After a long day of finals, a group of friends gathers to play a game of “Super Smash Brothers.” They pick up their controllers and choose characters like Zelda, Link and Mario, ready to battle with skill and precision. Without UARK Gaming, they might not be able to do this as a community.
UARK Gaming is a Registered Student Organization that has around 250 active members, said sophomore Jack Belyeu Belyeu, a former event planner for the club.
Students involved in UARK Gaming gather to have fun and participate in casual competition, said UARK Gaming President Jackson Gregory, a sophomore majoring in computer science.
UARK Gaming coordinates events at the Tech Center in the Arkansas Union centered around playing video games like “Super Smash Brothers” and “Mario Kart,” as well as card games like “Magic the Gathering,” Gregory said. “Smash” is unique because it can be both a casual and competitive experience, which helps gamers decide if they enjoy competitive gaming.
In the fall, Gregory wants to organize get-togethers for UARK Gaming and get input from the incoming freshmen about what they want to see and do, although no events are final for the RSO, he said.
Gregory thinks the causal UARK Gaming environment is welcoming to people from any background who love gaming and is a great place to meet new people, he said.
“A lot of my really close friends right now are people I’ve met through the club,” Gregory said. “It’s been really nice for me to have that opportunity to meet other people that value the same things I do.”
For those who are interested in a more competitive and structured environment, students have the opportunity to apply for UARK Esports, Belyeu said. UARK Esports is a University Recreation sponsored group where a group of 35 students participate in top-tier online competitive matches against other esports clubs in the region.
“Esports as a whole is on the uprise, and we would love to see the UofA play a role in pushing that forward,” Gregory said.
UARK Esports travels to places like Texas A&M to compete, Gregory said. Similar to athletics, Each game has a team of players and a coach. Team members compete in “League of Legends,” “Overwatch,” “Heroes of the Storm,” “Hearthstone” and “Rocket League” matches.
Students using the Tech Center for on-site gaming can check out laptops, keyboards and mice, said Jered Guist, the Student Technology Center manager.
Additionally, students can use the Tech Center’s new Virtual Reality systems powered by Oculus, Guist said.
UARK Esports members will get jerseys for the first time in 2019, with the first jerseys coming out this summer for students who paid their dues in the spring, Jackson said.
Students can apply to join UARK Gaming on HogSync and can join the Esports Club on the UREC website. Dues are $50 per year for perks such as food and drinks, Gregory said.
Students can pay an additional $10 fee to join any of the competitive teams, $20 for first-time competitors.