Video Gamers Crowd Lamont, Compete For $400 in Prizes

Over 100 compete in tournament featuring four popular video games

Unnamed photo
David I. Fulton-Howard

Gamers compete in Multiplay 01, Harvard’s first official gaming event, on Saturday in the Lamont Forum Room. The participants competed for prizes including a brand new Nintendo Wii.

More than 100 “gamers” crowded into the Lamont Forum Room on Saturday to participate in Multiplay 01, Harvard’s inaugural video- and computer-game tournament.

The event offered free food and over four hundred dollars worth of prizes, including a Nintendo Wii. It featured tournaments in four games selected by an informal popularity poll: “Super Smash Brothers Melee,” “Halo,” “Starcraft: Brood War,” and “Warcraft: Defense of the Ancients.”

Other games were available for casual play. Prizes were awarded to winners of each of the official tournaments. The Nintendo Wii was awarded in a raffle, for which all participants received tickets according to how many games they won.

Multiplay is part of the Harvard Interactive Media Group (HIMG), a Harvard-sponsored club founded last fall. The organization targets Harvard and MIT students and affiliates. Multiplay 01 was HIMG’s inaugural gaming event.

“It’s the first such event that I’ve ever heard of,” says Allen Cheng ’09, one of the organizers of the event.

The president of HIMG, Benjamin S. Decker ’08, said that his organization is “trying to establish a community of gamers in the area.”

“In the long term, we’re pushing to get a more official media studies program here at Harvard,” said Decker, who is pursuing a special concentration in Interactive Media Studies.

Fan Zhang ’09, who helped organize the event, said, “I think there are a lot people interested in gaming at Harvard, and we wanted to provide a space for people to get together.”

“We felt that this was a unique niche that needed to get built,” he added.

Some of the video games were projected on the walls of the darkened room. Participants playing “Starcraft” and “Defense of the Ancients,” as well as other computer-based games, sat hunched over their keyboards. Some, including David P. Ramos ’08, came equipped with their own desktop computers.

“It’s pretty good, and there aren’t enough people to make it really competitive,” said Ramos, taking a break in between intense games of “Defense of the Ancients.” “I’m impressed with the setup, and I’d like to see more of these events in the future.”

Registration was free and open to the public. Most participants were Harvard students, although some players came from MIT. Others were not affiliated with either school.

“I think it’s awesome,” said Mark Grimm, an MIT senior. “I would definitely come up for another tournament. It’s cool because I can have access to PlayStation 3 and other new consoles that I can’t afford.”

Several participants emphasized the social aspect of playing video and computer games.

“I generally like console games because you play them with your friends, and you can punch them in the face when they beat you,” said Matthew R. McFarlane ’08. “It’s a great way to get your competition out.”

“It’s a good way to relax, enjoy friendly competition, and release some stress,” said Amanda C. E. Klimczuk ’10. “I also hope that we can get more girls involved,” she added. The event’s participants were predominantly male.

Benjamin B. Minkoff, a high-school senior who was visiting his sister, Reva P. Minkoff ’08, The Crimson’s Staff Director, won the “Super Smash Brothers” tournament as well as the Nintendo Wii. Eric Huang ’10 won the “Defense of the Ancients” tournament, and MIT student Stephen Kang won the “Starcraft” tournament. Samuel J. Enumah ’10 won the “Halo” tournament,

Decker hopes that events like Multiplay will change people’s perceptions of gaming.

“People think of a gamer as the 30-year-old, geeky guy who lives in his mom’s basement and plays online for 20 hours a day, but it’s really not like that. It’s about people getting together, joking, and having a good time. Gaming really can be a social thing—it can actually be a powerful experience.”