Student Plans Successful Game Night at Makerspace

Author: Steve Hunter, Mechatronics Department Chair Emeritus, and Team Leader for CCC Maker Sierra College Makerspaces

A student’s idea to host a Game Night & LAN Party + Anime turned out more successful than anyone imagined with over 100 attendees. The concept for the event was generated by Jose Gonzales, a student leader at Hacker Lab powered by Sierra College in Rocklin and a member of the CCC Maker implementation planning team. The event achieved the goal of attracting students unfamiliar with the makerspace to experience the community.

“Hacker Lab aims to be an inclusive and diverse space, and on the initial suggestion of a night focused on video games, there were concerns that the event would reflect the hyper-masculine mid-2000s video game culture,” said Gonzales. To attract a more diverse group, Gonzales said he: “targeted marketing at students with three intersecting but distinct groups of interests: traditional gaming (board games- ‘comic-shop gamers’), video games and Anime fans who are associated with cosplay.”

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He intentionally chose promotional language to appeal to the targeted audience. “We titled the event, Game Night & LAN Party +Anime, and in the Facebook description wrote, ‘the intention is to attract as many flavors of nerds to the space as possible,’” said Gonzales.

When marketing support was offered, Gonzales insisted that the flyer be developed by students who understand students. The black and white flyer was filled with text and didn’t look like any official college marketing materials, and that was the point. “The flyer included gamer jargon and the anime references served as coded messages demonstrating authenticity,” said Gonzales. “A brief list of games was mentioned, selected for their popularity.”

Flyers and word-of-mouth, were the most effective in attracting attendees. “While a Facebook group event was created, only six people RSVP’d through the platform, said Gonzales. “The Meetup group generated one lone response.”

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Over 700 flyers blanketed the campus just two days before the event. Prospective attendees responded to Gonzales’ offer on the flyer to text him for more information. Students asked about games, offered to bring their consoles and communicated that they’d be there after work. The flyer also included a QR code that students could scan for more information.

To gain a deeper understand of what worked to attract the crowd, at the event, Gonzales conducted informal research during the event. “I began with – ‘this is not a survey,’” said Gonzales. “Of the 40 people I polled, there was no mention of social media or email. Nearly half mentioned the flyer as their exposure to the event, with the remainder citing word-of-mouth.”

The flyer suggested that participants could play board games such as Catan, Smal World and Cards Against Humanity. Console games included All the Smash, Halo 4, Goldeeye, Mario Cart and Jackbox. PC gamers were encouraged to “bring their rigs” to play CSGO, League and Overwatch.

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“Of the games mentioned on the flyer, approximately 20% were provided by Hacker Lab,” said Gonzales. “As I expected, most games were brought by attendees.”

Hacker Lab provided the space and displays for gaming consoles, explained Gonzales. “Three TVs and two projectors were available and the ‘demand’ of attendee hardware outstripped supply,” said Gonzales. “One intrepid group of gamers brought their own TV. There were no complaints that specific games were missing.”

According to Gonzales, the variety of activities resulted in a natural sorting of the space. “One side of the building was well-lit and relatively quiet, facilitating board game play,” said Gonzales. “The other end of the building was dark but for the glow of PC monitors and the accompanying yelling. The gradual transition between the two areas allowed guests to choose the environment in which they were most comfortable.”

One of the goals of the Game Night was to promote the Maker Night being offered one week later. Several people did come the following week and they are considering joining the makerspace. Sierra College students can join for $12.50 per month or buy a semester pass for $100 that includes two classes for certification to use equipment in two labs of their choice.

The CCC Maker team members debriefed after the event to record what they’d learned. They discussed improving furniture layout, recruiting more volunteers to set up and run the event, having more equipment available, improving the sign in process and the importance of having enough food. The student leaders have already planned another event focused on cosplay.

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