On a recent afternoon, in a corner of the Kendall Campus cafeteria, a knot of students gathered around computer screens engrossed in a game of Super Smash Bros. Another group of students stood around them watching the action.
The friends connect daily to play the fighting game where players use different attacks to weaken their opponents and knock them out of an arena. They convene at noon, when students stream out of class to eat lunch.
Like clockwork, they set up their computers, plug in their Wii U, and battle.
In that corner of the cafeteria, it no longer feels like a College lunchroom. Instead, it feels and looks like a group of friends hanging out at their house playing video games. It’s the most animated part of the room. Far different from the rest of the students, often sitting isolated or in groups of two or three hunched over their lunches in styrofoam containers and textbooks.
Kendall Campus chemistry major John Verish, 20, brought his Wii U to school that day so that he and his friends could play. They get to customize teams, play famous Nintendo characters like Mario from Super Mario Bros. and Link from The Legend of Zelda and watch those characters fight each other. Points rack up.
Before him, it was another student, and another student before that.
The lunchtime gaming is a getaway from the responsibilities of being a college student. It is a way for gamers to connect with like minded people who also fiercely love the activity.
“There’s always been a [Super Smash Bros.] community,” said Gabriel Custodio, an 18-year-old mass communication/journalism major at Kendall Campus. “I saw [students] playing Smash, I approached; I didn’t play the first time, I just watched. And then I met some weird, crazy dude…and then we ended up like that.”
Custodio is part of a big subculture. One that has events such as the Florida Supercon, and gather in comic book stores. The Gaming Club at Kendall has scheduled a Super Smash Bros. tournament on April 9 at 10 a.m. in Room K413.
“There’s just a huge community here in South Florida,” Custodio said.
The group of friends is large, and they are all familiar with each other. Their camaraderie has a markedly friendly vibe that is distinct from other students that just go to class and leave the campus.
The same scene plays out at North Campus where game-loving students also gather during lunch. At North, the setup can get as large as three TVs and different gaming consoles.
“All of [the game consoles and TVs] are provided by ourselves,” said 19-year-old Hector Aponte,a North Campus student.
Most of the students who game at North Campus play Super Smash Bros. with the Wii U, but now they have more of a variety since some have started to bring their Playstation 4s and Playstation 3s from home. Some students even bring their own controllers to join in on the fun. According to Aponte, some even leave class early to go home, grab their game systems, and drive back to campus. In the past, such as last semester, they hosted gaming competitions.
Aponte, a radio/television production major at North Campus, joined the group of students last semester. Since then, he has hung out with them everyday. On Mondays he stays as late as 6 p.m.
“Everyone here is really great. Everyone is friends with each other,” Aponte said. “We hang out a lot, and it’s because we meet up in here that we’re able to get more people in our group.”
At Wolfson Campus, the lack of an indoor cafeteria sends the gamers to the covered area by the fountain at building 1, near the escalators and underneath the library. Bringing a TV is a lot of work, and none of the regular gaming students said they want to carry one around with them to class. At most, they take up three tables.
They mostly play different card games like Magic: The Gathering and Yu-Gi-Oh!, sometimes they even play fantasy tabletop games such as Dungeons and Dragons. There are days where the students play video games on handheld game consoles such as the Nintendo DSi XL. What they play all depends on what one of them decides to bring with them that day.
They gather like clockwork Monday through Friday from 11 in the morning to either two or three in the afternoon.
“The normal mentality for when you play card games, you think people make fun of you, but in reality it’s more like people crowd around you that don’t know anything from the game, like ‘Oh look, you’re playing this game,’ and they just stand around and look at it,” said Jesus Acosta, 23, a computer art animation major at Wolfson Campus.
Acosta has been with the group since he started attending Wolfson in 2012. He met most of his friends through card games. He also competes in competitions.
“What I love about this group is that I can share interests with a bunch of my friends,” Acosta said. “I don’t feel like a stranger.”