Long Live the Gamer: Interview with the MIT Gaming Club
For a long time now, the gaming diaspora of MIT has been grossly under-represented and limited to cramped hostel rooms. It is for this precise reason that a handful of gaming enthusiasts felt the need to establish the MIT Gaming Club, a club that is exclusively dedicated to gamers and game developers. We recently caught up with the president of the club Anshuman Verma and club financier Siddharth Gupta to know more.
1. What is the MIT gaming club all about?
Anshuman: The MIT gaming club is essentially about anything related to gaming. Initially when I joined MIT, there was only one tournament held during the fests. The college did not have anything exclusively dedicated to gaming and this disappointed me. Ever since my second year of engineering I have tried to establish such a club and set some groundwork for gaming competitions. We have finally achieved that and I hope that something good has come out of it, especially for the juniors.
2. Why does the institution need to have a club that is exclusively dedicated to gaming?
Anshuman: Gaming is not considered to be a very good thing in India. People, especially our parents and teachers, think it’s a waste of time. That is true only to the extent where people are addicted to it and it is hampering his/her daily life. However, there are some advantages to it.
Outside of India, there are a lot of tournaments, and people are taking to gaming as a serious profession. They’re playing games and earning good money. That’s not happening in India because of this mentality. We need to change that on the ground level i.e. schools and colleges. We have game development in our club as well which is an activity that requires gaming knowledge. If someone doesn’t know about gaming and its features, then they wouldn’t be able to develop a good quality game.
3. What sort of skill set would the club be imparting to its members? Where or how would it come in handy?
Anshuman: Initially our plan is to start something that will create a learning environment. We do not expect a lot of skill from the students, and we are not looking for full-fledged game developers here. We just want members who have a genuine interest and some basic aptitude as well as creativity in them so that they can learn more. That is good enough. Game development is an acquired skill. I think it could be a dream job for a lot of students to develop games and play games. A game developer spends more than fifty percent of his time playing games and trying to understand games. So it is a really interesting profession.
Siddharth: Also, gaming is not just about playing games. It is multidisciplinary. You are learning as well. You are learning how to code and learning game physics. And we are recruiting people who are passionate about gaming because they are the ones who understand how a game works. They are the ones who have played a game. Game development needs people who know how to code and know how to design and render on software such as Blender, Photoshop, etc. So if you are asking me if these skills are useful for the future, then obviously they are.
4.What sort of events do you intend to organize over the academic year? Do you plan on having a category in one of the two fests?
Siddharth: It has not been finalised as to what events we would be having this semester. Our plan in general is that we will have one gaming event, apart from the Revels and TechTatva events, every semester. We are also planning to have workshops where we will allow non-members and those who are not part of the game development team to get an inside look of how games work. Just a basic know-how of the game development process. A Mechanical Engineering student like me might not know how to code, but he might know the required trajectory for throwing a grenade and things like that. The game development team will be running simultaneously. They will be working on one or more projects throughout the semester, like Formula Manipal or Parikshit does, depending on the complexity of the project. We will surely like to have a separate category in Revels or TechTatva, but that depends on the Student Council and higher authorities.
5. And how many departments is the club segregated into?
Anshuman: There are two wings. One of them is the gaming wing which will conduct gaming events. The other one is the game development wing which will work as a team and try to develop games while also learning more about it.This would create a conducive atmosphere to learn more about game development in the institution. We want to create an awareness about game development and portray it as a viable career option. At some time in the future, if one can combine these two skills, one can also become a game tester which is a very attractive job.
6. How exactly do you intend to go about the membership drive? What kind of benefits will the members be privy to?
Anshuman: Since this is the even semester, we would like to start acquiring members from the next academic year. We would be providing membership benefits such as discounts on events. Our gaming tournaments will have a limited number of seats and the members will have reserved spots. We are yet to discuss more about the membership benefits and it will be finalized by the next semester.
7.Does the club have a designated location for meetings and workshops?
Siddharth: As of now, we do not have a designated location. Workshops and events will be conducted in the rooms allotted to us by the Student Council. The equipment will be sponsored by the membership and registration fees for the events.
8. How has the gaming world and gaming technology evolved over the years?
Anshuman: Almost everyone plays video games now. It has evolved from the early 2D games, which were all pixelated, to extremely realistic and graphical games. Game development and gaming is growing exponentially. E-sports and professional gaming are widely accepted as a profession almost everywhere. Even India is growing in this regard, and we have had organizations come to India and host events as well as sponsor Indian gaming teams.
Siddharth: Adding to that, Amazon recently acquired Twitch, which is a game streaming service. If a company like Amazon is buying it, then you must understand the importance of gaming today. Tech Mahindra recently started a game streaming service in India. They are the first ones to provide such a service. They recognise the talent pool in India and see that there is potential for growth. Now that we have started something like this in Manipal, we hope that we can contribute to the gaming scene in India.
9. On a lighter note, what are some of your favourite video games?
Anshuman: My favourite game has to be Counterstrike. I’ve been playing it ever since the 9th grade and it is what got me interested in the gaming industry. Apart from that, I like a few single-player games such as GTA and NFS.
Siddharth: I mostly play FIFA because that is what I am good at.
10. Have you participated in any gaming tournaments?
Siddharth: He (Anshuman) has won every single Counterstrike tournament in MIT since he has been here, so he has covered that front. (laughs)
The other members of the club are also winners of many other gaming competitions. All of us got together and decided to form a club so that we can go out and compete too. VIT organises a competition called ‘Gameathon’ where they get sponsors like Valve and the prize money is around sixty thousand rupees, which is a lot for a college tournament. We are pretty sure we can have that here as well, since we have good infrastructure and potential. It is just a decent push that is needed.
11. What were some of the ordeals that you have had to overcome in establishing a club that is dedicated to such a cause?
Anshuman: We tried to establish the club last year, but the first response was not good. At that point we did not know a lot about game development and the idea was rejected because we did not have adequate knowledge. We kept trying and learnt game development for a year. Now, all of us are confident enough to teach others as well.