Gaming runs in these students’ blood

06 Jul 2021

Bar-hopping is not the only way to make friends: how about a game of League of Legends, Rocket League or Dungeons & Dragons? And if you’re good at it, you can even earn some money on the side. Just ask these students.

Emerence Walraven, 21 years old, criminal law student

‘I’ve played Dungeons & Dragons on a weekly basis since 2018. It’s a board game with three to four-hour sessions in which players use dice and characters to experience adventures in a world that’s invented and presented by the game master (Dungeon Master, DM). Since there’s no pre-conceived story and players can choose their own characters, every session is unique. It’s my favourite hobby and recently I’ve even started making a bit of money by leading sessions. It’s a versatile and flexible game, which makes it attractive to a lot of people.’

‘The way I play has emotional depth. Through difficult or fun experiences you get to know yourself and the other players better. I prefer the role of game master. It requires a lot of patience and teamwork to plan in sessions with the other players. The game master mostly creates the story and the world, and acts as referee for everything that happens within the game. It basically feels as if you completely control the game.’

‘I prefer the role of game master’

‘And yet, you soon learn this isn’t the case. The decisions and input from the players have as much weight as those of the game master. I’ve learned to sometimes let go of my ideas. The combination of my own input and that of the players is far more exciting than anything I could have imagined on my own.’

‘Dungeons & Dragons challenges me in my acting, but also in my ability to feel empathy. It involves a lot of social interaction: making contact with each other as players and as characters, listening carefully and acting on what you hear. This may lead to tensions, but also to strong team players and fantastic friendships. Sometimes with the people you’d least expect.’

Daan Den Hartog, 21 years old, medical student

‘In my fourth year of secondary school I started playing Rocket League, a kind of online football game, but with cars. At first, I didn’t really get it, but I soon became better at it than the people I was up against.’

Photo: Duncan de Fey

‘In the game, a Dutchman asked me whether I wanted to go professional. Together with my team, we won lots of competitions and the team organisers offered me a permanent position. I started practising more and playing longer every day. School was easy, which left me with plenty of time to play Rocket League at home.’

‘Before I knew it, I was getting paid to play at tournaments and gaming conventions. I still remember the first time I had to play in a Mediamarkt in Ghent. People recognised me and wanted to have their picture taken with me. It was an amazing but also a strange experience. I quit when the team formation started to become political. People’s behaviour online was also becoming less friendly. This took away my reason for gaming in the first place: having fun!’

‘Before I knew it, I was getting paid to play in tournaments’

‘I don’t have any regrets. Playing in a team has taught me that if you have a goal, you should go for it. With the right motivation and a good dose of perseverance, you’re sure to succeed.’

Jette Krechting, 21 years old, student at the teacher training programme for primary education (pabo)

‘In my free time, I mostly play League of Legends, an MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena) that involves two teams of five players. League of Legends is played all around the world, with English as the main language. Thanks to this game, I’ve made new friends in other countries, which has meant that I’ve had to speak English a lot more. It’s greatly improved my English. I think gaming is a great way to improve your social skills.’

Photo: Duncan de Fey

‘The first contact you have with people online is usually about how often you play. This makes it easier to start a conversation. For people like me, who struggle to initiate a conversation, it helps to have a shared interest.’

‘Gaming is a great way to improve your social skills’

I’ve known the people in my regular gaming group for years now. One of these friendships has grown into my current relationship. It takes some getting used to when you first meet each other in person, but thanks to all the time you’ve spent together online it doesn’t take long for it to feel safe and familiar. Thanks to video games, my social life didn’t stand still during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many of my friends from home also play video games, which made it easier to stay in touch remotely.’

‘While attending the orientation week in Nijmegen, someone pointed me to gaming association Dorans Esport, which really appealed to me. I now play with my team every week and I made new friends outside my study programme in a city that was new to me.’

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