Arriving a few minutes early for the Urban Gaming Club (UGC) meeting, I sat by myself in an empty room in Willard wondering what exactly the next hour of my life was going to be like. I wasn’t a stranger to Urban Gaming Club — in fact, my roommate from freshman year was a very active member. I had the awakening experience of leaving my North Halls dorm room for my 9:05 and promptly being belted in the face with a sock by another UGC-er who was after my roommate (this will make more sense as you read on). At exactly 8:00 p.m., three people stormed in pelting things at one another and simultaneously shooting Nerf guns.
“Hahahahaha you DIED!”
“No I didn’t you weren’t in the kill zone for long enough!”
“Every one SHUT UP! The classroom is a safe zone, knock it off.”
It was almost exactly what I was expecting — and man, was it glorious. I had expected this meeting to consist of me sitting in a classroom with Nerf darts flying in the air, people talking over one another, and general dysfunction everywhere. For the most part, I was right. But I was also surprisingly wrong.
One meeting with UGC gave me a whole new perspective on what they do but also left me with a new set of questions. The night was nothing more than a giant contradiction. And I loved every second of it. Maybe I should start with an explanation of exactly what Urban Gaming Club is.
As I am sure you could guess, those who join UGC don’t join to sit in a meeting a few times a semester. They join to get out there and play. Urban Gaming, put most simply, is a game that is brought to human scale in an urban environment. The purpose of the club is to bring people together for human interaction, physical challenges, and tactical game play.
Many of their games involve Nerf-blasters, including Territories, Battle Royale, Assassins, and most notably Humans vs. Zombies. Nerf guns can be substituted with a variety of things, including balled socks (much like the one that pelted me in the face).
However, if Nerf guns aren’t your thing UGC also offers Man Hunt, Capture the Flag, and Scavenger Hunt. But trust me, these are NOT the same games you used to play in your backyard every summer. There are different modes of play for each game, each of which adds new challenges the player must face.
Between scheduling, rules, and coordinating the game, things can get complicated pretty fast. But UGC has all of that nailed down to a science. They even have a Rules Council that overseas the planning, creation, and implementation of every game. Before the start of the meeting, one girl who was involved in the ruthless battle that ensued when they first entered the class room, was on the phone with who I understood to be a member of the Rules Council trying to determine whether or not she did in fact “kill” the other player legitimately.
After 30 minutes, I was sold. These students loved what they were doing in the club and weren’t afraid to show it. They showed more passion than half of the other organizations on campus.
More often than not, however, when UGC members are seen on campus in the middle of a game, whether they are adorning their neon Assassin arm bands or running around shooting Nerf darts at one another, they get looks. And comments. And unfortunately, insults. But to be quite frank, perhaps the Penn State student body should consider acting a little more like them. UGC members take an oath that requires them to be respectful to all other students on campus. This includes being sure they don’t disrupt their daily lives with a game, and that they refrain from responding to jerks who feel the need to heckle. And these kids take their oath seriously.
When it really comes down to it, members of UGC are just trying to have fun and create experiences for themselves unlike anything else they could find at Penn State.
“I will say this, UGC is all about imagination,” said Craig Boyd, an Urban Gaming Club member. “It’s all about letting your imagination run wild.”
What was my favorite part of the whole night? How every single thing seemed unbelievably dysfunctional and breathtakingly organized at the same time. There was never a moment when the whole room stopped talking. Game rules were constantly being argued, and the decisions for future games were being made by people talking over one another. As a parliamentary procedure nerd (Google it), I couldn’t handle it. Yet I was still amazed. Somehow, things were getting done. People were doing work and large scale games were being planned.
When I say large scale games, I MEAN large scale games. On April 13th, Urban Gaming Club will be hosting it’s 3rd annual Human vs. Zombies Invitational. Currently, over 400 people are registered and around 100 more will be expected to register by the end of the week. Students are coming from all over the place: from Kutztown University to Ithica College, to even possibly Ohio State. Onward State plans to attend (and participate) in the game to really get a feel for what all of the hype is about.
The meeting ended with the same amount of chaos that it started with. Those in charge of the in-progress Assassin game took a moment to decide whether or not game play would begin as soon as the members left the room. Much to my dismay, they were awarded a five-minute safe period to get the heck outta Dodge before starting to play again. I saw nothing but smiles the whole night, and that is freaking awesome. Maybe next time you roll your eyes watching UGC members playing one of their games, you can stop and instead wonder “How the heck can I start having that much fun?”
If you couldn’t figure out by all of the previous links, everything you could ever want to know about Urban Gaming Club can be found at www.urbangaming.org