On March 30 and 31, videogamers and designers will gather at the Albany Capital Center for HV Gamer Con, the largest collegiate “e-sports” event in the Northeast. This first-ever conference and expo features more than 50 vendors, including regional development studios, college programs, local artists, and others.
A highlight of HV Gamer Con will be the “e-sports” championships: More than 800 guests watch collegiate gamers compete in three popular game titles including League of Legends, Overwatch, and Fortnite.
Playing in this setting “is always a rush,” says Marist College senior Christian Isolda, who was part of the team that won last year’s Eastern College Athletic Conference eSports invitational conference, at the ECAC eSports Expo in Albany. “I like the competition, playing with some of my closest friends, and working together to win.”
Marist supports gamers’ efforts with two on-campus e-sports rooms: six desktop PCs, a TV, and a couch allow players to participate in online tournaments, practice skills, or develop strategies.
Isolda has played videogames, along with outdoor sports, since he was a child growing up in Scotch Plains, NJ. A computer science major who has an FBI job lined up after graduation, Isolda says videogaming is “a constant learning experience, because it’s constantly changing.”
The Digital Gaming Hub at Rensselaer Polytechnic Instititute. Photo provided by RPI
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute became the home of one of three NYS digital gaming hubs in 2016 (the others are at New York University and Rochester Institute of Technology). The hubs join higher education, industry, and community partners to support and grow digital gaming. This year, the three hubs will form a new NYSTAR Center of Excellence.
Informally, gamers can meet up at places like 3rd Universe, a comic shop in Croton-on-Hudson. Tables with computer monitors are often filled with gamers after school and on weekends, and big couches invite players to relax with the wall-mounted big screens.
“We have an XBOX ONE, two Wii U consoles, and a PlayStation 3 console,” says 3rd Universe owner Bryan Deyo. “We hold a lot of birthday parties, and the kids wind up doing whatever they want for a few hours here.” Players can also bring their Nintendo Switch portable gaming systems to play games on the big screens.
Videogames are a large part of American life: Nielsen.com reports that the average gamer spends 11 percent of his or her leisure time, or roughly seven hours, playing videogames each week. And the average videogamer’s age — 25 — may surprise local parents who sometimes need to pry the controllers out of their pre-teen’s or teenager’s hands.