It is exam week. I look around and see students wearing expressions of intense concentration. They are determined, impossible to distract, and ready to take on anything that comes their way. Am I in the library? A study room? No. I’m in the Baraha, NYU Abu Dhabi’s student activity zone, watching my friends play the video game FIFA ’17.
It’s not unusual to find NYUAD’s digital natives immersed in the Baraha’s various video and arcade game offerings during the peak of homework season, exam time, or any time for that matter. Students looking for a stressbuster can choose from a variety of activities, including PlayStation and XBox games such as FIFA ’17, NHL ’17 and Madden NFL ’17, alongside ping-pong, air hockey, pinball and pool.
“Our favorite games are pinball and air hockey,” said freshman Mahgul Farooqui, who enjoys spending time socializing and releasing some college stress in the Baraha with her friends. “It’s a great way to unwind,” said freshman Ria Golovakova.
Watching students huddled around a console cheering on their friends makes it clear that gaming is not only a stressbuster but also fosters a sense of community. This feeling of community through gaming is embodied by PAUSED, the university’s gaming student interest group. Sophomore Lateefa Almazrooei spoke about a choice-based, story-driven gaming session organized by PAUSED that proved to be an unexpectedly emotional bonding experience.
“You had ten people sitting together, playing this game, and just crying and yelling and working together to save the main character,” she laughed. “It was an emotional experience … [it was] immersive.”
It's the capacity of video games to facilitate bonding and friendship that motivated Coach Peter Dicce, Assistant Dean of Students and Director of Athletics at NYUAD, to include e-sports within the Abu Dhabi Inter-University Sports League (ADISL). Previously, ADISL involved only traditional sports like soccer, but with the recent addition of e-sports, student teams can now play video games like FIFA and League of Legends competitively against teams from other universities, including Paris-Sorbonne University Abu Dhabi and the American University of Kuwait.
Coach Dicce explained why e-sports fit so well into the ADISL: “The philosophy behind ADISL is just to get students together from a variety of universities to compete, but more often, to socialize, to get to know each other, to build bridges, to build relationships.” Noting that it can be hard for NYUAD students to connect with students in the region whom they normally wouldn’t have the chance to interact with in traditional sport arenas, Coach Dicce said, “the thought was that if we have an online forum where they can connect in a virtual space, at least we’re making those connections.”
And at the end of the day, that’s what gaming is about — making friends and having fun, regardless of whether or not you’re a hardcore gamer, whether you enjoy sports games or story-driven games.
[Board Game Night] was super fun for the people that were passing by Baraha. They probably had a lot of stuff to do — but they stopped to play a card game for 20 minutes, released some stress, and just had some fun.
And of course, in the spirit of diversity that defines NYUAD, we embrace board game aficionados as well. In a tribute to old-fashioned entertainment, PAUSED recently organized Board Game Night, which had a considerably high turnout.
“[Board Game Night] was super fun for the people that were passing by Baraha,” noted Almazrooei. “They probably had a lot of stuff to do — but they stopped to play a card game for 20 minutes, released some stress, and just had some fun.”