During a time when most the world is moving online, the UNM Esports Club is making it easier for families to connect, collaborate and challenge one another both virtually and in person.

“Gamers are creative problem solvers, it’s what we do,” said Bernardo Gallegos, UNM Esports staff advisor. “We’re just trying to be resourceful, impactful, informational and factual.”

The group is seeing a steady increase to its nearly 500 member attendance on Discord, the digital gaming, audio and video platform. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues taking front and center on the global stage, it’s becoming more essential for those practicing social distancing to find innovative ways to sustain their community connections. NASCAR is providing fans with virtual Sunday racing and the NBA also took a digital turn, hosting online games featuring real-life players manning the remotes. 

“We’re going to find out everyone’s a gamer, we’re just going to see how deep it goes,” Gallegos said. “Now that traditional sports have to take a moment, we want to come out swinging and be there for our community. “

With a goal to deepen ties between parents and children, Gallegos has started a once a week class to teach people how to play table top Dungeons and Dragons (D&D). He’s partnering with the national group D&D Beyond to make tools and resources available to those attending his class. Every other week he offers a course teaching the basic rules of the game, and on alternate weeks he helps players create characters they can use in their own games.

“It’s engaging, it’s creative, it’s logical problem-solving and, what’s even better, is that families can do it at home,” Gallegos explained. “It provides a respite from the chaotic changes in the world right now. Kids can play a hero and save the town.”

To sign up for classes, parents or students should start a Discord account and direct message Gallegos (username: Omni Prime#5953).

In addition to tapping into national companies’ resources, Gallegos is also working to engage the larger Albuquerque community. He’s hoping to partner with APS Esports to host citywide games. Local gaming stores like Ettin Games and Active Imagination are also ramping up their virtual presence by continuing to provide solid guidelines for family friendly online community.

“Not all kids have access to computers or tablets or phones, so we’re coming up with ways families can engage in gaming and be an active part without having all the online resources,” he explained. “That means teaching people to run campaigns, or game sessions, on their own at their kitchen table. All you need is a pen, a piece of paper and some dice.”

UNM Esports isn’t the only chartered student organization hoping to spread the love of gaming. It’s also collaborating heavily with UNM Tabletop Tavern – the student organization dedicated to D&D and other board games.

“Since connecting our communities virtually on Discord, it’s enabled us to have a lot more people participating either through virtual boardgames or online games,” said Dasie Kent, President of UNM Tabletop Tavern.

Kent and several friends started the student organization in fall of 2019. The psychology and evolutionary anthropology senior says she didn’t expect the group to grow as fast as it has in such a short about of time. In just a few short month, it’s grown to nearly 115 members.

“We’ve been seeing a mixture of people – it’s mostly UNM people but we’ve also had a few people come from outside UNM,” she said. “We’ve been compiling game related resources and focusing on helping people through this social isolation.”

The themes of community and connection were ones echoed by both gaming groups.

“It’s been wonderful to just have a community to voice chat with and hang out with even though it’s just virtually,” Kent concluded.

“It’s all about patience, kindness and empathy at this point,” Gallegos added. “We’re really all in this together and it’s all of our business to be a part of the effort. We all have a part to play and if we play it, it’ll be in our favor”