For University of New Mexico gamers like Nicholas Livingstone and Samina Kabir, the transition online wasn't much of a transition at all.
“We were in a good place to handle the pandemic prior to it happening,” Livingstone, vice president of the Tabletop Tavern club, said. “What our club centers around — board games, tabletop games — has a virtual representation that allows us to maintain some communication with members of our club.”
In fact, Livingstone and Kabir — club president of UNM Esports — report their clubs have ballooned as UNM and its students search for community amid the COVID-19 outbreak.
The two clubs both have their own online chat room servers on Discord but members of each group have recently collaborated together to provide a fun gaming environment for everyone.
“In times like these… everyone is a lot more desperate for social interaction,” Livingstone said. “There are people that are trying to make the most of the situation.”
Kabir said that at least 50 members of UNM Esports are involved competitively or are in leadership while the others are more involved in the community sects.
“Trying to be innovative is our role right now,” Kabir said. “One of our main focuses this year is to reach a majority of the campus and see who we can include.”
Student consultant of Tabletop Tavern Nathaniel Perry said some students are struggling with maintaining communication in the club for a variety of factors, including lack of stable internet connection, lack of resources such as Discord or online games, and antisocial tendencies.
Co-secretary of Tabletop Tavern, Adrian Veruete-Maya, said that most games do cost money, which is another disadvantage to an online setting.
“It’s not really loss of interest, but loss of resources,” Veruete-Maya said.
Livingstone added that other members of the club are actually more involved than before due to more flexible schedules and easier accessibility.
Veruete-Maya said that game times fluctuate based on updated school schedules and classwork, which is prioritized over the club.
Tabletop Tavern was supposed to host a major game night on March 26, which was canceled due to the pandemic. Some money went toward this event but ultimately money is not an issue for the club, according to Livingstone.
Instead, the club works through a point system, where students who bring new members, games, or food are rewarded with points that could add up for a potential prize at the end of the year.
UNM Esports was also supposed to hold a charity event in late March as well as a tournament in April at off-campus locations, which were both canceled.
Tabletop Tavern also holds a major focus on the game Dungeons and Dragons (D&D), which Perry said has improved greatly since the online transition due to “rapidly enhancing infrastructure.” Kabir said the UNM Esports advisor Bernardo Gallegos assisted in the creation of the remote D&D sessions.
Perry said that the club has been focused mainly on keeping up with the constant changes rather than a focus on outreach for new members currently. He also mentioned that there are limited resources that the club can offer in an online setting.
“We definitely could make a bigger push online but we aren’t necessarily looking for that right now because we’re still keeping steady on our feet with this change,” Perry said.
However, both Kabir and Livingstone emphasized that new members are encouraged to join the Discord servers and play with the clubs.
Perry said Tabletop Tavern officers are still meeting daily in order to continue improving the club and make sure they have the infrastructure to support pre-existing and potential new members. Kabir said UNM Esports officers are also meeting daily but are considering dialing down on their weekly meetings due to a lack of new information.
“It’s an opportune time to get some stuff done that we may not have had the opportunity to do before,” Perry said.
Tabletop Tavern is still a new club at UNM, created in fall of 2019 based on an online invitation by current President Dasie Kent. Kent asked if anyone was interested in board games and about 30 to 40 people showed up to the first meeting based on that and the club has grown since.
“It appeals to so many people because not everybody loves D&D and not everybody loves board games but we throw them all together,” Vuruete-Maya said.
Past achievements for UNM Esports include wins at a Rocket League tournament against New Mexico Tech at the Dreamstyle Arena and a League of Legends game at New Mexico Phi Gaming.
UNM Esports also participates in the Mountain West Conference, Collegiate Starleague and smaller tournaments.
Megan Gleason is a beat reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @fabflutist2716