Maintaining community connections, one game at a time

MCKEESPORT, Pa. — Game nights are a fun and challenging way to bring friends and family together. Cooperative games can have people working together, or games like Monopoly can add a splash of friendly competition. However, during the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting necessary self-quarantine and social distancing, in-person game nights may be unavailable to regular game groups.

Penn State Greater Allegheny student Katarina Shields wanted to help change that. The junior information science and technology major developed “Virtual Game Night," a place to game for students attending all Penn State campuses, through the local gamer app Discord. The first event will be held April 18.

Promotional flyer for Penn State Greater Allegheny's Virtual Game night

Penn State Greater Allegheny's Gaming Club president, Katarina Shields, created a Virtual Game Night for students. The first event is scheduled for 5 p.m. Saturday, April 18.

Credit: Katarina Shields

Shields started a gaming club on the Greater Allegheny campus about a year ago. "Members would do weekly Dungeons and Dragons nights every Friday,” Shields said. “We would also sometimes play [other] games if we didn't have D&D. We would also participate in the Kelly Library's game nights.

"Games help with de-stressing and having a bit of fun before classes,” she added.

Shields said hosting game nights was "always a blast” as students played various games. So she wanted to help alleviate the problem of how to game together in this time of social distancing.

“A lot of the people in my club miss each other and playing games together, which we can now do virtually through Discord,” Shields said. “My club has a server dedicated to the gaming club and we utilize that to continue gaming together.” 

The club also plays other games, like The Jackbox Party Pack. “Someone would share their screen so the rest of us could play along,” said Shields.

Discord is one of several gamer apps available, Shields said, and an easy way to  join others to stream and play games online, an option for those who wish to spend time playing more games with their friends.

Then the word spread, and gave Shields an even better idea.

“I had another campus’ gaming club president reach out this semester about a group Discord channel for all gaming clubs,” Shields added, “and since everybody is easily accessible, I thought we could create a virtual game night for every campus.”

Shields said this led to the idea of setting it up for the rest of the semester. “That way, everybody can feel like they are still having the experience they would get from campus and we can bring people together in such a stressful time,” she added.

Will “Virtual Game Night” continue after the pandemic? Shields believes it will.

“It isn’t completely the same, but being able to talk online and interact is helpful,” she said. “I think technology can make us feel less alone in times like these and we can positively impact each other.

“If this is successful and other campuses still want to participate, I would love to continue virtual game nights. Connecting with other Penn State campuses would be nice,” she said.

Participants who create a Discord account can join the first event on April 18. The event is open to participants from all Penn State campuses. Information about what games are available that night will be offered to participants logging into Discord before 5 p.m. If there is enough interest, additional events also will be posted through Discord.

Those interested and need help getting started should contact Shields at [email protected].

Editor's Note: This article was written by junior communications major, Riley Perciavelle and originally published in the GA-Zette, Penn State Greater Allegheny’s student newspaper. The GA-Zette staff is continuing its work during the remote learning period, under the guidance of faculty adviser Rosemary Martinelli.