The Brown RISD Hillel is now home to the new Brown Esports Gaming Lounge, which opened its doors to students following its launch in January.
The new space’s opening follows a year-long planning and proposal process involving the Undergraduate Council of Students and the University, during which Brown Esports members pushed for a dedicated physical site on campus, The Herald previously reported.
“Having an in-person lounge really allows us to bring people together,” William Sun ’24 said, co-president and captain of the Brown Esports “osu!” team.
Isaac Kim ’23, co-president of Brown Esports, said he has been pushing to create the space since December 2020, citing the growing need for student connections and a desire for a stronger gaming community.
“The biggest motivation for us is for our team members to be able to compete in person next to each other,” Kim said. “When we’re at Brown University, competing out of your dorm room suddenly becomes not very appealing.”
Brown Esports comprises over 1,600 undergraduate students from both RISD and Brown and has 17 competitive gaming teams, according to Kim. Given the size of the group, he emphasized the ongoing demand for in-person relationships and group matches in order to bring members together.
Luis Tsatsos Montoliu ’23, captain of the “Super Smash Bros.” team, noted the profound impacts that sitting next to fellow players has had on him. Tsatsos Montoliu emphasized his appreciation for friendly banter and company, adding that in-person interactions contribute to community building and help improve performance.
Kim said he hopes that the new lounge will be an accessible space for competitive and casual gamers alike.
“A lot of people don’t have the necessary hardware in order to participate in our organization, whether that be Nintendo Switches, good gaming laptops … (or) controllers,” said Kim. “Our gaming lounge is a good place for those people to come.”
According to Kim, the new Brown Esports Gaming Lounge currently contains a total of 13 computers for community use, along with headsets, gaming mice, keyboards and one Nintendo Switch gaming console. Two of the club’s primary sponsors, computer technology companies Kingston Technology and Micro-Star International, have helped to fund the space, providing free gaming devices or significant product discounts, Kim added.
Prior to the space’s opening, Brown Esports operated by using student-owned equipment. Without a dedicated club space, members often held weekly meetings in student dormitories or on-campus public spaces. Kim recalled Esports members struggling to find adequate and accessible space and is excited to see his organization’s year-long pursuit finally come to fruition.
Rabbi Josh Bolton, executive director of Brown RISD Hillel, described the student-run initiative as “fun, special and thoughtful” and recognized the efforts of “some outstanding students.”
Hillel hosts a number of community groups from across the University, Bolton said.
Hosting the Brown Esports Gaming Lounge is “a cool way for Hillel to serve as a platform for an emerging and exciting student club on campus,” Bolton said. “Hillel is a dynamic building. … Different projects come in, different initiatives go out.”
According to Bolton, Hillel has undergone a dramatic repositioning in an effort to honor the organization’s emphasis on creative collaborations.
“These types of collaborations help elevate the energy of Hillel … and ensure that Hillel remains a relevant, vital, resonant and reflective platform for students, no matter if their interests are Torah studies, Israel advocacy or ‘Fortnite,’ ” Bolton said. The Brown Esports Gaming Lounge currently has a one-semester lease with Hillel, according to Kim.
Sun said he recognizes the new space’s ability to facilitate relationships between different groups of individuals.
The lounge “really helps people get into the community and games,” Sun said. “It helps bring other people who would not normally be a part of the community … because having an in-person opportunity to see each other … makes it feel more connected.”
After spending multiple weeks practicing and competing within the new space, Sun noted the “friendly and welcoming” atmosphere of the lounge, stating that it offers a “high-energy” outlet for students to turn to outside academics.
Tsatsos Montoliu said he remains grateful for the generosity and efforts of Hillel and Brown Esports but still believes there is work to be done. He said the size of the Gaming Lounge space limits occupancy and the technology that can be used, which hinders community involvement.
“We took a step forward, but maybe not the full step we were trying to take,” said Tsatsos Montoliu.
Isabella Pulzone ’22, team captain of the club’s “League of Legends” team, said she is excited to see what the future holds for the new space and believes that her organization’s efforts will leave profound impacts on the Brown gaming community.
“I have a feeling that it's going to become a nice big part of Brown,” Pulzone said.