Exploring games in classroom 709

Noah Fajardo

Staff Writer

    Like always, Senior Luis Melo-Elizalde goes throughout his normal school day, six periods of classes, accompanied by brunch and lunch. During lunch, he either goes outside or hangs out with his friends in the seven hundred wing. The only part his day that is most stressful for him is second period AP Statistics. One of the main ways that aid him to rid himself of this stress is to combat challenging opponents in classroom 709 at lunch playing Super Smash Brothers against his friends and his teacher, Mr. Howard.

    At lunch, classroom 709 can be found crowded with students. Some are dropping in on the classroom just to relax, but there are a few that pursue something very different. For these individuals, they take joy in the thrill and sport of playing video games, in which gaming sessions of Super Smash Bros. happen in the very classroom. Most of the time, students’ momentary screams of defeat erupt out of the classroom door. But the students can prevail, evening the formidable odds versus Mr. Howard.

    Mr. Howard kicked off the gaming sessions when he brought his gaming system to a school where his teaching career began. When he got to American, he continued to play games there. He played only by himself for a period of time. Sometimes, students eagerly wanted to play as well, finding out that he played video games. Students began bringing their friends over, and they began hanging out at lunch.

   “When I first started teaching at another school in the Bay Area, I brought in my video game system, and I played with another person there who I had gone to school with. We were working at the same site. I continued when I came to American,” Mr. Howard said. “I set it up just for myself to play. Then students saw that I had it and they wanted to play it, so I just opened my doors during lunch and let anyone who wanted to play it,  play it.”
    Classroom 709, however, wasn’t filled with students during lunches back then. For those gaming sessions, some students in Mr. Howard’s class would participate in the sessions. Other students would join in by pure curiosity, as the door was wide open during some days at lunch. Students would catch a glimpse of just what was taking place in the faintly illuminated classroom and join in on the fun, or watch and chill out.

    “He saw us playing Smash, so anyone who knew him who had his class would know that he would have these Super Smash Brothers sessions during lunch,” Luis Melo Elizalde (12) said. “Sometimes he would leave the door open and people would walk by and see, and then join and watch.”

    Students have many numerous reasons for coming into the classroom besides from playing Smash matches. Students from past years that had his class would come over to relax, as well as have lunch in his classroom as well. Others had to complete homework amidst the heated chaos during the matches. But there are a variety of students that come in, rather that be to eat, or to play games.

    “I’d say maybe a third or a quarter actually are here to play the game. But then I have other groups who are made up of students who had my class in previous years, and they just need a place to eat. Because our school doesn’t have enough places for students to go, I leave my room open during lunch most days so that they could eat in here,” Mr. Howard said. “Other people are doing homework. Every once in a while, I get students in here who need help with an assignment or something like that.”

  The number of students that visit his room can get excessive at times. Because there are so many, he has had to kick them out. The mass of students can achieve enormous amounts, even close to a hundred, becoming a bit of a hindrance in the classroom. But on a routine day, the classroom isn’t so populated as much, even though there are diverse crowds.

    “ At first, only my students saw that I had the video games. But they would hang out at lunch and they would tell their friends to come to my classroom, and just more and more people started playing,” Mr. Howard said. “It got to the point actually last year when I had about a hundred people in my room at lunch. It just got to be too much and I had to kick everyone out.”

    Students find satisfaction in the sessions for what they are. For those not taking part in the sessions and just chilling out, it’s fun to watch players go head to head with each other. For the individuals in the player seats, it’s the thrill of competing and seeing each other’s skill compared to their own. Mr.Howard does momentarily stop playing for a period of time, but that doesn’t stop the competitor’s yearning to go head to head with each other.

    “I just like playing against my friends and seeing how they’ve gotten better at the game.” Neptune Tau (12) said.

    Mr. Howard wanted to provide a place for people to belong in and be familiar with. Alongside that, students can encounter new people and forge new friendships along the way, having fun with them and appreciating the time. Teachers and students aren’t that different when looked at from a different angle. Both have so many other things in common with each other.

    “I think it’s important for every student to feel like they belong in school, and I think that by just opening my room and letting anyone who wants to play the games to do so, that friendships are made, and people become more familiar with one another. At least one place on campus is a place of familiarity for students, so if they have nowhere else to go, they can at least come here and have lunch and play some games and just enjoy their half hour of time off from school,” Mr. Howard said. “As a teacher, I think it shows to certain students that we share similarities, that my interests are their interests. I think it’s uncommon for teachers to have video games in their rooms. Games are really popular with students these days, so just being able to make that connection is important. I think that it’s important for students to see that teachers do share their interests.”


Caption: Having fun is one of the reasons many students come to Mr. Howard’s classroom at lunch. Although sometimes, he may not be available, but that doesn’t stop some students from waiting in anticipation the very next day. “For me, it’s also a time for me to decompress and just play games for half an hour.. But I don’t always do that,” Mr. Howard said.  Sometimes I’m working or I have to make copies or I have meetings, so I have to leave while students are playing games. I think that it makes my room safer, both for my students, and for people who aren’t my students. They have a place where they can go and enjoy their lunch.”

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