Introduction to Moog's Corner
Hello world! My name is Michael “Moog” Aguilar and I am the Lead Advisor of the currently named Esports Association at The University of Oklahoma. I told myself that a year after we formally created the organization I would start sharing the story of my journey on this project regardless of success and failures. I am 23 months into development at this time with the student organization now enjoying its 13th month. Moog’s Corner will become my personal blog revealing the landscape of collegiate esports, the specific cultures I’ve enjoyed, the specific hurdles at The University of Oklahoma, and the strategy of my development with this exciting topic at this well-known school in the heartland. Sooner Nation enters an entirely new world!
As of October 2018, I am a 5-year employee of The University of Oklahoma. I have worked in IT the entire time doing project management and business analysis. I have worked for companies like Apple, got job offers from AMD in Austin, worked in the public sector juvenile facilities, am a small business operator of 18 years in photography, worked for custom PC builders, served in the US Army for 6 years, played soccer for 12 years for school and as a club sport, I have earned a Bachelors of Science in Information Technology as well as a Masters in Business Administration, and I am happily married with two Shiba Inus furbabies. I grew up in West Germany (yes the wall was still up) in the 80s and have played on everything from the Atari 2600 to all consoles and hardware after.
I reference all of this because this development has tapped into every single experience I’ve had in my 36 years of life and I want to showcase how everyone can flex their own backgrounds to develop this topic further. I end my short bio with one key element. I WAS the introverted, socially awkward nerd, with anxiety attacks constantly. It was Vanilla World of Warcraft through the Cataclysm expansion that brought me out of my shell, taught me leadership abilities and soft skills, and landed me a job at AMD in Austin completely evolving my lifestyle, mental health, and social anxiety. I understand my unique experience may or may not resonate with you, but know that there are talents on your campus that have kept gaming a bit hidden because culturally we do not support them in the mainstream. Change that and find the talent that already exists at your university. Having an active advisor is extremely critical to your success in this development.
Where did "Moog" Come From?
My parents called me Mikey “Moo Moo” as a child, some of my friends knew that and followed suit. Then one day in Stormwind’s vault in World of Warcraft somebody made the comment, “You must really like Final Fantasy.” I was a hardcore Final Fantasy fan and then it all fell into place. SquareEnix brain washed me with Moogles and my entire support network had been calling me “Moo” or “Moo Moo”. Moog was born.
Sidenote: All my toons in WoW were variants of Moog. One of my favorites and most hilarious was HannaMoogtana, a Draenei Paladin.
Setting the Tone
For anyone reading this blog I challenge you to think before you lock in your thoughts because there are many things that will align with my peers in the industry and there are several that will not. I welcome debate, collaboration, and exploration of this wild wild west topic of collegiate esports development as long as you understand there is no single form of governance that exists at the moment of this post. There is no NCAA, NAIA, or other traditionally known governing bodies that have the mainstream acknowledgment still right now. We have resources in the industry that are trying to do that like NACe, but until the university landscape across the US buys in more everything we are doing is just infrastructure development. We still have a bit of time before we get to a revenue generator standard like our analog sports peers we are often compared to. Lastly, I want all of my collegiate peers in this space to never forget our purpose as colleges and universities. Our mission is to develop the professionals of today and tomorrow through relevant curriculum learning from the past and present while pushing the limits forward. Esports represents a topic that can breathe a lot of new energy into a university environment, but that requires everyone to stop trying to automatically put it into an athletics comparisons and instead innovate by leaving nothing off the table. Right now the problem with collegiate esports is so many of us are throwing resources and money at it hoping for a return on investment versus innovating practicum, building substantial networking, and cultivating community as a means to explore the broad cultures and opportunities it can bring in building its infrastructure. So let’s dive into collegiate esports from the Sooner standpoint.
In November 2016, the Interim CIO of The University of Oklahoma Information Technology had returned from an Amazon conference. This whole development started with one question, “What is Twitch?”. In my current role at OU, I am a Technology Strategist. We are designed to partner directly with departments across campus as part of the centralized IT efforts. Part of the time allocation is for other developments, side projects, and training opportunities. Researching gaming and esports energies became my side project from that point on.
I need to preface this entire story with one key differentiation. Gaming and esports are NOT the same thing. The best way to describe this is playing basketball with your friends on a Friday night for fun. That is gaming. Having a high production development infrastructure with all the bells and whistles like the NBA Finals. That is esports. They have a crossover but are functionally different. Gaming = culture, community, and leisure. Esports = production, professionals, entertainment, and business. Also, for all of you, it is “esports” or “Esports” when at the beginning of a sentence. PERIOD. Do not use “eSports” ever again. Why? It was standardized by the Associated Press last year. (REFERENCE) We have some places we still need to change this ourselves, but if you learn anything today, learn how to properly spell and hail the word “esports.”
