A Growing Community
Envisioned as a place where everyone is welcome and included, the University of Oklahoma Esports Club offers a home for competitive and casual gamers alike.
Founded in fall 2017, with development beginning a year before that, OU Esports has since grown to more than 1,000 members, ranging from those who play on competition teams to students who participate more casually to others who provide coverage of the club and its events.
As the world has changed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, OU Esports has also established a free community where anyone can join to play video games with other OU students, alumni, and other members of the public. The group plans to host online events like LoL, OW, RL, Skribbl.io, Jackbox, and more.
“This year we changed our mentality of inclusion completely. Our organization, in the context of community, is now open to everyone, literally everyone,” said Mike Aguilar, the lead advisor for OU Esports. “With our current need of isolation to help overcome COVID-19, the topic and our expertise is a perfect solution to help with mental health strains, boredom, and the need to still have social interaction. We felt opening up our programming to a more public stance will set us up to be a contributor back to those that just need somewhere to find and make friends and ultimately regain some peace during this unprecedented time in our global community.”
“The difference between Esports and video games is the same difference as between playing a pick-up game of basketball and going to a Thunder game. "
- David Kaucic
Currently, the club develops competitive rosters of OU students in League of Legends(PC), Overwatch(PC), Rocket League(PC), Super Smash Brothers Ultimate(SWITCH), Counterstrike: Global Offensive(PC), and its newest addition, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (XB1/PS4/PC). Then there is also a public program designed to allow all levels and tiers of the community to participate.
In addition to playing video games competitively or recreationally, the club provides an avenue through which students who are interested in media can hone their skills. The media and news, shoutcasting, and streaming teams include writers who provide event coverage or opinion pieces like game reviews, photographers, videographers, streaming personalities, and more.
“A lot of people think that Esports is just video games, but it’s not really that,” explained David Kaucic, a chemical engineering senior. “Yes, video games are kind of the focal point of it, but the difference between Esports and video games is the same difference as between playing a pick-up game of basketball and going to a Thunder game. There’s a whole lot more involved in that and that’s the media coverage, the broadcasters, the coaching, and the players who are actually fully committed to this.”
An actor and singer in high school, Kaucic missed the time on stage after coming to OU from West Grove, Pennsylvania. He joined OU Esports as a sophomore and has participated in a variety of roles, including playing on a competitive team and writing. Currently, he works on the streaming side as shoutcasting director, which he realized went back to his acting roots as it crossed public speaking with improv.
Essentially, shoutcasting is broadcast production, including commentary like one would hear on sports broadcasts on TV. This team primarily covers OU Esports’ sanctioned competitions, like the Bedlam event against Oklahoma State that was held for the second time this past fall.
A meteorology major from Linton, Indiana, sophomore Matt Miller added a broadcast meteorology minor after he realized he was interested in that aspect thanks to his participation on the OU Esports streaming team. Miller is currently the director of streaming entertainment, which is the other half of the shoutcasting program and includes more of the casual live streams and content like talk shows and interviews.
“What’s really interesting about streaming especially is it’s more than just an activity. It’s a performance art at its core,” Miller explained. “There’s sort of learning how to build your persona, learning how to advertise, learning how to stick to a schedule and be responsible for yourself."
Bailey Brown, a December 2019 advertising graduate from Justin, Texas, was working at the OU IT Store in October 2017 when OU Esports held its first interest meeting in the space. She overhead Aguilar mention the plan to launch a website or blog in the future, and Brown approached him after the meeting and said she would be interested in starting one.
That’s how she became the news director and creator of sooneresports.org. At the time, she reported on all events the club participated in, and as the group grew, her team grew as well. Students from majors all across campus have participated in OU’s Esports Club, and Brown said her team has had several students from the Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication but also ones who were in petroleum engineering, architecture, and more.
The community program is another key component of OU Esports. The group is active in community service, competing each year in an Extra Life charity event that raises money for the Children’s Miracle Network and participating in Big Event. Additionally, OU Esports participates in K-12 outreach and programming and has also collaborated with other universities who are working to grow their clubs.
“Everyone fits in in Esports,” Miller shared. “Not everybody can play football well, and not everybody can sing really well, but Esports is for everyone. There’s something for everyone and the sooner you know that it’s here, the sooner that you can get involved in it.”