Q&A: University College Cork Networking, Gaming and Technology Society

A Q&A of a more local flavour

The UCC Networking, Gaming and Technology Society (Netsoc) is a part of University College Cork. While I have never had the pleasure of attending the prestigious college myself, It has a great reputation here in Ireland. Part of that is the more social side of things—societies and extracurricular activities. Were I attending the college, one of my first stops for social pursuits undoubtedly would be Netsoc.

As the name would suggest, this particular society is for anyone who is interested in networking, gaming and technology in general. One of the greatest things about Netsoc are their regular events surrounding tech and perhaps more relevantly, gaming. This wonderful society of gamers and passionate tech fans do regular gaming nights—including VR and retro-themed—and even participate in visits to Barcadia, a local retro arcade bar and kitchen here in Cork, Ireland.

I recently got to thinking about how the world has been impacted by the pandemic, specifically how community-based groups have been dealing with the restrictions in place and how they have re-focused and adapted to sustain themselves in the so-called “new normal”.

I couldn’t think of anyone better to have this conversation with than UCC Netsoc. When Oisin from the group got back in contact with me and obliged my curiosity, I was delighted for the opportunity to learn more from a meaningful, local community.

UCC Netsoc is a great resource for those attending UCC to get their gaming fix in, with retro gaming events, VR experiences and everything else you do. How has the group been getting on since the Covid-19 outbreak?

We’ve been mostly on hiatus since the end of term but that hasn’t stopped our members from getting their gaming fix. Groups of members have collected in our Discord to play games many evenings during lockdown, we’ve even had a member livestream themself playing VR! Our Minecraft server has also been a hit, a nice escape for people. When not playing games, there is often discussions around the latest games and consoles, not to mention the whole Animal Crossing craze at the start of the summer.

Since the pandemic began, the gaming world has been largely unaffected in terms of the production of games and people are gaming more than ever. Have you noticed any changes with interest in your society since? Has there been any increase in interest or membership?

We’ve certainly seen a shift towards larger multiplayer games, allowing people to meet their friends online when they can’t in person. Games like Valorant, Animal Crossing, even Minecraft have definitely been the games of choice for our members during the pandemic. Social gaming has become more popular than ever. Our large membership drive is normally at the start of term when first years join so we’re hoping to see an uptick come October.

I noticed you host a variety of gaming events—from retro themed, VR and trips to Barcadia. What are some favourite games played at these events? I can imagine multiplayer heavyweights like Halo or Smash Bros. going down well!

Smash Bros has a very loyal following we’ve found! It usually has a permanent fixture at our events with lots of people coming in for Smash Bros alone. It works well at our events as with up to 8 players, everyone gets a chance to play. Local co-op games, such as Overcooked and Gang Beasts, definitely see a lot of attention. Other favourites include Rocket League, ARMS and Tekken. Our VR setup also sees a lot of use, with crowd favourites being Superhot and Beat Saber.

Would there be a demand for a variety of games to be available for your gaming events? Or would it be more that the usual favourites consistently go down well?

We usually try to change it up each week, have a different game or setup than usual, to avoid the events getting stale. Throughout the year we do all sorts of themed events and tournaments to keep things exciting. We’ve done some great themed nights in the past, such as our collaboration with UCC Scribble Society and UCC Japanese Society where we played games and did origami. Sometimes you can’t beat the classics though so it can be a balance act.

The gamers will inherit the earth

Being a Cork native myself, it's great to see a society like yourselves provide a fun and safe space for gamers in this city. How did Netsoc get started?

While we aren’t too sure of the specifics, we know Netsoc split off from WARPS, UCC’s tabletop society, some time in the early 2000s. We know it absorbed the Computer Science Society at some point and that’s when the tech side began. A lot of it is lost to history unfortunately.

In terms of membership, is there a wide variety of people and interests? One thing I always find with gamers is that no two are ever 100% alike in their favourites and general tastes!

Absolutely! We have members from a multitude of courses across UCC and their gaming interests can be equally as varied. This is why we try to have as many different games and setups at our events as we can. However, while people’s interests can differ a lot in gaming, we all have gaming in common. This is why we think our events are a great opportunity to make new friends, you already have something in common with everyone.

From your experience, does Netsoc tend to cater more to a hardcore audience, or a more casual one?

Netsoc tries to cater to both hardcore and casual audiences, our gaming events have a number of gaming setups and they range from the hardcore Smash Bros. players, to the casual Mario Kart players, and everything in between. We do however have some events which lean more towards one or the other, like the Netsoc Champion tournament every year. It takes place over a number of weeks where we have a number of competitions in varying genres of games. It usually brings a lot of the more hardcore gamers to try for the title of Netsoc Champion. On the other hand, our gaming meetups like the Pokemon meetup we did last year, where members brought their Nintendo Switch and played the new Pokemon Sword and Shield games together, tend to lean more towards the casual gamer.

A society by the gamers, for the gamers

Looking beyond your gaming offerings at the moment, Netsoc provides far more than that. There are workshops for Github, CSS and a variety of different tech events. How do these tend to stack up with gaming events in terms of popularity and interest?

Our tech events tend to have similar interest however they cater to a different audience, not to say there isn’t overlap between the two. Throughout the year we run all sorts of talks on trending topics in technology and we try to introduce people to topics they mightn’t come across in college. We also run workshops and hackathons to give people a chance to create as well. One of our favourite events last year was our Gamejam, where people were tasked with making a small game and then presenting it. This brought both the gaming and technology sides of our society together!

Looking ahead to after the dust has settled with the pandemic, when things are back to as normal as they can be—What will be the first order of business for UCC Netsoc?

I think everyone in Netsoc misses all their friends in the society as well as meeting new people at our events, so our first order of business will be to organise some sort of get together for our members, even if that will be required to be outside or without any gaming setups. We have a great community of people and I’m sure we have all been missing each other since the start of the pandemic so the sooner we can meet up, the better.

Finally, are there any major plans for the group you can share with me? A cheeky teaser of something?

It’s early yet to reveal too many details but we have some fun events in the works. Everything is up in the air at the moment with the pandemic situation, but we’re confident we can run exciting events both in person and online. Something we’re looking forward to is the Minecraft Hunger Games we plan to run!

Endure and survive

Despite the current conditions we’re all living in, it’s great to see UCC Netsoc surviving, with a shift more towards multiplayer gaming and playing remotely, doing what they can to maintain activity during the current global conditions.

Do you have any stories about local gaming communities being successful in adapting to the current way of life? Maybe you’re a current or former member of UCC Netsoc, and would like to share some comments? Feel free to drop a comment below and get the discussion going!

All images provided by the UCC Networking, Gaming and Technology Society for the express purpose of using them in this article

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