BY RYAN PRESTON
Every day at Washtenaw Community College under the stairs of the Student Center, a group of students gather to play video games, duel in card games or just surf the web. This has become a usual sight on campus, and many pass by every day, wondering what just might be going on. Coming from all different backgrounds, these students show the diversity of WCC.
As it turns out, most of these people are just looking for a place to hang out with others of similar interests. The group of students – and friends – engage in a variety of activities, including but not limited to online role-playing games, trading-card games, and just plain hanging out.
“Why would I go home in between classes? By the time I go home and get comfortable my next class has already started,” said Todd Wilson, a 22-year-old student from Ann Arbor who frequently hangs out under the stairs.
Todd Maddock, a 23-year-old construction technology student, explains why he hangs out under the stairs: “It’s convenient. I have everything I need within two seconds of each other: Subway and coffee,” the Ypsilanti resident said.
Magic: The Gathering, casually referred to as just simply “Magic,” is the most popular game among students who have chosen under the stairs as a frequent hangout. The game is loosely based on Dungeons and Dragons, with players acting as “planeswalkers,” collecting cards to arm themselves with weapons, spells, and creatures. Most players either have a deck of their own, or at least have some form of proficiency in understanding the basics.
Directly under the stairs are those that play Magic while the side is generally reserved for either more Magic or the less popular card games such as Pokémon and Yu-Gi-Oh. Both have gained growing interest since the late 1990s, ranging from younger-aged children to older adults.
When asked about Magic, most people considered it just a hobby, and found that playing at the local hobby shops is normally either expensive or far too annoying.
“People at local stores are always so competitive about it. What kid wants to play a 40 something-year-old man who has endless resources to dump into Magic, and then gets mad if he loses to a ‘kid’? ” said Eric Barrie, a 19-year-old liberal arts major.
Another benefit for students who trade cards is the plethora of cards available. Students swap binders and scour each and every page looking for that one card they need.
For other students, the benefit of getting to not only play for free, but also with their friends, is the deciding factor of playing at WCC versus other locations. For the more niche card games, finding people to play with is often difficult even at local hobby shops.
“Why would I spend money on a tournament when I can play with my friends for free between classes? Plus, it’s much more relaxed at school,” said 20-year-old liberal arts student Joe Longo.
Magic is indeed a well-liked card game, making its debut from Hasbro in 1993. The company has stated that they estimate about 12 million people play worldwide, making it a standout and defining name in the world of competitive card games.
Another interest expressed by students was online gaming. Whether it be League of Legends, World of Warcraft, Hearthstone, or Counter-Strike, a variety of games were available to those who preferred to play their games from behind a screen.
Members of the Video Game Club and the League of Legends Club also dwell under the stairs and compete amongst their friends.
Some look on their phones talking with other students about possible trades for their fantasy football leagues and talk smack as scores are reported. Other students are helping each other with homework. Some shuffle through papers asking for notes, advice and general help from one another.
Some students also offer unique services, including computer repair and replacing broken touch screens. Often for incredibly low prices, students use their knowledge to help their friends under the stairs, and turn a profit. While over on the booths is where the students are hanging out behind their screens playing computer games.
The space under the stairs always has a friendly face hanging out. Whether it be a student playing Magic, or someone getting advice on their next big test, the community under the stairs is a vibrant and interesting place. It showcases the diversity of the student body and exemplifies the excellent community built within WCC.