Since October 2003, Campus Recreation’s e-Sports in Memorial Union has provided students with electronic gaming and a pool table to occupy a few minutes, or even a few hours, of their time. The popularity of the new addition of Dance Dance Revolution has helped the arcade to break even after losing money the previous school year.
“It’s been a huge success,” said Paul Stern, Campus Recreation director. “I’m so excited it’s here.”
Stern had been working to get DDR in e-Sports for a year, since the commercial version is no longer produced. He recently found a game in California that the owners no longer wanted and was able to have it shipped to the university.
UMaine alumni R.J. .Hanscom and John Bapst High School senior Samantha Clark said they are very pleased. “We’re psyched that this is here,” Hanscom said. “It’s a hell of a lot better than the one in the mall.”
It’s also cheaper. Hanscom said the mall charges 75 cents per game, and that most places charge $1, while the one in e-Sports is only 50 cents.
Stern said that when he originally proposed the idea of having a DDR game in E-Sports, no one else in Campus Recreation had heard of the game. He himself hadn’t heard of the game either before he started soliciting students to see what they were playing and what games they wanted. He quickly noticed DDR’s popularity.
“It has its own cult following,” Stern said.
e-Sports had a successful day last week when WMEB broadcast live from the arcade in what was titled the “Tournament of Tunes.” Stern is on the WMEB board, and recommended the event to help the station get more exposure on campus. At the event were free Coke products, popcorn, prizes and free time at some of the arcade games. Stern said many people attended and enjoyed the event.
Other recent additions include a black light for the air hockey room, a light fixture above the pool table and fans. Stern said he came up with these ideas by asking students.
Associate Dean for Students and former Campus Recreation director Kenda Scheele said the changes are a great improvement.
“[Stern] has done a great job with [e-Sports],” she said. “It’s much more attractive to people now. We’re much more in tune with what students want and what they like.”
When E-Sports originally opened, all of the games were sports-related. However, it’s not that way anymore.
“We quickly discovered that there’s only so many sports-oriented games, and they weren’t exactly the ones students wanted to play,” he said.
Stern soon learned that you can’t please everyone. Scheele said that last semester a woman requested that the arcade remove one of the more popular games at e-Sports, “Target: Terror,” because of the violent nature of the game. The idea that a manufacturer should profit from society’s fear of terrorism and the decent of the terrorists in the game. In response, Stern and Scheele decided to remove the game to be senstive to the complaints that the game was ethnocentric.
“I’m not discounting anything that she said, but I don’t recognize [that the game is racist],” Stern said.
Scheele said the game was returned after four to six weeks due to popular demand from students.
“There’s no Middle Easterns in that game,” patron Hanscom said. “When people want to be mad about something, they’re going to find something.”
“People need to realize there’s a difference between reality and the imaginary,” Clark said while she was visiting the arcade that day. “They can’t blame violence on themselves. They don’t want to.”
Scheele said she finds it odd that the woman didn’t complain about games like Buck Hunter, where the player shoots at deer. There are also two other games involving guns in the arcade. Since “Target: Terror” has been returned to e-Sports, neither Stern nor Scheele have heard from the woman or received any other complaints.
Stern is pleased with the current games and decorations in e-Sports but is always looking for suggestions from students and from their gaming vender, Canteen, with whom Stern said he has a great relationship. Canteen provides and maintains all of the games, and the profits go towards keeping rock climbing free at Maine Bound, Stern said.
Hanscom said the changes are appreciated.
“I heard [Stern] is a really cool guy,” Hanscom said. “He actually listens to us.”