Sunday, April 16, 2006

A Brief History of the SMC Gaming Club

Back in 2003, SMC student Jeremy Meyer and I resurrected the video game club at Santa Monica College. It was then named the "Academy Gaming Club" as the physical location of the club was in room 108 at SMC's vocational satellite campus, the Academy of Entertainment and Technology. I held the respective offices of Vice-President and then President. At various times, AET Professors David Javelosa and Jeannie Novak were faculty advisors to the club as was AET staff member Stu Seldon. I designed a website and CD-ROM for the club. I attended the required ICC meetings, other necessary meetings, and made a presence for the club at SMC's semi-annual club row. SMC was so impressed with the booth that both Jeremy Meyer and I set up that they ran a large photo of us in one of the SMC course catalogues.

After the event, I wrote the following: "SMC Club Row was a hectic and hot day on March 27, 2003, but we managed to get a table with only two days notice and to grab the $50.00 prize as one of ten second place clubs. Additionally, we obtained three pages of names and contact info. for new members. Next year, we will be bigger and better, so come out and help."

I explained how students could become members of the club. I wrote: "If you're not a student at Santa Monica College, now's the time to get registered for the next school year. We accept both full and part-time students to our club. Guests are also welcome. Please email us if you would like to attend our club on a special guest pass."

I worked with AET internship Gloria Mottler to help obtain game testing opportunities for club members at Sony's game design studio across the street from the Academy. I helped purchase the PlayStation 2 for the club, going to many school meetings. As far as the club was concerned, during one such orientation meeting, it was brought to my attention that SMC's Associated Students were concerned about the club using public funds to purchase video games with violent content such as Grand Theft Auto. There were additional concerns of playing such games in the club, as I know at least one individual in charge of the Associated Students brought this to the attention of our faculty advisor, David Javelosa.

I wore many hats during my presidency, but the most important one was in the drafting of the club's Constitution and By-Laws. Here is the "Academy Gaming Club Mission Statement" I wrote:

To promote game design, game music, game history, game programming, game development, and gameplay and testing of all console games, PC games, multiplayer, singleplayer, lan, offline and online by and between the SMC community (students, staff, and faculty) and to extend this interest, information, enthusiasm, and technology with professional game developers, game publishers, retailers, and other educational and non-profit or for-profit organizations and / or individuals to foster a community of growth, goodwill, and dissemination of information, technology, and opportunity.

I also adhered to a "Zero Tolerance Policy" in our game club. I drafted the following policy:

Recently, our club has established a Zero Tolerance Policy toward academic dishonesty of any kind, including lying, stealing, damaging of school property, computer tampering, or harassment of any of our members. We have worked hard to forge various relationships within both the school and the game industry and we will not allow anyone to threaten our outstanding reputation. We are confident that we will attract only the best of students to our club and to flourish in our endeavors and gain further respect among the SMC academic community.

Under my sincere and careful guidance, the club grew from its four officers to a room jam-packed with students from many diverse backgrounds. We enjoyed our playtime, bringing in our own game consoles, playing LAN games with the state-of-the-art AET computer network, and watching DVD movies, Japanese anime, and American animation on the large screen provided in the room. Many female gamers came to our meetings as well as older gamers and some guests. A feeling of security and community permeated the room.

Back in Spring 2003, we had the following officers to the club:

Des Manttari, President
Gabriel Quinteroz, Vice-President
Mario Mendoza Alarcon, Secretary
Carlos E. Interiano, Treasurer
John Inman, ICC Rep.
David Javelosa, Faculty Advisor

A photo of me sandwiched between Mario Mendoza Alarcon and Gabriel Quinteroz at the E3 Expo in May 2003 appears at the top of this blog in the left header. Both Alarcon and Quinteroz attended the 2003 E3 Expo, along with Jeremy Meyer, as staff writers for my online news media outlet, Phoenix Genesis. Quinteroz continued to write articles for Phoenix Genesis in 2004 and 2005.

Impressed with my efforts, even Jim Keeshen joined Phoenix Genesis to go to E3 in 2004 with Gloria Mottler and Clifton Dobbs to help forge connections in the video game industry and to hopefully obtain job opportunities and internships for AET students. Of course David Javelosa, Jeannie Novak, and AET Chair Bill Lancaster went to E3 on their own accord.

Until recently, Quinteroz and another SMC student, Ricardo Galindo (who was a freelance writer last year for my company) were gearing up for E3 2006 with me. That is, until SMC student Thomas J. Baker, acting erroneously as the SMC Gaming Club spokesperson, got his hands on them. Baker, acting in consort with Jim Keeshen, began to allegedly pressure Quinteroz and Alarcon, both enrolled in ET19 A, Animation I. Quinteroz quickly vanished from my radar. Interiano, another friend of mine who has also gone to E3 with us, has perhaps suffered from this pressure from Keeshen as he's currently enrolled in Keeshen's ET 20 Visual Development course. I have not heard from him recently.

