Most people don't understand the world of gaming yet, and that's fine because it's still a relatively new medium and field of study. Unfortunately it usually has this bad stigma attached to it, and the people you spend your time "playing games" with is viewed as a waste of time. My time with my ENC family (ENC being the internet cafe I spent countless hours at) and my time with my friend, Z, were some of the best years of my life and I know I'm not alone in my feelings about my time there. To those that choose to remain ignorant, it might look like we had been wasting our time on games, but it was hardly time wasted.
The reason I'm heavily invested into the world of gaming is because of my time at ENC. Our ENC family remains a band of brothers that I'll always have the utmost respect for and I'll care about forever. We always had tough times in our life, but we could put that aside and share our time together playing games.
Z was one of the main people in my life that taught me about the Mobile Online Battle Arena genre, which popular titles include Dota 2 and League of Legends. They are popular player vs. player games in which teams of five compete to destroy each others main base. The online battlefields are filled with both meta and micro managed strategies that takes years to properly master. Z not only had achieved a level of mastery over this game type, he also had the patience to help someone new to the genre (Me) learn the ropes and realize how fun competing with friends can be. We were always a competitive bunch at ENC. We'd yell at each other about the nice plays being made, and heckle each other for the mistakes we'd make. I'll never forget Mike Vo and Z yelling across the room, "OH NOOOO! THE CREEEEEPSSS!" Creeps were small cannon fodder-esque units in the game that represented the army you were fighting for. When you'd attack another player, the enemy creeps would turn to attack you in order to back up their ally.
Our group of gamers at ENC was very similar to a recreational sports team. We were friends, but we also were a task-oriented group dedicated to killing bosses, slaying dragons, and defeating online opponents. Then when we weren't playing the games, we'd hang out, talk, grab a pizza or possibly some Chipotle, and I'd usually join people outside for their cigarette break. We were like any group of friends, we'd hang out, do activities (Monday Night Raids anyone?), and just have a good time.
It was this group of friends that shaped me. We might be tough on each other when it came to getting better at competitive games like Dota, but I feel like we were and are loyal friends to each other.
Z epitomized this for me. From my time with him, I could tell he had a good heart. He enjoyed the company of his friends, and he enjoyed being a positive influence. He'd buy people food when they were low on money, or just zone out and play some games with you if you'd rather not really be too social. He helped make ENC into a very comfortable place for our group to spend time. He'd invite you to play with him and was excellent at providing constructive feedback to make you better at what you were playing. We'd have conversations about playing a paladin in World of Warcraft and the best methods of healing. We weren't just gamers, we were serious gamers. This wasn't just a tiny distraction in our life, this was our priority in how we spent our free time. Some people go to bars, some go to movies, and some people even read books. We would spend our time, effort, and money on our games. However, it wasn't all serious. We'd have a great time doing it too, and we made friends for life.
I can't say that I spent enough time with Z recently, but I can say that the time I DID spend with him changed my life forever. It was this social interaction that fostered my love of gaming. It was this community that sparked my interest in psychology and sociology. It was this group that helped remind me how important my friends are in my life. It was looking back at my time with this group that convinced me to go back to school to learn more about gamer communities and why people enjoy them so much.
Z was a wonderful person, a great friend, and one of the best Dota teammates you could ever ask for. I'll miss him more than I can probably process at the moment. Ultimately, I love you Z, and I love you my ENC family. I know we're huge bros, but you're some of the best friends I've ever made. We'll miss you Z.