By Frances Clause
Four friends and a passion for video games, comic books and anime sparked an idea in August 2018, where people interested in these hobbies can meet weekly in Youngstown for gaming and more.
Malik Abdul calls this community the Pubcade, and his goal is to bring people together and give them more confidence in their interests.
“I grew up playing video games, and in today’s world, online gaming is a huge thing,” he said. “I just wanted to capture the essence [with the Pubcade] of when I was a kid where you actually had to go to your friend’s house to play games and just enjoy time together.”
The group’s meetings began at O’Donold’s Irish Pub & Grill in downtown Youngstown and have since expanded to Westside Bowl and Watchtower Game Lounge in Austintown.
“I just went down [to the locations] and asked if they were interested in doing a game night,” Abdul said. “I felt like there was nothing like that in this city and could bring a lot of people around here.”
The Pubcade community Facebook page has reached 189 members, and Abdul said he didn’t expect the group to grow so quickly.
“It’s a very humbling feeling,” he said. “It’s really cool that every single day, [the members] are talking to each other, whether it’s on meme posts or even making polls and sharing videos.”
So far, the group has partnered with Youngstown Smash Ultimate, another gaming community that brings Super Smash Bros. tournament players from the area together.
Abdul said around 45 people attend these tournaments, coming to Youngstown from Cleveland and Pittsburgh as well.
But besides Super Smash Bros. tournaments, the Pubcade also started Tekken 7 and Mortal Kombat tournaments with a prize of bragging rights.
Julian Ford, a friend of Abdul’s who has been a member since the group’s inception, said gaming has been a gateway for him to meet others who share an interest in similar games.
“A lot of gamers and nongamers have made new friends by simply going and hanging out [with the Pubcade],” Ford said. “I just recommend anyone that likes video games and board games to come hang out and socialize with like-minded individuals.”
In addition to gaming, members attended the recent Ohayocon, a three-day anime convention in Columbus.
Omar Khan, another Pubcade member, said this convention was his favorite experience and believes the group allows people to connect on special levels beyond gaming.
“I’m always learning new things, all the way from video games to anime and then to movies as well, and I’m extremely grateful for that,” he said.
Khan believes the community has torn down the walls of rivalry between certain consoles like Xbox and PlayStation, welcoming consoles from the Nintendo 64 to the PlayStation 4.
“The fact that we can connect on such a nostalgic piece of video games really shows they are much more than just a game. It’s literally a way of connecting people gradually,” he said.
The next large event the Pubcade will host is its art show Feb. 17 at Westside Bowl.
“The art show is a good time a lot of people that perform music and have works of art have a chance to shine,” Ford said. “Being a photographer, I really enjoy us having a venue for artists.”
The Pubcade’s weekly meeting schedule includes Westside Bowl at 8 p.m. Mondays, O’Donold’s at 8 p.m. Wednesdays and Watchtower Game Lounge at 6 p.m. Thursdays.