playing games in the lounge. To Chang, it was a rare sight because female gamers are hard to come by.
“I just walked in [and said] ‘Do you want to play together?’” said Chang. Clara welcomed her and their friendship started from there.
Chang said she basically lived at the lounge for a year because she enjoyed hanging out with other gamers so much.
But, contrary to the rapid growth in gaming, there aren’t many places on campus that are designed for gamers.
“Although there are a couple of niche groups here and there,” said Mackey. “There are no other places at UBC that support gaming as much as we do.”
To Mackey and Chang, the UBC gaming lounge is a place for other gamers to participate in a shared experience that translates to lasting bonds.