By Oscar Martines
The first rule of Game Club is: never talk about Game Club. Beginning as a small group of students with no faculty adviser, East Los Angeles College Game Club has grown to become a welcoming club that encourages socialization through video games.
It hasn’t always been easy for Game Club to be where it is today. Now they want to use their platform to help others find their place at ELAC.
ELAC’s Game Club surfaced in 2017 after Michael Nitzani, a sociology professor, took the club under his wing alongside Julissa Garcia and Joseph Holguin, who became Faculty Advisers for the club.
Nitzani’s love for video games began at an early age while he was going through a tough time in his life with his family.
Nitzani expressed how The Legend of Zelda helped him gain a feeling of accomplishment and gave him many happy memories. Since then, he has enjoyed taking care of Game Club, where he enjoys the fun atmosphere and interactions between club members.
ELAC’s Game Club tries to put their focus not only in video games, but also in other subjects such as communication and mental health.
Even when the pandemic hit, many members of the club turned to video games to help with their mental health and continue the strong bond they had with each other.
“I had a lot of fun just playing video games and ignoring the awful news. It was a nice pastime,” said Elijah Mena, a first-year member of the Game Club.
Even as the pandemic led to fewer members assisting the club meetings, it still opens its arms to those who seek a social group that interacts with one another through video games.
When talking about the goal of the club Nitzani said, “playing video games and interacting with people triggers happiness and that is kind of what we want to bring, that joy to ELAC.”
He said how the socialization of the club is so powerful and how it would lead to friendships not only in the club, but outside of it as well.
“I try to encourage them to challenge the rules and to go see these places and develop long-lasting friendships,” Nitzani said.
The club also encourages members to not only socialize with group members at the meetings, but to go out and enjoy what the world has to offer. To provide club members the opportunity to interact outside the club meetings, the club takes trips to other colleges, such as their recent trip to UC San Diego. The club also plans to take other trips to colleges such as UC Berkeley, San Francisco State and Stanford University.
Not everything in this club revolves around video games. During his free time, Nitzani also manages a baseball team and umpires on the weekend, a job he has loved doing for over 18 years. Mena said that he loves to do poetry and talk to random strangers in his free time.
Despite what others say about gamers, they tend to explore other realms of the world besides video games.
You can expect a lot of interaction when joining the ELAC Game Club. Some of the video games they play include Super Smash Bros, Uno, Mario Kart and other assorted board games.
When Mena attended his first meeting, he thought that he was joining an environment full of gamer-awkward individuals. However, after playing video games with them, he saw them as new people that were good and fun to be around with.
While speaking to a few of the club members, Joseph Holguin, president of the club and student at ELAC, had a very powerful message to those who wanted to truly experience Game Club.
“Make friends here and then just take it outside. Take it to the next level in your friendship here at the club,” Holguin said.
ELAC Game Club wants students to feel invited and at home. “It’s an experience you can only feel by coming to Game Club,” Mena said.
“We’ve seen that video games, the club, the friendships have been so beneficial for mental health that we want to give back to the community,” Nitzani said.
To do this, ELAC’s Game Club is presenting “The Ramon Show,” an interactive show performed by Ruby Marez that focuses on gaming and mental health. This show, funded by ASU, will take place at ELAC on Thursday, December 1st at 6:30 p.m. in F5-209.
ELAC Game Club meets on Thursdays at F5-209 from 2:30-5 p.m. Their Facebook page ELAC Game Club offers club members an opportunity to share their experiences with video games while keeping people updated about future club meetings and upcoming events.