A group of a dozen or so students have found friendship and support through the common love for the nostalgia of video games in the heart of the Wi-Fi lounge.

The Wi-Fi Lounge serves as a refuge for students who seek a place where they can study without the library rules and Internet lag. Food is still not allowed, but you can make a lot more noise in the Wi-Fi Lounge as opposed to the library. However, some students have noticed a tribe of gamers standing out in the crowd as they use the lounge as a congregation hall to gather and play their games.

Each gamer has their own preference for game genre, much like music taste. This group of gamers enjoy genres from multi-player, online games like World of Warcraft (WoW) to nostalgic games that require an emulator setup, a software that tells your computer to act like a Nintendo 64, in order to play the classics like Super Mario Brothers. They also have majors that vary from English to Computer Information Systems.

The atmosphere is lively surrounding the collective of worker students collaborating and enjoying the amenities of the Wi-Fi lounge, a plethora of outlets and fast Wi-Fi connection. The gamers also have a strong connection and sense of community through working together by organizing their schedules to play together but also keeping one another accountable for their studies.

“It’s a game that actually gathers people to have fun instead of just having to play very competitively. It’s mostly fun, sometimes competitive fun. Not for ranking, not for name. Just enjoying the entertainment itself,” third year business administration major at PCC Ceci Banh said.

The gamers dozen have been friends for as long as they have been at PCC and consider one another family, each joining in at different times but all finding an instant connection and comfort through the common love for the nostalgia found in pixels. 

“If we have our own problems in our personal lives with family we’ll organize a game and get together to take our minds off of it,” Banh said.

The group relate to one another like a therapist though they haven’t been to the psychological services for any of their recent workshops on the supposed dangers of online gaming, according to their website.   

At the start of spring term, psychological services’ predoctoral intern, Dustin Weissman, led a workshop on “The impacts of online gaming”.

The picture painted of the Internet addict on the PCC psych-services website does not match the social tribe of gamers that was found just a few hundred feet across campus. The web page details the Internet addict as lonely and in need of connection, but it seems the gamers have already found their connection with each other.

This can be seen in someone like Nicholas “Nick” Sanchez, 24-year-old English major who is transitioning to major in art. He draws anime and plays Mother 3 which he described as an obscure Nintendo role playing game. He prefers to play what is called MMOs, or “mass-multiplayer online” games. When Sanchez isn’t in school or playing his games, he works at Dave & Busters on the weekends.

“We are trying to live out a kind of, I guess you could say …  a fantasy or something. It is an escape but it’s also fun. It’s just a hobby we have, a hobby like anyone else would have. People say, ‘Oh, it’s a power fantasy,’ But that’s like everything really. Everything is an escape, everything is a power fantasy,” Sanchez said.

The first game Nikolai Hernandez ever played was Elmo’s Number Journey on Nintendo 64.

Hernandez, 20, is pursuing general education while testing the waters for what he would like to do as a career like most students do in their early years. He plays World of Warcraft online for an average of 20 hours a week while maintaining a full-time school schedule.

Adam Alter, an associate professor at New York University, recently published “Irresistible” on the addiction of devices like the internet and social media. While on NPR’s Fresh Air he discussed the rise of addictive technology and how WoW is considered a highly addictive game because of the efforts by Blizzard Entertainment to make the game more appealing to users through screen time studies and surveys.

“100 million people roughly have played the game, and by many measures about half of them have developed an addiction, at least temporarily. So that, to me, suggests that it’s a weaponized game. It’s an experience that’s very, very hard to resist,” Alter said in his book.

That is not the case with the Wi-Fi gaming tribe, as Hernandez is the only member of the group who plays WoW and he balances his time on the game with his homework.

“There are some people who are addicted to the Internet but then there are some who control it like myself. The thing is, [if] people were to just to look at me they would think I play video games all the time. But I actually do that in between classes. Because when I get home I don’t play video games and I actually work before I play,” Hernandez said.

Ricardo Mendoza, 19, is an artist pursuing an illustration degree and plays platformer games like Super Mario, which was also his first game. He spends his time playing games and working on his art but also spends time writing comedy in the Wi-Fi Lounge.

William Jordan, 19, started at PCC when he was 17 for Computer Information Systems and prefers action-adventure games and Japanese role playing games.

“I think that gamers are very accepting no matter your race, gender, background, [or] what mental disability you have, “ Jordan said.

“In a way I liken love of video games to sports. You’ll see people who love football and know every team, know every character on the team, they love everything on the roster, every stat, but it’s more acceptable. One happens in reality, most of the time, because one happens in reality and one happens in a fictional setting, some of the time,” Jordan said. “We just have hobbies that don’t require a lot of physical activity.”

“Fantasy football is just Dungeons and Dragons, who are you kidding,” Sanchez added with a laugh.

“Football fans are just as big of nerds as we are,” Mendoza quipped.

Everyone is addicted to something.

Sometimes they are a source of disruption in the Wi-Fi Lounge causing supervisors to come out and silence them.

“It’s only bothersome if I am trying to do homework. You can go to the library if you need that quiet. Here is good for the Wi-Fi and computer stuff. There’s more people at the library [so the Wi-Fi is slower] there,” graphic design student at PCC Chris Moran said.

“I feel like [in] the library, the seats get taken more and here there’s more space,” Kierra Palmieri, a first year biology student, said over the chatter of the gamers in the background.

However, not all students notice nor mind.

“I put my headphones on and I mute everyone out when I study,” Zully Flores said about the noise level coming from gamers. “I prefer the library more because it is more silent and more focused,” Flores continued. “In general, it’s loud. It’s a place to relax, it’s not really a study place.”

No matter what part of the social circle spectrum someone may reign from, it pays to get to know them more before judging them based on their interests. Even if those interests are playing hours of Super Mario Brothers before slaying their finals.

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