In the back of the Ram in the Rye pub, Greg Beard connects the wires from a projector into what looks like an old, grey typewriter. The projection on the wall is the familiar maze from the retro Pac-Man games, but Beard says this one is a cheap knockoff.
Beard, a first-year computer science student, is the owner of a Commodore VIC-20, an early computer and video game console that he bought for $20 at a thrift shop.
“You really start to yearn for the good old days with this stuff,” says Beard. “That appreciation and interest with the past really makes playing these games a lot more fun.” The Commodore VIC-20 was released in 1980. It was the first console to sell over 1-million copies by 1983. Today, the average calculator is more powerful.
Usually, the Ram in the Rye only has pool tables for fun and games. But the Retro Gaming Night, hosted by the Association of Ryerson Roleplayers and Gamers on Thursday, November 19, saw the Commodore VIC-20, Sega Genesis, Super Nintendo, Intellivision and the Atari 2600 offer an alternative to playing drunken pool.
“Whatever kind of gaming you want to do, video games or tabletop games or whatever, we want to help you start playing what you’re interested in,” says Alex Wrigglesworth, ARRG president and a second-year civil engineering student. “We want to just give you the equipment to have fun, and just say, ‘Go!’”
This is ARRG’s grand re-launch. Retro Game Night is ARRG’s first public event of the school year since September, when they had a table and sign-up sheet at Ryerson’s Welcome Week. The club was originally founded in 2003, but closed in October 2007 due to a lack of membership.
“When I came to Ryerson, I saw this games club listed on the pamphlets, but I couldn’t find it anywhere. I guess the RSU didn’t update them,” says Wrigglesworth. “I thought ARRG sounded interesting, so me and some other people started to try and get it re-started.”
“We’re basically starting over from scratch,” adds Alix Croussette, ARRG’s Video Game Executive and a second-year aerospace engineering student.
“The point we’re trying to do with ARRG is to promote playing games and having fun at Ryerson,” says Wrigglesworth. “We’ve done some recruiting on campus, but most people who hear of us hear from word of mouth.” Wrigglesworth and Croussette are both planning more public events for the new year.
While video games may be a huge part of ARRG, Croussette says they are not the main focus. “We have Risk, we play Warhammer 40K, tons of board games and cards, we have lots of stuff that anyone can do.”
Finding a place where he could meet new people while playing the various role-playing, tabletop and video games he loves was part of the appeal for Beard when he heard about ARRG in September. “I saw their table at the university club day in September, and I thought it was cool that there was a gaming club like that,” says Beard.
ARRG has established a number of goals to reinvent itself, but they are still being met with challenges: recruiting active members, organizing events, finding decent equipment, but most importantly, finding a room. “We want to sit down with the RSU in the new year and just try to get a room once a week to meet and organize,” says Croussette. “That’s really important for us.”
Wrigglesworth admits his group has a lot of work ahead, but Retro Gaming Night has made him all smiles.
He inspects each of the consoles and points out that each station has a group of people crowding around the screen, cheering on as someone makes a blue hedgehog gather rings and an Italian plumber save a princess.
“Tonight is going really well,” he smiles. “Students like having fun and being able to relax, and some do that with gaming.” Wrigglesworth predicts that more events like Retro Gaming Night will be just as successful.
“Events like these get us out there,” he says. “We want Ryerson to know that whatever games you want to play, we want to play, too.”