by Marcia Hunt
Despite a pandemic surge in gaming, Purchase’s Gamers United [GU] has struggled with dwindling membership as it migrated to an online and remote environment.
“We don’t have as many games to play now that we aren’t in-person, so we’re really trying to figure out what to do and what games we can play,” said Hailey Cooke, a sophomore psychology major and the club’s president. “It’s hard to do online gaming, especially when there are limited options. When you’re playing the same games over and over, it gets kind of boring.”
When the club was on campus, they were able to host board game nights and play multiplayer games together with people in the same room. This semester, GU met Mondays and Fridays at 8 p.m. on Discord, a voice chat and messaging app designed for gaming.
“Gamers United is a friendly, safe place where you can just play games with people and have fun,” Cooke said. “It’s a really good way to relieve stress and have a good time.”
Over the course of the pandemic, video gaming saw a rise in popularity, with people turning to games to provide comfort and social interactions in a time of instability and isolation.
NPD, an organization that tracks trends in several industries including gaming, reported that 79% of consumers in the U.S. played video games in the first six months of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to an article by Morningstar.
Although more people seemed to be gaming, Christopher Uzzell, former president of Gamers United, said that as the pandemic continued on, the club’s membership declined.
Before the pandemic, he estimated that on average, eight people attended their weekly meetings. Now, he says that only the e-board regularly attends.
“When we were still on campus, we were able to get up to 15 people to show up on a good day,” the studio composition major said. “But when the pandemic hit, all of the clubs were put on the back burner. Playing online in a Discord chat this year has been the most difficult part of GU’s existence in the four years I’ve been involved.”
Lily Fitzgerald, a junior arts management major who does public relations for the club, is unsurprised about GU’s low membership since the pandemic began.
“Honestly, it didn't surprise me,” Fitzgerald said. “I know that I'm sick of looking at a computer screen, and I'm sure everyone else is too.”
With the way this semester has gone, GU is nervous about their future should it remain online.
“I think the club can last another semester being completely digital, but it would be a massive stretch to see it go past next year,” said Uzzell.
Cooke agreed, “I’m a little bit concerned about going into next semester. I really hope we’re in person, but I don’t know what’s going to happen.”
With 34.3% of Purchase’s student body receiving at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine and 461 courses being offered partially in person next semester, Gamers United is trying to stay optimistic about the fall.
“We are really just waiting to see what the PSGA says we can do for in-person events,” said Fitzgerald. “If we can meet face-to-face, we are trying to get a new VR [virtual reality] set and have pizza parties more often, knowing that students love food.”
Uzzell, who is graduating this semester, said, “I wish the best for GU next year. This is a club that deserves every single good thing because it’s not just about video gaming; being around people who like the same thing as you is something that’s overlooked. Especially in today’s climate, it’s a really important experience to have.”
Cooke is trying to remain positive about what next semester will bring. She has already begun planning for new events when the club can finally meet on campus.
“I have some new games I really want to introduce to people,” Cooke said. “We used to always play ’Super Smash Bros,’ but I recently found a love for ‘Mario Party’ and ‘My Hero: One’s Justice’ [an anime-based fighting game]. They’re super enjoyable. I really want to get people to play new games.”
As this semester comes to a close, one thing remains certain: Gamers United is determined to go into next semester with their heads held high.