From November 2016 through April 2017 I spent my time reading articles, recording analytics in the industry, and reaching out to other developers in the collegiate space. One thing to note about collegiate esports at the time of this article is we as a collective are eager to share our journey, share our pressure points, and inspire peers because we all need each other to push the agenda. My initial researched peers to tap were A.J. Dimmick at the University of Utah, Jarrett Fleming at Maryville University, Michael Brooks from North American Collegiate Esports, and the Godfather of collegiate esports, Kurt Melcher from Robert Morris. The first thing to note for anybody is each of these universities and companies have unique cultures, challenges, and politics. This is why there is no cookie cutter approach to collegiate esports development and you should not try to stuff this topic into any pre-existing definitions. Let go of trying to predefine it. Let go of following other universities as a framework. Embrace the adult playground that is a university campus and have fun! This is definitely work, but it’s extremely fulfilling if you approach it from the context of understanding the macro view of the industry and just how truly powerful we all are in the collegiate space. We are the future of this industry! If you don’t see that, I will explain why over the course of this blog.
One of My Favs
A.J. Dimick, Director of Esports – University of Utah, to my right at the Big 12 Conference Forum on Esports in early 2018.
The First Event for Research
In April 2017, we hosted our first open to the campus Q&A event utilizing League of Legends as a motivator to find initial energy. Don’t know anything about League of Legends? Look at this article my students wrote about what it is HERE. We capped at 4 teams (5 players each) and helped students who were free agents find teams to play on for the event. We had enough students and teams for all 4 slots within 3 hours. Additionally, with the help of OU IT, we funded food and drink to also facilitate a Q&A session and partnered with the College of Engineering to use a lab that was more than capable of supporting the event. We also added streaming and shout casting to the event to help promote the event in real-time. I messaged these specific departments because I imagine all of you reading this have resources on campus that would be easy to request with just a little bit of structure to the request. Here is my strategic methodology of how I did all of this for under $650.
Partners for the event:
- College of Engineering – Strategic add: they have a student life programming department specific to the college. Through research of other university landscapes engineers tend to make up often more than 50% of the disciplines in any organization for this topic. I presented the goals and ideas to their student life and we gained access to the lab, meeting space, and bolstered their student life programming with zero cost to them, zero cost to us, and 100% gain for the initial energy.
- OU Information Technology – Strategic add: With the innovative opportunity of this topic I was painting I was approved to fund food and headsets for the tournament. This brought up the entire budget in 5 months to around $650 total and gave us our first needed and usable resource for future events. Headsets.
- One University Technology Store – Strategic add: This kept the cost of headset purchases to an absolute minimum by flexing preexisting partnerships with our vendors and sharing what they were for.
Important Analytics from Event
From this event we had students come in from the streets who had just heard about the event that day. One of which was our founding student and Vice President, Alex Tu, a senior at the time who put me in contact with Jack Counts, the future and current president of the organization at this very moment. These two had been longtime friends and had started a business in esports tournament organization in the state of Oklahoma that had over 18 months of operations already. Additional analytics from this event are:
- 100+ students in physical attendance for a watch party, food, and Q&A
- 20 students competed and all 20 signed up within first 2-3 hours
- Total spent was less than $650
- Over 50 unique viewers on Twitch stream
- Future leadership found
- Priceless feedback is given on opportunities we could develop that are unique to OU and our students
I promise all of you, there are students on your campus that are huge assets, but you have to create opportunities for them to come out of the woodwork. If you don’t include students early on at this point in time, you are doing this absolutely wrong. They will become your immediate feedback loop, future success stories, and help you understand the culture on your campus better than you ever could. PERIOD. Never marginalize your students’ voices. You are only setting yourself up to just “be in esports” instead of “innovator in the esports space.” Yes, you will have to put in a lot of work yourself, but if you’re a loose cannon without understanding your own specific audience then you are wasting time and resources already. For example, I advised a peer university earlier in 2018 to never go to a flagship campus for research, why? We live in Oklahoma, they live in a world where companies like Blizzard Entertainment are right up the street. There is NOTHING we can do to replicate that culture here in the heartland. Don’t waste your time and resources. You can develop so much by utilizing technology to communicate and converse with people in the industry already.
Founder Jack Counts, President
Founder Alexander Tu, Vice President
I’ll close out entry #1 with making sure you all understand that every single university and college has this opportunity, but you have to learn how to navigate your own culture, landscape, be selfish, be selfless, and above all stay humble. If you’re approaching esports from the context of competition only then here is some perspective for you. Tespa’s, a collegiate only tournament operator, Overwatch tournament only allows you to have a roster of 9 students and a single team from any university campus. I imagine you all have way more than 9 students that would be interested in being a part of this energy. Do not start this journey with such a narrow scope. THINK! We are 22 months into development and competitive energies were only JUST started THIS semester.
This brings everyone up to April 2017 in our developmental roadmap. At this time in place here are the analytics:
- Research only development
- 0 students involved fully yet
- no student organization
- 1 event completed
- $650 spent
- 5 initial advisors all sourced from OU IT and their roles as of April 2017 event
- Michael Aguilar – Lead (Technology Strategist – OU IT)
- Millard Latimer – Oversight (Sr. Technology Strategist – OU IT)
- Tomika Cox – Cultural (Learning Spaces – OU IT)
- Justin Miller – Technical (Learning Spaces – OU IT)
- Benjamin Lewis – Logistics (Learning Space – OU IT)