As the world was brought to a standstill by COVID-19, nearly half of the world’s population got into gaming. According to a report by USA Today, 227 million people in America alone were turning to video games during the pandemic. But for those of us who were avid gamers long before the pandemic, gaming is more than just entertainment and stress relief… it’s a way of life. And nobody knows that better than Sugar Gamers.
As we all slowly re-emerge into the post-lockdown world, Sugar Gamers hit the ground running by crafting a series of small, curated experiences to bring tech advocates and gaming aficionados back together. On Friday, April 22nd, Sugar Gamers kicked off their first post-pandemic gathering with an event called “Industry Night,” an evening of food, drinks and games specifically curated for folks to get reacquainted with their peers who have been making waves in the gaming and tech industries in Chicago over the past few years of lockdown.
“A lot of people learned the value of gaming while we were socially distancing,” said Keisha Howard, founder of Sugar Gamers. “Gamers aren’t on the fringes of society anymore. So gamer networking experiences were an obvious next step. We were doing it before COVID, but these gatherings are even more necessary now.”
The event was hosted at The Metropolitan, the swanky social and business hub located at the top of The Willis Tower (still affectionately called The Sears Tower by native Chicagoans), inside their BigShots Golf Lounge. Celebrating their 13th year, the first event of 2022 brought together game developers, creators and investors, many of whom hadn’t seen one another since before the pandemic.
“The amount of diversity was stunning. Usually, at these events you really only meet one type of person from one walk of life, but I can honestly say that I was able to mingle with some of the most interesting and unique people I’ve met in my career.” Said Kyle Barrows, Creative Director and Studio Consultant, “All this against the backdrop of our shared passion for gaming! It’s what building bridges is all about.”
Departing from the traditional networking event format of fancy drinks and light appetizers, the event featured video games, tabletop games, good eats, and The Metropolitan’s bar offerings. The attendees spanned from up-and-coming content creators to established tech professionals, eager to get to know the current players in Chicago’s burgeoning gaming and tech scenes. Highlights of the evening included some particularly competitive video game matches that had onlookers cheering and instigating over hot wings and cocktails. It’s not what you might expect from a networking event. But after two years indoors, it was exactly what we needed.
“I met some of the best people!” said Katrina L. Jefferson, Los Angeles – Strategic Partnerships for Sugar Gamers, “and although my attempt to complete a game was unmet, I had some amazing discussions with a University of Chicago Professor, a PHD Scientist, and a Luxury Real Estate agent–all there for their love of games. The redefinition of a ‘gamer’ came full circle for me that night.”
So what’s on the agenda for the next Sugar Gamers gathering? Well… that depends. With COVID guidelines still in flux, these events will likely continue to be small, invite-only events, consciously created for folks within our beloved gaming and tech community. Once it’s safe to do so, you can expect Sugar Gamers to go all out on a 13th anniversary celebration but in the meantime these intimate events have been a great way to gather and connect.
If you’d like to attend the next gathering, sign up here for our email list. We’d love to see you!