Joeri’s Corner – The Social Aspect of Gaming : Gaming Communities

Editor’s Note: Read Part 1 of “The Social Aspect of Gaming” here.

Welcome back readers for part two of this article! Let me start out by apologising for the delay of the release of this article… sadly circumstances were not ideal.

So now we have that out of the way let’s continue forward on our magical journey through game-land and its inhabitants. We’ve already seen that yes these magical creatures do go outside and face the sunlight, they are quite sociable indeed and some of them have formed their own kind of community. We will be looking at one of those communities over here in little Belgium, namely the fighting game community. Honestly it’s a rather small community over here, in fact it’s still in its baby shoes and you have to put a lot of effort into finding any activity surrounding it. In this state it’s very interesting to follow its evolution, to see it grow from a little event hosted in a single room to what might one day be a big event filling a big hall.

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I have been to this one single event that hosts fighting game tournaments called Buttonbash, yes THE place to be for fighting games in Belgium aaaand probably the only one. At least as far as it comes down to an event that is being organised on a regular base. This tiny event had a lot to offer  with a setup of about 30 to 40 consoles, ranging from 8bit consoles to the newest next-gen consoles. There are games to play that take you right back to your youth or for the newer generation that finally gets to play those games mum and dad have been talking about. There’s even arcade machines that make you feel like the old days when you had to visit the arcade halls. The atmosphere that’s there is very pleasant as you see all these people interacting with each other in a very friendly manner.  They talk about their favourite games they used to play and of course how awesome they were at it.

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When it comes down to the tournaments you see the more competitive players show up and oh boy do they beat you down mercilessly with their honed skills, but even though they don’t you give you an easy time they aren’t all smug about it. I’ve always liked fighting games and played plenty of hours… I’m not half bad at it yet I don’t even come close to how good these people are. Of course there’s always going to be someone you think is acting a bit too smug, the sore looser who is going to blame it all on lag or frame rate. I think any sort event will always have a little down side to it, but for the biggest part is it’s fun and it’s thanks to all the gamers coming together to do epic battles with each other that this is for me personally such a positive experience. I had fun while playing but  outside the games is also nice just to have small talk with different people.

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Some of these ‘hard-core pros’ are so good they even win enough tournaments to match some people’s pay check or go above it and I have seen winnings of over 2000 euros. I’d say that isn’t so bad for a day of gaming. It is fairly mind-blowing that anyone could win this amount of money from bashing some buttons on a controller. Watch out for that carpal tunnel syndrome though! This of course isn’t something just about anyone can accomplish, otherwise everybody would simply do it. Not only have they been practicing a long time for this but it’s also an ability you need to possess, good reflexes, fast decision-making and memorising all the different moves in the game.

Buttonbash is being organised by David van Ballaer and he wants to make this event into a social coming together of like-minded people who can practice together and become better players together. I grabbed him by his collar and dragged him into this little interview we’d like to present to you.

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Hello David! Can you introduce yourself to our readers, please?

All my life I have been obsessed with games and that’s why I started Game-INN: a project where I try to share my passion for games with everyone. Usually I do this by bringing many different game setups to different events. These setups can be quite diverse. From retro consoles like the NES or the Sega Mega Drive to the latest Virtual Reality headsets like the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive.

Buttonbash is an event we host ourselves which focusses on fight games like Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat. Those games were my favorites when I went to the arcades when I was young.

What are games to you personally?

Some people have it with books, others with movies or music, I have it with games! They are part of my youth and my life. It all started when I was 4 or 5 years old with a Commodore 64, a great machine ahead of its time. I never stopped playing games since then.

To me they are the ultimate form of arts and entertainment, you can find everything in them. I’m convinced there’s a gamer in everyone, you just have to find the right games for every person!

How did game-inn come to be and what do you want to accomplish with it?

A few years ago I went to Frag-O-Matic, the largest LAN-Party of Belgium. There I met Awesome Retro. This is a Dutch non-profit organization that’s all about retro gaming. They have a huge library of games, consoles and other equipment which they gathered all through donations.

Because I liked their concept so much, I joined them as a volunteer and went along to many different events.

This is when I started collecting games and consoles myself. My collection started to grow really quick when eventually I started placing game booths at events.

What is your view on the communities that exist around gaming?

Communities are important as they bring people together. Of course the largest gaming communities are online but for me it’s much more important to meet each other in real life to share your passion.

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How did you experience the social part of games so far?

For me there are 3 forms of social gaming:

  1. Online gaming: Although I don’t do it myself that much, the online gaming communities are really huge and are increasing day by day.
  2. LAN Parties: they allow online communities to meet each other in real life, something I find a lot of fun and very important.
  3. The most fun I have through playing multiplayer games is by inviting friends and play local multiplayer games on the couch!

Do you believe there is a change in how we look to games and have a community around it compared to a few years ago?

Definitely! Games used to be a niche played only by “nerds”. Since then a lot has changed and gaming is much more mainstream than ever before. If you look at the e-sport scene, gaming has become a real big business. Unfortunately, some people within those online communities are very “salty” and quite unfriendly to newcomers.

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Do you think there’s room for any projects here in Belgium that involve counselling youth or keeping kids from the streets?

I’m still thinking about which direction I want to go with the whole concept. One direction is to make Game-INN into some sort of youth house. Most youth houses of today are nothing more than a place where people come to drink alcohol. This is not what I want, I want people to come together to play games and have fun with each other!

What can you share about the team you are trying to make yourself, Team Buttonbash?

With TEAM BUTTONBASH we are trying to create a real Belgian fighting game community. The first members of our team are Mortal Kombat players. In the future we want to expand so any player of any fighting game can join us.

Next to our main Buttonbash events we  want to provide our members with more casual meetings. I firmly believe that it’s the perfect way to train your skills and help them win other competitions.

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You have also been investing into VR technology, how do you see yourself moving forward into that?

I really think Virtual Reality is the next big thing. I believe not many people realise what impact this new tech is going have, myself included! When I first tried the Oculus Rift DK1 two years ago I was immediately blown away.

At this moment I have five VR headsets, three Oculus Rifts CV1 and two HTC Vives. I am especially impressed by the HTC Vive. The fact that you can stand, walk and interact in a complete other Virtual World is truly mind-blowing.  Last year I also pre-ordered a Virtuix Omni, this is not a headset but a sort of 360° treadmills. With it you’ll be able to walk and move endlessly in VR.

My intention is to take all these materials to events. I find it extremely pleasant to show this new technology to people.

What roads do you think people in general will take with all this recent development in VR?

I do think it’s still going to be a very long time before it really becomes mainstream, but we are getting there one day at a time!

Any interesting spoilers in store for us on any of your plans?

At the moment we are preparing for our own first event about Virtual Realty, just check out our Facebook page and our website

There you have it folks! Some inside information you can’t get anywhere else but here! There’s always going to be different experiences for the same thing, for example I might have had good fun while someone else found it rather disappointing. This is also a very local view on the matter, since it might be a total different vibe in another country and the players might be bigger cocky bastards than they are over here. After they beat you senseless they might do a little victory dance of douchyness on your grave while singing a tune to show that they are the champion. I might also be biased since I always try to see the good things in people and situations. My opinion is that this growing community here could be a great thing to bring people together to share their experiences so they can all grow together. They could  grow great things out of this and it could even help some people who have some problems reaching out to other people who at the moment feel stuck with their hobby, unable to share what interests them with the rest of the world.

We will have to see what all of this leads to but I sure hope it leads to very intriguing times where we can all share our interesting hobbies with each other. I hope all of you can also enjoy the positive experiences I witnessed and have some good laughs while doing it.

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