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When Worlds Collide

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By Jack Feuer

Published Oct 1, 2010 8:00 AM


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Enigmans Kirsten Hageleit '92, J. David King, Aaron Vanek '93 and Rizwan Kassim '06 convene at Wyvern Manor to discuss plans to defeat the evil empire and take over the universe.

They look like Earthlings, but they embrace the universe. They are united by imagination and an insatiable curiosity about new worlds. And one other thing — they are all Bruins.

Meet Enigma, UCLA's science fiction, fantasy, horror and gaming club. Enigmans go on to become game designers, authors, programmers and scientists. And even for Bruins, they are an unusually tight-knit group.

Enigma students and alumni go on camping trips, visit the Renaissance Faire and Comic-Con (naturally). They have a 'zine. They formed a comedy troupe. And they have "a LOT of house parties," says Aaron Vanek '93, who helped organize an Enigma game donation for U.S. troops in Iraq.

UCLA's Own Enigma

Re-acquaint yourself with acclaimed sci-fi author Ray Bradbury, who wrote one of his best-known novels, Fahrenheit 451, in UCLA's Powell Library. See our exclusive video interviews with the science fiction legend, explore the Bradburyana collection and join us in celebrating Ray's 90th birthday.

There's even an area in West L.A. near the Nuart Theatre that has been home to so many club members, they call it "Enigmaville."

When Rizwan Kassim '06, now a partner at Hometown Telecom, joined Enigma, "I found an accepting group of people ranging in age from 18 to 38, with all sorts of majors, professions, interests, races, genders and political affiliation ... six years later, Enigma remains at the heart of my social circle. They are my family in L.A."

The club originated in Ackerman Grand Ballroom in 1985, during a screening of the Star Wars trilogy. Graduate student Robert Hurt M.S. '87, Ph.D. '93 was there to meet like-minded Bruins. Hurt, today a visualization scientist for NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, and his new friends decided to make it official, and Enigma was born in January 1986.

At first, they mostly watched movies or TV. But since then, generations of Enigmans added their own interests. A recent meeting, for example, included talks on America's Mars Program, and being an entrepreneur while a student. There have been "make your own game" nights, campuswide scavenger hunts and speakers like Battlestar Galactica creator Ronald D. Moore.

"It's amazing to see people who would never, ever associate with one another play a game or watch a movie together, both enjoying the subject of their devotion without fighting," says Vanek, now a filmmaker. "That's the power of fandom."

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