Level up! Game Room provides new opportunities for students to connect.

Neon gaming sign.The Game Room at MCS Jr./Sr. High is drawing a crowd again this year, fulfilling its mission to provide an option for students to have fun and socialize. What started as a space for an after-school club has evolved into a lunchtime hot spot too.

Game Club co-advisor Paul Pierce says the investment in gaming hardware began a couple of years ago when Esports was becoming more recognized for its ability to help students engage in strategic thinking while also fostering teamwork and collaboration among players. The MCS administration was looking for new ways to keep students engaged after school.

“We were trying to involve students in after school activities and keep them away from negative influences and at the same time create a sense of belonging,” said Pierce.

The idea for a game room took off.

”Students made the recommendations for much of what we invested in and we hardwired everything into the internet,” Pierce said. “What we have to offer is probably faster than any gaming system a student would have at home.”

Lacey Skleton talks with Paul Pierce in Gaming Room.More recently, the Game Room began opening for students in grades 7 and 8 to play at lunch. Most days about 15 kids show up. One of them, Lacey Skowfoe, likes the opportunity.

“It’s fun, and you can play with other people.”

Noah Bates at game station.Grade 8 student Noah Bates is known for his gaming skills. He says gaming is fun but it also requires sharp attention, particularly for  Fortnite, which requires a player to be able to toggle between build mode and edit mode and then shoot at the same time. 

“You need to practice building and editing so you can get a particular angle,” he said.  “I like to be here because it’s kind of fun, especially with the new rules about no phones during the day.”

To help students focus on classroom lessons, MCS has enacted a requirement this year that students may not use their cell phones except for during lunch. The Game Room gives students some time to de-stress, but it too has limits. Pierce says there is a 30- minute maximum time for all gamers. Members of the club understand that games rated “Teen” are allowed; games rated “Mature” are not allowed.

Students playing foosball.Access to electronics is part of the draw, but socializing with peers is a major attraction. In fact, one game pre-dates e-games. Student Quinn Smith and his family donated the popular foosball table. It sees a lot of action. Pierce, whose primary role at MCS is that of guidance counselor, is certain of the benefits of the Game Room.

Students wearing headphones in Game Room.“Having a sense of belonging, that’s one of the most important things for a student to know,” said Pierce. “We have kept these kids engaged and feeling like they belong to something.”