Photo Essay: Gamer life


David Olvera

Andre Aliscad plays Pac-Man at Round1 in Burbank, Calif., on April 10, 2022.

David Olvera, Reporter

In front of the CSUN gym in the University Student Union lies a dungeon of zombie invasions, fist brawls to the death, wizards casting magic spells, and adventures beyond your wildest imagination.

Students who seek to improve their aim, lab their combos on Donkey Kong, or grind for gear on Genshin Impact find their way to the CSUN Games Room.

This has become a place for students to make friends while forming bonds over games and hobbies. A variety of anime plays on the projector. People study while others play billiards.

This subterranean lair serves as a cultural haven for the gamer community of the campus.

Andre Aliscad, like a lot of gamer students, found his way down to the Games Room last fall and has returned almost daily since.

For Aliscad, the Games Room is not just a place to kill time — it is a place for him to build friendships over the simple love for games.

He is a big fan of the series Super Smash Bros. Aliscad’s love for this series spawned in his youth.

He first played Super Smash Bros. 64 on the Nintendo 64 console when he was 8 years old. Aliscad found the crossover of many characters from various games appealing; Mario, Sonic, Pac-Man, Ryu and many other franchises have their main characters within this one game. The roster of characters made him realize he would play this game for years to come.

He would play with his brother for hours upon hours, and still does today. “I knew I was hooked when my brother beat my ass,” said Aliscad.

Having enjoyed the series since its first iteration on the Nintendo 64, which was released in 1999, Aliscad has followed the series for over a decade. The Games Room allows him to play Super Smash Bros. with fellow gamers.

Aliscad’s first experience with video games came while watching his brother play Killzone 2 on the PlayStation 2, and one day he was offered the controller. Being “too chicken to pick up the sticks,” Aliscad was content watching. One day while his brother was gone, he decided to boot it up.

“I later turned on his PS2 around 7 or 8 [years old] and tried figuring out how the controller worked. I was able to load into a game with bots and barely knew how to walk, let alone aim and shoot,” said Aliscad.

His brother would eventually teach him how to play properly, and this experience sparked a passion that would stay with him forever.

“It started off as ‘I want to try it, or try to be good at it,’ then it became ‘Wow, this is probably something I’m going to stick with for my whole entire life,” said Aliscad.

He then landed on Final Fantasy VII, a Japanese role-playing game. Being a fan of Pokémon, Aliscad knew he liked this genre, so Final Fantasy was an “instaclick” for him. To his surprise, Final Fantasy turned out to be even more extensive than Pokémon.

The gameplay was deeper, and so were the messages. Final Fantasy VII was a “cultural reset” for Aliscad.

“The game takes on terrorism, wanting to fight the government that oppresses you, not to mention the main character is extremely depressed — later you find context to why … he actually has multiple personality disorder. And that’s so cool to think about, just playing the game as a kid — this is just a game where you attack enemies, but then you look back on it as an adult, and find that this game is really eye-opening,” said Aliscad.

RPGs very quickly found a place as Aliscad’s favorite genre of games. Being able to really connect with the character is very important to him. When he can’t do this, he tends to stop playing a game.

“I like to plug myself into a character,” said Aliscad. “If I’m going to be in a fantasy world, and I can change every aspect of who I am to fit a fantasy of mine, I’ll do that. That’s why customizing a character is so cool to me.”

Aliscad enjoys a variety of games at home on various consoles. He also enjoys going to arcades as he greatly appreciates the culture and aesthetic they provide. Recently, he has been frequenting Round1 in Burbank. He often goes with friends and likes to play shooters the most.

Video games have become ingrained in Aliscad’s identity. He forms bonds with new people and has made longtime friends through the medium of video games. He finds games so important because they can bridge people to each other and their ideas.

“I know for sure, when I do have a kid, I’m going to make them play a lot of the games I like,” said Aliscad. “I want to make them see that this medium is so extensive that it can shape who you are; [it] can help you be a better person. Video games don’t rot [your brain] — if anything, they help you excel.”