By Michael P
Many names are associated with the students of Westmount Charter School. Gifted, geeks, and nerds are just a few of the names outsiders call us, as well as the names that we ourselves have learned to embrace. These words all imply a massive diversity; a school in which every student is different and has differing needs. Each person is unique and has numerous interests. As such, the school board and the student council have responded with a wide variety of clubs and afterschool events. Our school currently holds a Magic Card Game Club, an Art Club and a variety of extracurricular sports which include rugby and badminton. However, if you think of the common definition of “geek” or “nerd”, there is something missing. What is something that most teenagers, gifted or not, enjoy and are passionate about? Well, video games of course!
Video games have and still do play a major part in the lives of many modern teenagers. They provide a pleasant contrast between the sometimes harsh school environment, and allow us to vent emotions and feelings. A sustainable bond can be formed between two friends, even if the only contact they have is through the virtual world. Video games create a fun, and semi-competitive atmosphere that encourages communication, strategy, and a mindset of success. The recently created Westmount Video Game Club soughts after this positive energy, and tries to bring it into a school environment.
The Westmount Video Game Club is not a first time occurrence; its idea has been brought up and enacted twice before in the history of Westmount. Alan Crooks, the current teacher of Communications Technology, was the pioneer of the new experimental gathering of gamers. He organized these meetings, even though the entire concept he was basing the club upon was still largely shrouded in darkness. Sadly, however, both instances failed to hold for long, due to several issues in regulation and player behaviour. The club operated smoothly for approximately ten months, but then, according to the words of Mr. Crooks, its members started “treating it as more of a right than a privilege.”. He was naturally disheartened, but had to shut down the club, because it had simply began to implode on itself. This new club, created a long time after the fall of its predecessor, will capitalize on its virtues and re-fabricate its weaknesses.
The goal of the club this time around is quite open. In general though, Mr. Crooks wants to remove the negative stigma that is circulating around having video games as a passion or hobby. If someone is good at math, he is referred to as “passionate”. However, as soon as anyone is good at video games, he is “obsessed”. What’s the difference? The club will “give lots of people, and lots of niche groups a place where they [can] feel comfortable”, and establish a network of individuals who are all passionate about the same thing.
Clearly, this club needs some improvements; we can’t simply throw the same variables into an equation and hope for it to work. This time around, much clearer expectations must be set. The members must be aware of the goal of the club, and the reasons why the others had failed. Stricter regulations must be placed upon eating in the computer room, as a major reason behind the other clubs’ downfall was careless use of equipment. Alongside these totalitarian enforcements, however, Crooks says that since video games and their culture have evolved greatly, they allow members to be more experienced with the difficulties and faults of gaming clubs. With greater expectations, only the most passionate will join, making it easier for intra-club occurrences to be monitored.
Mr. Crooks thinks, when asked, that video games definitely can play a major role in education, and do play a major role in the development of students. According to him, many games that require intense strategy or calculation, such as Arma 3 or EVE Online (although these are often called simulations), help teenagers develop critical thinking skills, and multiplayer games help teach students the principles of teamwork. I myself was part of an 8th grade Computer Science Experiment, in tandem with the Humanities department of Queen Elizabeth Junior High School. In broad terms, our teacher attempted to utilize Minecraft as a method of studying ancient architecture, and the interior workings of medieval castles. Although the initial stages were indeed rusty and slow, I still have a memorable experience of the hours spent analyzing blueprints and creating defensive behemoths.
Others, on the other hand, have a slightly diverging point of view on this new addition to the team of clubs in Westmount. Mr. Hooper, the current assistant principal for the Mid-High Campus also has a fairly positive outlook on this subject, but mixed within his philosophical words are some doubts about the role of video games in a school environment. He says that video games, and the associated screen time are a sedentary occupation; they are associated with sitting down and being inactive. Such a position, mixed with a lessened social interaction can lead to complications within our communication matrix. Even though each player is still in constant talk with his teammates, the screen and the boundaries of his CPU still isolate him from the others. Isolation, even a subconscious sense of it, can bring addiction more swiftly than any other activity. Humans were built for action and activity; “you take away adolescence by compelling people to seek adventure in a sedentary way” says Mr. Hooper. However, in the long run, he does not see any serious faults in using video games as a tool for learning and as a fun pastime. “If technology involves more opportunities to improve social-emotional competence, [it] would be ideal” he casually remarks. If video games take your mind off of issues you might be encountering outside of school, why would you remove that from them?
Mr. Hooper, however, believes that joining the club won’t vent any disruptive behaviour in high school classes. “[Whether] you are a distractive or hyper-focused person, you can’t change yourself in 45 minutes”.
The fact remains, though, that Westmount Charter School has recently acquired a video game club, with weekly meeting at lunchtimes. The members themselves have voted on several games which they would like seen, such as Counter Strike: Global Offensive. Although it is still in its opening stages, and open to praise and criticism, the process of learning from previous mistakes has already been solidified. Future prospects of the club are to have a ladder/league type system and expand to occur on more dates. If you are a beginner, or a seasoned veteran, come visit the Westmount Video Game Club, and formulate your own opinion. Whether you glance away in disgust, or want to join, anyone is welcome for a quick peek inside. We won’t judge!