Students grooved to the iconic “Thriller” in a Michael Jackson video game, would-be speed demons raced one another on the psychedelic Rainbow Road in Mario Kart 64, and bloodthirsty warriors beat the intestines out of their opponent in Mortal Kombat. Saturday night, Emerson College’s avid gamers found their little slice of virtual solace in WECB’s event Saturday Night Geekout.
WECB, the college’s online radio station, was inspired to host a gaming-centric event for a number of reasons. Its chief inspiration is the show Sunday Night Geekout, hosted by sophomore visual and media arts major Gabe Golvin-Klein. The program broadcasts video game soundtracks, gamer discussion, and occasional call-ins. Though currently on hiatus as the host spends the semester at the college’s Kasteel Well program in the the Netherlands, when on-air, the show proved to be one of WECB’s most popular productions.
Michael Kassier, a senior visual and media arts major and live-events coordinator for WECB, said the station is always excited to try new things. He said events like Saturday Night Geekout, which also featured video game music, help to distinguish between the free-form WECB and the more structured WERS.
“Nothing like this has been done before,” said Kassier.
Attendees got some musical accompaniment from sophomore visual and media arts major Jacob Gordon and a masked man who only went by the name Anonymo. Anonymo claimed not to be an Emerson student but rather a 320-year-old gentlemen who picked up being a disc jockey recently. Throughout the night the duo played 8-bit music using only a guitar and laptop.
8-bit music is crafted from simple electronic sounds and is commonly found in early video games. The style has experienced something of a renaissance with the rise in popularity of electronic music over the past decade. Referred to as “chiptune” when used in pop music (after the computer chips that create the noises), the style can be heard in the work of acts like Crystal Castles and lo-bat., both of whom have video game-inspired names.
“8-bit music, and by extension electronic music, is a lot of fun and it takes this generation back to a simpler time,” said Anonymo. “It’s a nice piece of nostalgia for people.”
Gordon, who goes by the DJ moniker Monowav, said he enjoys the grittiness of 8-bit, referring to its primitive technology and accessible nature. Anonymo and Monowav kept the music constant and loud throughout the two hour event. And while students were pre-occupied with their games, the music was nonetheless appreciated.
Lauren Moquin, a sophomore journalism major, said she enjoyed ambiance that the music created.
“This type of music works best on a night like tonight, with a lot of people around and in a party atmosphere,” she said.
Four projector screens and two television sets filled the Little Building’s Cabaret. Consoles ranging from the Atari to the Playstation 3 were hooked up. Party-friendly games such as Michael Jackson: The Experience for the Wii and Super Smash Bros. for the Nintendo 64 saw constant playtime.
Colby Jackson, a junior communication studies major, said he was thrilled to have the rare opportunity to play the rare-to-find Pong, one of the first video games, on the Atari system.
“It’s surreal. I’m playing Pong and having an epic battle with a friend,” said Jackson, who ended up beating his pal in the virtual tennis game.
The night culminated with a grand Mario Kart 64 tournament, with a $50 Gamestop gift card for the winner. The format of the tournament was loose as new rounds were added to service students still trickling in late into the event. The mood was relaxed, with many competitors surprised just how terribly the controls and graphics have held up when compared to their fond memories.
The tournament captured the attention of the most driven players in the room-.
“I’m competitive and I like driving virtual cars, even if I’m terrible,” said Alexandra Yep, a freshman writing, literature, and publishing major who drove the lovable green dinosaur Yoshi off the road more than once.
In the end, the prize went to WECB’s own Ben Burnstein, a senior radio major and the program director for WECB. Some fellow WECB members were a little miffed one of their own won the tournament, but Burnstein wasn’t going to let the runner-up take his prize.
Burstein put the event into perspective for what it was really about. “Tonight [was] a perfect opportunity for people to have a good time playing video games, hang with their friends, and eat free food.”