The Montclair State Universty cafeteria was partly filled with over 30 students, all coming together to play Magic the Gathering – a card game similar to Yugioh. They made a diverse range, from one student who clutched a slice of pizza in one hand and repetitively tossed his chap stick into the air with the other, to multiple guys who appeared with their girlfriends.
Yet, rather than being 30 individual, isolated students, the group became a boisterous community of students hanging out together. This atmosphere wasn’t unique to the students who showed up to play Magic the Gathering, as an identical vibe reappeared four days later at a Super Smash Bros. Tournament held in University Hall.
The hosts and a large portion of the attendees were part of Montclair University Gamers – a Class I organization of the Student Government Association designed to be “a central point for the many Montclair students who enjoy gaming that they would not have otherwise,” according to the organization’s HawkSync page.
The organization hosted the Magic the Gathering tournament on March 19 and the Super Smash Bros. Tournament on March 23.
I participated in the Magic the Gathering tournament. I used to play the card game a lot in high school, but I had not played in over four years.
Magic the Gathering is a game where creature cards, bearing illustrative drawings of vampires, trolls, goblins and warriors among other types, are combined with spell cards in order to attack the opponent. Each turn has multiple phases, but the end goal is to get the opponent’s life to 0 before he does the same to you.
I was rusty, and I didn’t entirely remember all the rules and regulations. I was expecting the condescension that sometimes appears at these events. I was never a fantastic Magic the Gathering player, and I was met with scorn on occasion when I made mistakes at events in my high school days.
But none of that happened. I was not met with derision when I had typical questions of a newcomer. Rather, my opponents welcomed me as a novice and took the time to explain some of the rules that I had forgotten. I didn’t do so well – I only won one out of my four matches – but I can’t say I didn’t enjoy myself.
One might expect that only current Montclair State students appeared at the event, but that wasn’t the case. P.J. Benson, a theater studies major who graduated in 2015, came and participated in the tournament. “I was an active member of the gamers club since I was a freshman,” Benson said. “I had the day off from work, and a lot of my friends still go to Montclair [State] and are still part of the gamer’s club. It’s friendly and welcoming. Everyone here is willing to help us learn the game.”
The tournament finished, winners were rewarded with extra packs of cards and everyone blitzed the one saint of a Rathskeller employee who decided to bring multiple boxes of pizza to the event instead of throwing them out at the end of the night.
In a larger sense, gaming culture is oftentimes linked with a hostile environment towards women. The Pew Research Center conducted a survey that found 50 percent of men and 48 percent of women have played video games, but there’s a perception that gaming is a male-dominated culture. Gamergate is a controversy that centered around harassment of women in the community, and it pervades still some of the culture.
But, that wasn’t the case for Abigail Martin, a sophomore theatre studies major with a concentration in production and design, and other women gamers in the club. Martin, who is the secretary of the club, said she was interested in the club the first week of her first semester at Montclair State. She walked into their office while an executive board meeting was going on and, although she said she was embarrassed she walked into this “secret” meeting, they welcomed her right away.
“The thing that I enjoy the most is how accepting everyone is. I met a lot of the friends I have now. It’s a really awesome group of people,” Martin said. “People come from all over – different majors, different backgrounds – and you don’t really find that as much in other clubs. Everyone is so different, but we have one common interest that holds us together.”
A few days later, Montclair University Gamers held a Super Smash Bros Tournament in University Hall. Sugary foods and drinks filled the snack table. There were cupcakes, Starburst, Teddy Grahams and cookies, and if that wasn’t enough then you could wash that down with Pepsi, Orange Crush, Sprite or apple juice.
Super Smash Bros. is a video game where players can play characters from all over the Nintendo universe – from Mario to Jigglypuff – to duke it out and attempt to knock their opponent off the stage. A simple sounding game turns into a duel of positioning, ledge-grabbing and rapid stick maneuvers.
Like the Magic the Gathering tournament, a community of students formed. There were five separate televisions where the games were being played, and students surrounded the televisions during the matches. At the beginning, attendees were spread out across the room, but nearly everyone surrounded the final event and reacted to every move.
The gaming community is often stereotyped as isolated and socially inept, but Montclair University Gamers brings students of all backgrounds together and forms a community linked by one common interest: gaming.