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About a year ago,

I found myself in the role of News & Media Director. I was newly minted in a position with only a few folks guiding me and no one else writing for the site. I had zero idea what to expect, what would become of the club, and the people I would encounter. But I knew one thing: I loved games, and I wanted to help this club grow.

Fortunately for me, despite everything, that is exactly what we did this year. 

The Weary Year

2019 was a tired year for OU Esports. The leadership was entering its transition phase as founding members began exits due to graduation or to final classes. The initial energy of the club was slowing down, and its leaders were struggling to maintain the hype of its founding. It was clear the love for the organization was there, but the lack of recognition from academic administrations for multiple years was beginning to strain on the club.

I arrived in the middle of this: a transfer from Cameron University who found the club by accident but ended up attending at an in-person event and loving it anyways. When I learned about it, I wanted to apply to the News & Media team. This was to continue my work in writing after a semester reporting for CU’s newspaper. But, I quickly found out about previous director Bailey’s exit, and the lack of interest in the directorship role.

It hadn’t originally even crossed my mind to apply for the position until some suggestion from friends. Me? A director of something? But after a lot of consideration, and realizing how much of it aligned with what I was capable of, I took a shot in the dark: I applied, unsure of if I’d land it, and if it would be the right move for me. When I got it, I was beyond nervous. I feel like some of that anxious energy is still present in my original letter. However, I quickly found my footing with the help of Bailey, leadership, and Moog’s encouragement. Soon, the position was easily a part of my rhythm, and it was my hope to use my newfound energy to do what I could to continue pushing for the club’s passion.

2020 In Review

Unsurprisingly, it’s been a rollercoaster of news globally regarding the esports industry this year. Esports was put into the spotlight more than ever due to its online nature, and we have seen companies and learning institutions finally begin to recognize the power of the virtual space. It has gained significant credibility in the eyes of mainstream folks, and this is excellent news overall for our future.

It’s also seen bad news. The abrupt and extended online nature of 2020 hit even us introverted nerds hard. A lack of cons, shows, and gaming events has left us struggling to maintain our connections. In grim business news, we have essentially lost the Esports Stadium in Arlington due to a massive lay-off which left its founders and builders out of work in a sudden fashion.

Ex-president of ESA Jonathon “Panda” Oudthone was distraught over this sudden decision clearly made by people over him. In his tweets, it is transparent that Panda is unsure of the ESA’s future direction. At Sooner Esports, we too are apprehensive about the foreboding nature of this decision and the overall direction of esports in Texas. We wish for the best for the people that worked so hard to build that community, but we are hopeful in what they will be able to do next.

Fortunately, our side of the red river has been going well in the gaming space. Oklahoma saw the announcement of its first professional esports team in the newly announced Equinox Esports. In a victory several years in the making, OU endorsed us and elevated Moog to director. Now a fully-fledged department, OU Esports is currently in a position to seek further sponsorship in addition to much bigger news coming in Spring 2021.

Club-side, we had a huge expansion of members and active developmental members working in tandem with our competitive energies. Sooner Esports, in particular, saw seven new members join this semester. For me, this is huge, having only ever been working with exiting Media Lead Stingray Schuller, and the occasional writer. This is all despite the massive slowdown of energy seen campus-wide in other clubs.

Thanks, Farewell, and the Worlds Ahead

So, what is next for us after such a big year? We, of course, have no plans to slow down. With newfound status, OU Esports hopes to create opportunities not only for competitive players, but for every person who has a passion for games, a willingness to learn, and a drive to continue elevating esports and gaming in the academic and local spaces. 2021 is looking to be a year of new events, new stories to tell, and new people to experience them.

Sooner Esports plans to expand event coverage, diversify our content both on site and in media. We will see our new Media and Writing leads announced in January. Additionally, we will have multiple huge press releases coming from us regarding opportunities, news from campus, and what is confirmed for development by us and OU. I’ve learned better than to promise content frequency, but you can bet on continued articles from our site.

Finally, I wanted to sincerely thank some folks:

Stingray Schuller, our Media Lead who graduates this semester. Stingray is absolutely one of the main factors for our legitimacy, bringing life to video coverage, teaching our members valuable media knowledge (including me!), and always striving for the best for the club. We will sorely miss him, but we hope to see him around and continue developing new things with him.

Our new members that joined this semester and stuck with me through this turbulent period of our lives: Silas Bales, Matthew Hurt, Michela Thompson, Jared Leger, Cooper Marshall, Logan Taylor, and Brandon Faz Villarreal. Seriously, thank you so much, and for reinvigorating the spirit of Sooner Esports. I am so stoked to keep working with you all. We are going to do some amazing things.

I will see you all post holiday in the new worlds of ours to come. Stay safe, warm, and take care of yourselves.

Let’s take a break. We’ve earned it.

(Except for maybe one more video coming soon…)

Derek Snow

Derek "Defect" Snow is the News and Media Director for OU Esports Club. He is a junior studying Computer Science with a focus on Education and Leadership. Derek first started gaming on the N64 and Gamecube, and he has been hooked ever since.

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