Entering the Underground Coffee Shop on any Saturday afternoon, people are greeted by the sight of enthusiastic students crowded around makeshift gaming setups.
Desktops and consoles line the tables that array the common space as friends and strangers alike meet to share experiences and play a variety of video games in what can only be described as a community.
This is the goal of Brown Esports: to foster an ever-growing and inclusive gaming-focused family. One of the largest student groups at the University, BEST is comprised of a 24-member executive board and over 500 members across competitive teams and casual gaming groups.
Beyond friendships and gaming, BEST members are also defined by an outward-facing perspective. The group will partner with the Brown Bookstore Dec. 6 and 7 for its third annual two-day-long Extra Life charity event to raise money for the local Providence Hasbro Children’s Hospital through events like a Super Smash Bros. video game tournament. BEST members will also stream themselves gaming both on- and off-site across the two days for nearly 20 hours to collect donations.
Extra Life is a global movement aimed at uniting gamers with the goal of raising money to fund local children’s hospitals. “Since its inception in 2008, Extra Life has raised over $50 million … for sick and injured kids,” according to Extra Life’s website. The movement formed to honor Victoria Enmon, who passed away from acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
The opportunity to combine his passions for both philanthropy and gaming drove Content Creator Morgan Evans ’22 to join BEST. Evans is now BEST’s coordinator of Extra Life.
“It’s a combination of my two interests: entertaining and helping people,” Evans said.
Evans coordinated with sponsors and the Extra Life Providence Guild to raise money, collect donation incentives and generate buzz around the upcoming event. BEST has been working with corporate sponsors and local businesses, including shops on Thayer like Ritual Sweat Society, to raise money and awareness for the event. Hasbro Children’s Hospital is a nonprofit that is part of the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals and is not federally funded, Evans said.
BEST began to support Extra Life due to the influence of the group’s Co-President Griffin Beels ’21. As a high school student, Beels was inspired by Games Done Quick, a video game charity event focused on completing games as quickly as possible to raise money. Beels had personally streamed and even collected over $2,000 during his own streaming events. When he applied to Brown, Beels cited a 2016 Herald article about BEST in his “Why Brown?” essay.
Once he joined BEST during his first year, Beels wanted to bring a similar charity event to the University. “Maybe we can take the power of a university and the people here and use it for good with gaming,” Beels said. The group hopes that this year’s Extra Life event will continue to grow and raise more donations than last year’s event. Last year, the group managed to double the statewide donation amount for Hasbro Children’s Hospital, and Evans hopes it can be “astronomically bigger” this year.
Though the term “Esports” may carry a certain competitive and exclusive connotation, members of BEST hold the belief that the community is meant for people with any level of skill and interest. Streamer, Content Producer and Executive Board Member Tony Zhu ’22 said that he joined BEST to meet and play with people who share his interest in a game known as DODA. Though there are groups of people who wish to pursue gaming through a competitive avenue, the driving purpose of BEST is to promote inclusivity for anyone and everyone.
“It’s more of a space where people can gather for however casually or competitively … and just come together,” said Chris Nivera ’21, another streamer, content producer and executive board member. “I want to create a space where people can come and have a lot of fun, make these really good relationships and have gaming at the center of that,” Beels said.
BEST hopes to continue to grow, not only in size but in the number of games that the group plays. “Even if there’s a small community (interested in a new game), you’re more than welcome to come to the meetings, use the discord and get other people interested in your game,” Nivera said. “Someone’s always willing to play.”
A previous version of this article stated that Griffin Beels '21 had founded Games Done Quick. In fact, he . did was inspired by Games Done Quick. The article has been updated to reflect that change. The Herald regrets the error.