The Geek Pit: A place where everyone is welcome

(Photo by Amy Leong)

Outside of the classroom, there are many places for students to hang out and socialize in, like the cafeteria and Student Programs. However, a unique group of students spend the majority of their time below the staircase in the C building and are consistently there everyday. I’ve referenced them in some of my classes before and pretty much everyone knew whom I was talking about. Since they are so well known on campus, I wanted to understand more about them.

This area below the staircase in the C Building has come to be known as the Geek Pit, and students of all ages are able to be themselves and carry out one of their favorite passions… playing Magic: the Gathering.

Contrary to the title of the game, there are no rabbits coming out of hats. Instead, boxes and binders of Magic playing cards are set upon round tables. Laughing, munching on lunch, and holding large quantities of Magic playing cards are common things you may see as you walk by the area.

Spending some time with them, I could definitely tell that the Geek Pit is a very smart group of people. James Gan, for example, is only 15 but is the president of both the Model United Nations Club as well as the Glow Sticking Club.

“We are just one big intelligent group of Magic loving people,” says Jonathan Chen. “The most popular majors among us include engineering, mathematics, and science.”

Playing Magic is more than a passion for some; it is a lifestyle. It is common for Magic players to spend a minimum of $500 on their playing cards, thus owning several thousand cards. The longest game of Magic at Bellevue College took about five hours and had ten people involved.

“We jokingly say that we do not have lives, but in reality, I view people who sit at home all day watching football as not having a life. We actually interact with each other on a daily basis, hold intellectual conversations, and are able to play our favorite game,” says Matt Nash.

What really interested me about this particular student group was how they spent their time in the same spot everyday, and always seemed to be so immersed in their game. They admitted that a majority of their time is spent by the staircase in the C Building, but they assured me that they do not dedicate their entire time to playing Magic. For example, Josh Uczekaj’s parents own a ballroom dance studio, so he spends the majority of his time there. Other members involve themselves in sports, like Devin Olsen, an active soccer player of 16 years!

But what makes them come back on a daily basis? “It’s just like the addiction of playing a video game,” Ryan Robel explains. Magic is very much a game of strategy, so it stimulates the mind and gets the players actively engaged.

“It isn’t too hard to diverge from Magic!” Justin Russell laughs. Occasionally, a member from the Geek Pit will bring a new game for the members to play for a day.

Playing Magic is not the only activity the Geek Pit enjoys. “The piano tends to influence the crowd. Often the person at the piano will draw in people based on what music is playing,” Jefferson Eagley shares. Many of the players enjoy filling up the room with beautiful songs that make people stop and watch in awe.

Students who pass by the Geek Pit are definitely aware of their presence. “There are so many of them! I think they should create a Magic Club,” comments Front Desk Assistant of Student Programs, Joav Gomez.

After spending some time with the Black Student Union, I asked some of the members what their thoughts were on the Geek Pit. One of the students there, Dezarae Martin, observed, “They look like they are having a lot of fun!” Another student, Darnell French, shared, “It’s so cool that our school is so diverse.”

An estimated number of 50 people play at the round table by the stairs. Along with being intelligent, the Geek Pit made me feel welcome and was extremely friendly. “It is a great way to meet new people and find people with similar interests,” Andy Kismarton smiles.