On or about January 10, 2006, Galindo wrote me the following:

des, I don't like to sound like I am being a mean ass or using a person. But can I still join you for E3?? I mean, if it wasn't for you I wouldn't had been able to go to last years E3, and it was awesome just being with you guys over there and just having fun, you know?? anywho, can I still join you guys? plus! I kind of do not trust the SMC video game club, I don't know why... but I feel like I will not have so much fun with them than with you guys, since you know! I've known you guys way more than the video game club guys. Also because I just have more fun with people I already know in these kinds of event thingies, you know??

When Galindo wrote this message to me, he had been allegedly impacted negatively by the SMC Gaming Club under the control of Thomas J. Baker. What did he mean by his statement that he did "not trust" the club? Was it something specific or just an impending sense of dread? In any event, Galindo's distrust was perhaps a premonition for the violence and hate crimes to come by Thomas J. Baker against us on March 24, 2006 during the club's first meeting of this semester. The full details of this violence and hate crimes will be covered in a future blog article as well as the role violent video games may have had on the members of the SMC Gaming Club.

Suffice it to say that Baker modeled his violent behavior against us all after AET Professor Jim Keeshen, if not emulating it and being fueled by Jim Keeshen's March 1, 2006 hate speech and threats to his ET 18 Storyboarding students. Baker made verbal threats, he discriminated against the disabled, he used profanity against us, and he summoned campus police under false pretenses for the sheer pleasure of harassing us. I was detained in a locked room alone with campus police and interrogated for approximately twenty minutes. Jim Keeshen also did all these acts under the guise of school policy.

Furthermore, as Jim Keeshen falsely inflated his role in Seth MacFarlane's "Family Guy" pilot, so did Baker make false claims that he was the current president of the SMC Gaming Club. According to Mario Alarcon's admissions, Alarcon is the president of the club. However, another SMC student, Caesar Portillo, who was present on March 24, 2006, also took claim to being the president. Gabriel Quinteroz, who was also present that day, had previously written online, inquiring, "So who is the president?" Perhaps we will never know as Baker had informed us that it was "complicated." Of course, acting in Jim Keeshen fashion, he answered my legitimate question by calling campus police to educate me on the new "Zero Intolerance Policy" at SMC. In just one year's time, all the hard efforts I had expended and all the hard earned respect and zero tolerance policies of the Gaming Club are gone. Now, it is a home for intolerance, discrimination, hate crimes, hate speech, alleged misuse of public funds and academic dishonesty.

Where were the faculty advisors, Howard A. Stahl and David Javelosa on March 24, 2006? Why were they not monitoring the club and supervising its 14 year-old minor member? While the SMC Gaming Club was subjected needlessly these hate crimes, Javelosa was off playing at the Game Developers Conference in San Jose, California. On March 22, 2006, Javelosa (through his SMC email account), wrote the SMC Gaming Club on its Yahoo! Group the following:

Hi All, Great news about the room. I'm just dropping you all a quick line from the Game Developer's Conference here in San Jose. As many of you know I will not be in class this week. More later about all the new developments here in the biz. =dj=

What part does David Javelosa have to play in the recent events of the SMC Gaming Club? What kind of role model is he providing its impressionable members? We will examine more about his role and possible misuse of school resources in another article.

Why was Thomas J. Baker allowed to run rampant and to make false representations to the campus police? Why did he rely on Jim Keeshen's false representations? What was in it for him? The SMC Gaming Club should represent the SMC community as a whole, not its individual self-serving members. That was my mission when I was president and it is still my belief. For standing up for these values, and for addressing these concerns to the SMC Board of Trustees, SMC's respective legal counsel Robert Sammis and Joshua Morrison, and the SMC campus police, I am rewarded with threats of suspension by Dean of Judicial Affairs Judith Penchansky. Does Penchansky know the whole truth behind this story? Or does she not care to know?

Regardless, it is truly gut-wrenching to be deprived a zero tolerance environment at the Gaming Club I helped to establish and build. Santa Monica College's Board of Trustees, its top level administration, and its Disabled Student Office has allowed Jim Keeshen's hate crimes and hate speech to go unchecked, if not encouraged. So it was inevitable that Keeshen would be a role model for thugs like Thomas J. Baker to pass on this violence and hate speech to us. These recent events clearly show how far SMC has sunk in that inevitable stench of academic dishonesty, hatred, prejudice, and unwarranted police force that permeates the educational environment. Like a primordial tar pit, we shall be trapped with no escape unless someone from outside the college steps in to save us. At least we are reaching out for that help.

In the meantime, perhaps I should start a new Academy Gaming Club for the school? I wouldn't be able to guarantee what games we would play, but I would guarantee that everyone who attends the club would be welcome with open arms. SMC and AET would benefit as a result.

Related SAVE SMC Blog article: Putting an End to Video Game Violence.

-- Des Manttari,
Des Manttari

(c) 2006: Phoenix Genesis/MBS LP

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