Gaming communities meant to celebrate friendship, says organizer
DaRon Turner has a simple goal for his senior year — to take Central Michigan University’s gaming community to the next level.
Currently finishing up his fifth year studying entrepreneurship and computer science at CMU, Turner serves as the tournament organizer for multiple gaming communities.
DaRon Turner is studying entrepreneurship and computer science in his fifth year at CMU. In the past, he promoted connectivity and community as an RA. Turner is currently the tournament organizer of CM Arcade and the Smash group on campus.
Turner's CM Arcade, open to any genre of video game brought by its attendees, meets at 6 p.m. every Thursday in Pearce Hall room 422. His Smash 4 Weekly group, dedicated solely to Super Smash Bros., meets at 6 p.m. every Tuesday in Pearce Hall room 422.
“Video games have been the only consistent thing in my life — barring God. It's all a blessing," said Turner, of Detroit. "I never thought I'd be able to put together organizations for these guys."
Formerly titled Fighting Game Community, Turner’s CM Arcade is a new community and still small, consisting of anywhere from eight to 20 members at any given event.
Swartz Creek senior Weston Cross said the events are a way to escape the stress of school and the dorms.
Smash 4 Weekly was organized two years ago in January 2016 by Turner and his friend Chris Headley. When looking for a community, their entrepreneur-focused minds saw a need for a gaming community on campus.
The group started with about 10 members and has grown to about 25 regulars. The group has had the opportunity to travel to bigger tournaments and compete around the state.
At on-campus events, the members bring their own consoles, video games and monitors to “chill out” and “exercise their thumbs” by indulging in friendly competition, Turner said.
"None of us are great at these games," said Trenton senior Jacob Honeycutt. "We come together as friends and have fun."
Last year, Turner’s Smash 4 community hosted two tournament events that raised more than $1,200 for Child’s Play Charity, an organization that seeks to improve the situations of children in pediatric hospitals and other welfare facilities.
“If I ever take something away from the community, I want to put more back into it,” Turner said, explaining he has gained so much from the gaming community and wants to give back.
In the beginning
Turner's love for entrepreneurship began in high school after he started watching Rob Dyrdek's “Fantasy Factory”, a reality TV series on MTV about skateboarding. Dyrdek's show ignited Turner’s curiosity for business and creativity.
Turner never minded working for others, but grew more interested with entrepreneurship after realizing he could work for himself.
Living in Wheeler Hall, the first thing Turner did was meet with his resident assistant, Ryan Johnson, who influenced him to later become an RA. During his five years at CMU, Turner has grown to value the importance of connecting.
"By the time you get to your senior year, you don't regret much," Turner said. "You have the opportunity to do so much networking here and have options to meet a lot of different people from many walks of life. You'll be engulfed."
While working as an RA his sophomore and junior years in Cobb Hall, Turner would host gaming events in his room for his residents to enjoy themselves and each other's company. His room became "a safe haven," Turner said.
Today, that is what Turner wants his gaming communities to be — a place where people can be themselves. He encourages people to bring their consoles, TVs, controllers and friends. Turner makes it a point to play with everyone at least once, at each setup.
Turner said he gets a spectrum of diverse people at his events. Wanting to be inclusive, there are rules set in place that deter saying or doing certain things that may come across as derogatory.
"Especially in this time socially, (students) have a lot of social anxiety and depression," Turner said. "We have a certain amount of control over ourselves that people don’t want to admit we have."
Turner emphasized he created his communities to be an outlet, so there is somewhere people can go. He is thrilled when he sees people taking personal responsibility to fight their physical and mental conditions like social anxiety and depression.
"A lot of kids in my community go through these things," Turner said. "When they come to the events and start playing with others, you can’t tell they suffer from those things."
When Turner graduates later this year, he plans on continuing to organize gaming events both on campus and off. He also has ideas for apps that would better connect gamers and provide others opportunities to build brackets and tournaments online.