EDTECH: What experiences helped you in the transition from student gamer to program director?
BRACKET: Much of where I am today is because I have participated in passion projects. In the past, many esports leagues were entirely student-driven, with no pay. One of the best examples is the co-founding of College CoD. When I was told “no” in college, I wanted a valid reason why I couldn’t do something or why it wasn’t possible. At our first esports club meeting, I asked if they had a Call of Duty team. Everyone laughed and said, “No, who would want to play Call of Duty at the college level?” That was all it took for me to start my own league.
From there, I worked with a nonprofit organization that helped black and brown faces and historically black colleges and universities become more attuned to the sport. I wanted esports and clubs from the Southeast to have more representation, so I created the Southern Esports Invitational to showcase that.
These were projects I wasn’t paid to do, but I was genuinely passionate and wanted to help. Now if you go to a school and ask if they have Call of Duty, you won’t be laughed at. This participation got my name out there and people got to know about me and my contributions.
EDTECH: Aside from becoming a professional gamer or program director, what career paths are there for students interested in esports?
BRACKET: One goal of our program is to teach working students that you don’t have to be the best player of all time to have a career. We are active in graphic design, social media management, team management and coaching, sending comments and observations. Professional teams have sports medics to train players and professional chefs to provide healthy meals.
Many people see gambling as having a stigma attached to it, not being social or leading to a professional future. People are surprised by the number of opportunities offered by the sport. I really don’t think there’s an academic degree that I can’t relate to esports.
LEARN MORE: How to design a college esports arena that students want to use.
EDTECH: How does your undergraduate background influence how you mentor students now?
BRACKET: It allows me to have more empathy for their experiences than competitors. Many directors do not have this understanding and knowledge. This could make it harder to be empathetic about things like scheduling and mental health, which are big parts of our program.
I know how overwhelming it can be to compete at a high level while balancing school, work and a social life. I think that made our players feel comfortable showing up in my office and speaking things out.
EDTECH: How would you describe the diversity in college esports?
BRACKET: To be honest, it’s miserable. How many college esports directors or even players across the country are people of color? If you look at the top tier of competition, there are very few environments where you see people of color on these stages. There has definitely been progress in women in the industry, but these changes have no substance when a woman can still log into a game and within five minutes has a bad experience that makes her not want to play anymore.
There needs to be a big shift in how we look at gaming inclusiveness and accountability. Many trainers say that diversity and inclusion is part of their programs, but this is not visible in their practice and attitude. If we started doing the work proactively and not just saying it’s important, we would make a lot more progress.