Button Mashers Monthly: Part 1

The following is an extension of the October 15 editorial Re-Living What Multiplayer Used to Be.

Earlier this week, I mentioned I had started an in-person gaming club to re-live the experiences and build the kind of friendships forged through local multiplayer and offline gaming. Today, I’ll share the challenges of running a gaming club, my thoughts on the games that make for a fun club experience, and my goal to establish a club identity.

Welcome to Button Mashers Monthly.

Overcoming Offline and Social Challenges
I face two principal challenges in managing my club. First, I have to constantly sell the experience of enjoying games with friends in-person instead of online. Offline gaming does not offer the variety that online gaming does; it feels very limited and archaic since few developers today invest few resources in it. I need to find a way to convince club members, or “Button Mashers,” to keep coming to our events for an experience their gaming life does not already provide them.

Second, I have to bring strangers together and create friendships. It doesn’t matter if I use gaming or free food or an event theme as my social agent. Put 10 strangers in a room and ask them to become friends in two hours; it won’t work. Even with games or movies to enjoy together, friendships take time. I must create an environment that encourages people to not only game together, but also to socialize in between and become familiar with who everyone is as a person.

Consider this as well: Gamers have their own unique ways of socializing — forums, Steam, TeamSpeak, etc. — so I’m possibly disrupting social norms. We can play a game no one currently enjoys outside the club, but all the interactions club members will have about that game will be from a face-to-face perspective. I wonder how that will affect our impressions of gaming in general as we have more events and become more familiar with what we play together.

A Mix of the Old and the New
Through the ups and downs of its existence, gaming has always carried with it a strong sense of nostalgia. I aim to capture that nostalgia by playing some of the games and consoles people like me grew up on. Part of my vision is huddling around a TV with my Button Mashers — each with a different color controller in hand — and firing red and green tortoise shells at each other in Mario Kart 64. Players would share their stories about how they completed every course consecutively on 200 cc difficulty, and there would be friendly smack talk and victory dances.

Gaming has changed drastically since those times though. Games take longer to complete, and victory dances come in the form of YouTube videos with dubstep soundtracks. It’s not that we’ve grown up; it’s that gaming has grown up, so we can’t rely on what pleased everyone 15 years ago to make the same memories now. I’ve already noticed my club isn’t drawn to my Nintendo 64 or Playstation 2 like they are the current-gen systems, so I need to incorporate today’s games that offer local multiplayer and cooperative gaming opportunities. I honestly can’t recall off the top of my head more than five games that support local multiplayer, and I never think of split-screen gaming when purchasing a new game. Who does? I’m excited to see what offline experiences today’s games offer; maybe I’ve been missing out this last console generation.

Group Growth
To build a group and better form friendships, I’m planning to get the club engaged outside our event headquarters — my house. I’ve assessed from our first two events that Button Mashers may lose interest if the club does not come together as a whole and find a common interest within gaming. Everyone has their unique favorite games and ways to enjoy gaming, but if we don’t find something that everyone will want to enjoy together a couple times a month, the club will not act as a group — just a collection of people with different gaming interests.

I understand that it will take time and regular conversations among Button Mashers before we establish our club identity. Taking cues from this club and other groups I’ve noticed at LANs and events like PAX, I’m working to encourage social interaction in a public setting. Our next event will be at Dave & Buster’s, so this gives members a better chance to experience the club as a social component in their lives. I’m also planning to meet up with a few members here and there for midnight releases (i.e. Assassin’s Creed IV, Battlefield 4) and, given the number of PC gamers in the club, would consider getting some people together to go to a regional LAN like Intel LANFest.

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I’m excited to see the social evolution of the club and how enjoying today’s games in-person compares with our experiences in the past. Perhaps taking advantage of this next’s month’s wave of AAA titles will give club members reason to converse and interact with each other more — giving us the momentum we need to form our club identity.

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