by Ben Neblock ’11
The Thunderbird Games Club was created by Sho Sato ’11 during the Fall of 2010 to both represent the industry and promote his personal interest. “I wanted to deal with a club that specialized in games or the game industry, to hopefully make connections with game companies. There was no such specialized club in existence,” he said, and so he made the club himself.
Justin Bresolin ’11, the current President of the club, saw the weekly format as an opportunity for students to relax socially in what little free time they had available. “Our group is distinct from professional clubs. We seek to provide an entertainment venue for those without an excess of time to relax and enjoy some things.”
During their weekly meetings, the club offers a wide variety of games, ranging from traditional board and card games to more modern digital offerings. Justin quietly monitors the general appeal of each product, with a mind at limiting specialization to avoid alienating people. On a campus boasting representatives from an outrageous number of countries, tastes run the gamut. “Some people really love board games and dislike digital; or, of course, vice versa. We have to meet every need of every gamer on campus,” he says.
FIFA on the PS3 is the resounding favorite in the electronic medium, something that the club attributes to the seemingly universal popularity of soccer amongst a diverse student body. There are plans to hold regular (electronic) soccer tournaments and rotating, popular games within the fighting genre, with gift cards awarded to the winner.
Justin and Sho see regional nights as a natural opportunity to promote games from featured cultures, and have been attempting to offer relevant, unique examples of more popular examples within each distinction. However, Justin points out that sometimes cards or strategic pieces are not a priority at these events. “Can’t exactly compete with singing and dancing,” he says.
Both Sho and Justin insist that games can be a revealing indicator of cultural preference, should one pay attention. In Germany, for example, the prevalent method of strategic recreation centers around board games focused on non-trivial pursuits such as business, politics, or that require active negotiation. Additionally, their main customer is not the typical teenage male so often exemplified as the current gamer, but the elderly. This purchasing profile extends throughout the countries of northern Europe as well.
Variation across culture was illuminated rather adroitly by Sho in an anecdote regarding the prevailing styles of Chess throughout the world. Chess, or at least a similar enough version of it, exists in every country, he informs. While familiar with numerous modes of the game (Japanese, American, Chinese, Thai), one type with peculiar variation, had long eluded him, despite being explained the rules by other enthusiasts at game conventions over the years. While most wrinkles involve alterations to attack possibility for established pieces, Mongolian chess focuses more on the board itself. It is spatial rather than role based, involving pieces that disrupt the movements of opposing forces, leading to a very tactical experience more akin to Risk. The term for this concept is called “Zone of Control,” and it has become a popular trope in modern game design. Interestingly enough, Mongolian Chess precedes Risk by approximately 400 years. Sho believes that the creators of the ancient game had an understandably sophisticated knowledge of the importance of invasion and protection, reinforcing the point that different rules within recreation can express seminal methods of thinking.
Concerning the subject of social media gaming, perhaps most popularly exemplified in the fictional farm management or town creation simulations that proliferate on platforms such as Facebook, these young men point out that mobile phone penetration rates in other countries currently exceed that of the United States. While studying in Jordan, Sho noticed that most passengers on his commute were wielding two phones. Upon inquiry, a youngster shared that one phone was meant to engage in social media gaming; the other was specifically to recruit friends to join in the current game.
A prime motivation of the club is to enlighten peers about a non-traditional, but entirely viable, industry. The digital arena is completely international and expanding rapidly.
They cite numerous instances of traditional business application within the gaming industry, including viral marketing campaigns embedded within large scale releases (an ongoing, menacing extension of the “Why So Serious” campaign that connected The Dark Knight film to its video game complement) to first person shooters being utilized as a recruitment tool for the actual armed forces. This permeation of entertainment into functional life is best exemplified by the training programs implemented by two customer service entities, McDonalds and Hilton. In Japan, McDonalds utilizes the Nintendo DS as the mode of training implantation for new employees; similarly, Hilton developed a unique gaming simulation to instruct best practices for ideal customer interaction. This emphasis on gaming as not only a means for entertainment, but, by turns an advertising and educational medium, has been deemed “Gameification.”
Justin freely recognizes that the Games Club may not serve as obviously a functional feeder program as the Marketing or Finance Clubs, but he insists that it is no less viable for job preparation.
“It may not offer you a sweet job on Wall Street, but it will introduce you to a viable industry. One that is highly profitable, and growing.”
His sentiment was proven particularly prescient this past week, when Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, a glitzy electronic shooter that explores explicit permutations of what its subtitle promises, debuted in excess of 6.5 million units sold. Even more impressive: the $400 million was generated during the first 24 hours of release, and within exclusively the United States and United Kingdom, making it the most lucrative entertainment release in history.
It should be noted that many principal contributors to the club, namely Masahiro Nokami, Ming-Yi “Angel” Lin, Yen-Yang “Jerry” Chen, and Joseph Hake, are graduating in December, and that all inquiries regarding leadership should be directed to Justin or Sho.
The Games Club meets on Saturdays at 2pm in the Sobo Lounge.