For some, relaxing requires blowing things to bits and bytes.
By Tim Hernandez
When it comes to relaxing between classes, some Northwest Vista College students take it to a new level.
The NVC Gaming Club, founded by video game production freshman Jonathan Estrada and criminal justice freshman Ariel Velez, meets at Cypress Campus Center every two weeks Tuesday and Thursday to play games and share gaming experiences with fellow students.
The gamers, as they refer to themselves, bring their own game consoles and flat-panel televisions to Cypress.
Estrada said the club has existed for about two years.
“The first year, we failed because we were not aware of the school policies. Club members were posting up fliers and I was not aware of it,” Estrada said. “This year, we understand the school’s policy and have made a real effort to operate within those guidelines.”
Velez said the group dabbles a little in “Dungeons and Dragons” but mostly focuses on console video games.
Estrada began the club because the gaming community is big on campus.
“It brought out the gamers at school. Many gamers are closet gamers,” Estrada said.
Because he is the president of the club, the school library asked him to manage its Geek Week, which drew about 25 people.
Estrada gave out prizes, and it helped to create a strong bond among gamers at the college.
Membership in the club is a simple affair. All you have to do is enjoy playing games.
Video game production sophomore Matthew Strawn thought club membership was not for him because he thought there would be membership requirements that he could not live up to like mandatory attendance at meetings.
“Our club is not a mandatory club. You don’t have to attend all the meetings. It’s about relaxing and taking a break between classes,” Estrada said.
This passion for gaming began in childhood.
“Playing the Nintendo Entertainment System when I was a little kid, I loved ‘Super Mario,’” Estrada said. “My all-time favorite is ‘Mortal Kombat.’ I’ve played every version. I started playing ‘Halo’ and was amazed by how we’ve come from ‘Pong’ to 3-D graphics.”
Velez said he loves gaming because of the adventures the characters take.
They get to explore the game world and it makes him want to explore the real world.
Strawn said he first picked up a video game controller when he was 4.
His first game was “Super Smash Bros.” for Nintendo Entertainment 64.
“Even as a child, I was an imaginative person. I like to let my mind take me places. It’s fun to immerse myself in fantasy and sci-fi worlds,” he said.
Estrada and Strawn recognize the addictive nature of gaming, and they have developed coping mechanisms to avoid allowing their favorite pastime to affect their grades.
“I play in 30-minute sessions,” Estrada said. “If I have assignments to do, I work on that. I focus on getting most of the work done, then I’ll take a break and play for a bit.
I know I have to balance school, work and gaming,” he said.
He also has a girlfriend and likes to spend time with her, too.
Estrada provided advice to other students who have had trouble balancing gaming time with school and other social activities.
“Learn to take it in moderation. You have to manage your time,” Estrada said. “You came to school to learn and reach your goal.”
Strawn said gaming has affected his schoolwork in the past.
“I’ve gotten much better at it since I started college,” he said, “Sometimes I pick up a new game that draws me in and away from school. When I realize it is impacting my grades, I unplug my systems and get back to schoolwork.”
He said he cut his game time to about five hours a week, not a lot of gaming time for him.
Strawn said he finds it funny that people complain about the amount of time gamers spend playing games because they tend to be people who spend lots of time watching television.
For more information about the NVC Gaming Club, call Jonathan Estrada at 210-461-8781.