Volleyball coach Justin Snyder playing “Rocket League.” | Photo byAntonio Morano Photography
LARRY RODRIGUEZ-SHEA – SPORTS EDITOR
Despite all of the news surrounding the esports arena, the Spectrum Esports Arena had yet to be officially opened until Sept. 18. The kickoff event was a 12 hour charity stream that featured popular games like “FIFA” and “Among Us”, as well as, a scrimmage of “Rainbow Six Siege”.
The purpose of the charity stream is to raise money for students that are underrepresented in the gaming space. The FANGraiser successfully raised $3,400 from 53 unique donors in the span of 12 hours.
Gaming is often viewed as highly accessible, but that is not always the case. The common set of issues that prevent underrepresented communities from entering activities with high entry costs also apply to gaming. Charles “Chad” Peters, associate athletics director for external operations for St. Mary’s athletics, believes that this event was a success and worked towards moving past some of those barriers.
“With everything going on in our country right now between the pandemic and the awakening surrounding social and racial injustices, it was important to all of us that we celebrate the grand opening in a way that deeply impacted our St. Mary’s and surrounding community,” Peters said. “These injustices and inequalities hold just as true in the world of esports and competitive PC gaming, in which Black Americans and Latinos are underrepresented in part because of accessibility issues associated with the high costs of equipment and high-speed internet.”
It is important to understand that gaming, particularly competitive gaming, is a space that thrives on fostering community and inclusion. Additionally, it is not well known that charity streams are one of gaming’s most powerful charity initiatives. Organizations like Games Done Quick raise a lot of money for various causes annually.
The community spirit of gaming and commitment to inclusion is something that the department hopes remain integral to the program moving forward.
“Something else that is important to know about esports, which is truthfully interwoven in this topic of social justice, is the fact that community serves as the heartbeat for esports and competitive gaming,” Peters said. “This fundraising event was such a wonderful community-building initiative, and it was so enjoyable watching students, staff, and alumni come together in a virtual setting to put a lot of smiles on everyone’s faces. This event was just the beginning of building this community.”
Peters’ belief is one that is shared by head coach Kaitlin Teniente who along with the athletics department has planned several more events in the near future to promote community and inclusion.
“I think it’s important to know that the esports FANGraiser is one part of our community-building plan,” Teniente said. “More specifically, this event is one step towards creating a diverse, inclusive and positive program and community. My assistant coaches and I firmly believe that the esports community at St. Mary’s has space for everyone, and we welcome everyone into our community regardless of skill levels, the games you play, if any, what you look like or where you come from.”
This isn’t just shared by the administration and coaches in athletics. The players share this view as well. Senior Teresa Lee, forensic science major, and member of the “Fortnite” team has a personal stake in this. Being both biracial and committed to expanding opportunities for underrepresented groups she had to participate.
“Playing sports nearly my whole life, I did not have very many female coaches nor minority coaches,” Lee said. “So, having Coach Kaitlin as a Latina coach in a community that has an underrepresentation of Latino, Black, and female athletes and seeing her passion in wanting to create a more diverse esports community, both on campus and as a whole within the esports world, was definitely something that I felt like I could get behind on and support.”
This event also marked a significant milestone for the esports program. The organization’s rosters have been filled out. The full roster features 23 players competing across four games, those being, “League of Legends”, “Rainbow Six Siege”, “Fortnite” and “Overwatch”. The organization is beginning to practice more frequently and scout opponents as they prepare for competition.
“Now that we’ve finished tryouts, we’re switching gears to get ready for our competitions against other universities,” Teniente said. “We’re practicing more often, researching our opponents, memorizing rulebooks and getting into the swing of competition.”
With competition looming on the horizon, hopefully, the esports program can use the momentum from events like this, to get off to a great start.