Cameron Esports

By Payton Williams

This Fall semester marked the opening of Cameron University’s E-Sports arena, as well as the start of a road toward a promising competitive E-Sports program on campus.

The arena, located in room 131 at the Academic Commons on the Cameron Campus, began from the mutual interest and collaboration of I.T. Director Kelly McClure and Dr. Christopher Keller, the Chair for the Department of Communication, English and Foreign Languages.

When the two men decided to present a funding proposal for the arena, according to McClure, it was still a kind of pipe dream for them.

“We talked about it a lot,” McClure said. “It was an exciting project. Honestly, I don’t think we ever expected it would take off like it has.”

In the writing of the proposal, Dr. Keller emphasized how important it was that University funds not be used to start the program.

“We were actually very conservative when we wrote the proposal,” Keller said. “I anticipated interest in maybe one or two games on campus that we could really be competitive at, and the response has knocked our socks off.”

One of the ways in which Keller and McClure were conservative in drafting of their proposal was in making sure that, at least at the beginning of the E-Sports arena project, they would not need to create a new career track within the University for a new E-Sports coach.

Instead, they decided to put management under the supervision of the incoming Digital Media Manager.

“We knew that this E-Sports job was probably going to be a full-time job,” Keller said. “But we needed a proof of concept. We needed to see if there was enough interest in it.”

As it turned out, there was.

At the suggestion of Cameron University President John McArthur, Keller and McClure approached the McMahon foundation about funding for the project.

To both Keller and McClure’s surprise, the McMahon foundation provided $110,000 to go toward the building of an E-Sports arena on campus.

“We weren’t sure how much money the McMahon foundation might give us,” McClure said. “They were very generous.”

The unanticipated amount of funding for the E-Sports arena allowed for a lot of additions Keller and McClure never expected, including state of the art gaming computers and consoles and access to a lot of popular games for the future competitors of the arena.

It also created a lot of new possibilities for the arena, chief among them, the possibility of eventually creating a new career track for current E-Sports coach and Digital Media Manager, John Cunningham.

Cunningham, who was an IT specialist at Cameron before accepting the position of Digital Media Manager and E-Sports coach this semester, was very excited about the prospect of getting an E-Sports arena at the university.

“I’ve been gaming my whole life, since as far back as I can remember,” Cunningham said. “We wanted Cameron to be involved in the next big thing, and E-Sports is it.”

The arena idea was first brought to President McArthur in March of this year, and the speed with which the project has grown has been a pleasant surprise to everyone involved.

“No one saw it coming, because it happened so quickly,” Cunningham said. “We brought it up in March, and then all through April, May, June, Kelly was ordering top-of-the-line computers, and we got Maintenance and Facilities over here, and they rearranged the room so everything would fit perfectly.”

Both McClure and Keller attribute the speed with which the arena became operational to a lot of good luck.

“I had a room in my department that was the old adjuncts room,” Keller said. “The way the room had been designed, when we renovated the Academic Commons a few years ago was that it would have about twelve computer stations, and this worked out for us because we already had functional electric for the Arena.”

The E-Sports Arena project’s run of good luck hasn’t stopped at the speed with which it came into being, however.

All three men have been entirely shocked by the level to which the arena has amassed popularity among the student body of Cameron and the surrounding area.

“On the first day of classes this semester alone, I got about 30 emails from students interested in joining the team,” Cunningham said. “Now, I’ve already got about 80 emails.”

The three men have been having regular meetings where, based on the pool of emails received by Cunningham and the interested students stopping by the three-week-long open house for the arena, they discuss the upcoming roster of E-sports team members.

With the influx of interest, the job of coaching the team is rapidly becoming a full-time job for Cunningham, and Keller talked about how he hopes to accommodate that with future grants.”

“With the quality of coach we’ve been able to get,” Keller said. “I don’t see why it wouldn’t be possible for his career path to lead to a ‘Director of E-sports’ position here at Cameron.”

Amidst this growing popularity, Keller, Cunningham and Kelly all hope to have a roster put together sometime in early to mid-October, and all three are eager to start competing with other schools in the surrounding area.

Cunningham said he has already contacted the E-sports coach at the University of Oklahoma..

“He talked about how excited he was to have a team in this area that might give them a run for their money,” Cunningham said.

For more information about Cameron E-Sports, contact Cunningham at jocunnin@cameron.edu.

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