Game-Changer! New Gaming Room Proposed On Campus
By Darcy Davitt
The ANU Esports Society is proposing a redevelopment of the ‘Game On’ arcade room in Kambri into a dedicated video gaming space. The room would welcome all gamers, ranging from competitive Esports players to casual enthusiasts who want to play a bit of Mario Kart between classes.
Last month, the ANU Esports Society released an Expression of Interest (EOI) to gauge interest levels in a new Gaming Room in Kambri. President Ethan Hayes told Observer he was overwhelmed by the community’s positive feedback, saying “the response has been fantastic, people have gone above and beyond.”
“We’ve even had ANU staff filling it out, there’s been suggestions of staff versus students competitions, non-ANU [Esports] players talking about how they’d come to Canberra to participate in tournaments held by the ANU.”
“We want to shoot for more because every voice counts.”
Membership numbers at the ANU Esports Society have almost doubled each year since Hayes became President in 2022. The club’s Facebook account and Discord server both have over 1000 members.
The proposed room would include PCs for competitive training in games such as League of Legends, Counter-Strike, and Rocket League, as well as console gaming spaces that can be used by anyone, including those not connected with the ANU Esports Society.
“It’s not just for Esports players, it’s for all gamers together,” Hayes says.
“There’s been high demand for a racing sim [a racing wheel and pedal setup used for driving games], a lot of those more casual games [Mario Kart, Just Dance, FIFA].”
The proposal’s finer details are subject to “ongoing” discussions between ANU Esports enthusiasts and university stakeholders. However, it appears that the room would be overseen and “financed by the ANU” if successful.
Some students have raised concerns about how the room would be funded, given the upfront and ongoing costs associated with a gaming room. One student asked: “Will funding come out of the Services & Amenities Fee?”
An ANU spokesperson told Observer, “The University is awaiting a proposal and feasibility study, which will form the basis of any decisions that are made about the room.”
Hayes admits that gaming equipment “costs a ridiculous amount of money.” However, he suggests that the current model of renting gear each time in-person tournaments are run is “just not economically viable … it’s definitely harder without the facilitation that other universities have.”
The proposal and feasibility study, which “is ready to be submitted this week”, includes cost-benefit analyses that indicate the room could sustainably operate “at the very least not [at] a loss,” according to the ANU Esports Society President.
For some ANU students, questions remain as to whether gaming is something the university should encourage, given the mounting evidence of harm and the addictive potential of gaming. The harms associated with loot boxes and simulated gambling in video games have been recently studied by institutions such as the Australian Gambling Research Centre.
One student said, “I feel like we shouldn’t be encouraging excessive gaming use, and if you’re facilitating gaming on campus, that can’t be a good look.”
Hayes suggests this is an example of “technology bias”, claiming that Esports delivers just as many benefits as any other recreational activity funded by ANU. An in-person gaming room would be “so much healthier than online grinding day-in day-out” according to Hayes, referring to unhealthy study habits.
According to the President, until there is a dedicated gaming room on-campus, “we inadvertently marginalise Esports communities from being able to interact together in-person.”
“If you really want to go down the route of saying gaming is a distraction because it’s not study, well, everything is a distraction because it’s not study. This very interview is a distraction because it’s not study, but we still do it, because there’s advantages to it outside of the realm of study,” Hayes says.
“Everyone’s distracted, whoever’s reading this article right now is probably distracted.”
Responses to the EOI have suggested that “students who have gaming computers in their rooms tend to associate their room with gaming, which means they can’t study in their rooms.” Hayes cites the potential educational and health benefits of “placing that association in a dedicated space on-campus … it’s a no-brainer.”
Some students have shown concern for what this would mean for the current free gaming pop-up in Joplin Lane, ‘Game On’. One student said, “I’d be sad to see the pinball room go, but at the same time I feel it is being underutilised.”
“[Game On] has a lot of potential to be a fun place for people to hang out, but it’s always so empty and I’m not sure why,” said a student who represented their college in an Esports tournament earlier this year.
It remains to be seen whether a new gaming room would replace the current offering. An ANU spokesperson told Observer, “There have been no decisions made at this stage about its location or day-to-day operations.”
“The ANU Community will be informed when there are further updates. In the meantime, staff and students can still enjoy their free retro gaming fix at the Game On pop-up in Kambri.”
Gaming enthusiasts will be hoping ANU can meet them on the same level.
Graphics by Annisa Zatalini
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