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The Latest Chapter: A Look at the OU Esports & Gaming Venue Launch

By March 29, 2024Event Coverage, Student Programming5 min read

On Mar. 27, the Department of Esports and Co-Curricular Innovation officially launched the OU Esports & Gaming Venue to the public.

A multi-year effort has culminated in the event, which marks the beginning of weekly operations for OU students and staff. Giveaways occurred throughout the day, with sponsorships from MSI, UConnect, Cooler Master, Insomnia Cookies, Raising Cane’s and Redbull.

But, beyond the launch event itself, the venue has become a focal point for celebration within the OU gaming community.

Anita Ly, Advisory Board Chair for OU Esports, has seen the project grow since she first began working with the program in 2019. She was thrilled with the speed in which the community embraced the venue during launch.

“It’s been incredible,” Ly said. “We hadn’t expected to have so many individuals come so early, but at 10 am, right when we opened, we had three people walk in.”

Ly enjoyed seeing the reactions of those who walked through the venue doors, whether they were part of OU Esports or were just members of the community.

“Everyone who comes in is just so shocked,” Ly said. “I don’t think anyone had any expectations for what the venue would look like.”

But overall, Ly has loved how the venue is already on track to become a hub of community and connection on campus.

“I’ve seen new friendships blossom today, and people find commonality with each other,” Ly said. “People are already making plans to come back, and I think that’s proof that everything we’ve dreamed of has become a reality.”

Others within OU Esports were equally as excited about having the physical space becoming official.

Cale Childs, Interim Head Coach for the OU Esports Overwatch Team, was around for much of the day to see as many people at the venue as possible.

“It’s been awesome,” Childs said. “The turnout has been great, and there’s a really good energy here.”

Childs also reflected on the emotions that the night brought.

“Honestly, it’s a little bit emotional,” Childs said. “This is something that’s been in the works for six or seven years.

“Actually seeing everything and knowing I contributed to it has been surreal.”

But the event wasn’t limited to those who were already immersed in OU Esports and the OU Gaming Club. Whether hoping to win the computer giveaway or just curious about the space, students and staff alike entered the venue throughout the day.

Ethan Le, a junior computer science major and member of the Game Developer’s Association at the University of Oklahoma, was excited to be at the event, even though he wasn’t super active in the OU Gaming Club beforehand.

“I just heard about the venue launch last night, and what I’ve seen so far has been really cool,” Le said. “Everything’s decked out.”

Le emphasized the importance of a space for the gaming community of campus, and he is happy that space is finally here.

“I think it’s a great idea to create a space where people can game and have fun with each other and connect with other people through things they have in common, such as gaming.” Le said.

For some, though, the launch of the OU Esports & Gaming Venue has meant even more.

Elliott Goldsmith, the FPS Ambassador for OU Esports, is in awe of his role in the launch and the opportunity to be in a paid position where he can grow the community he has found in gaming.

“When I applied to become an Ambassador, I expected all my work to be volunteered, with the reward being opportunities to be more involved in the community and within our philanthropy,” Goldsmith said. “So getting to this point and getting paid for something I never expected to get paid for is shocking.

“Although I had come into the program not realizing how important of a role I would have ended up playing in the future development, I am still excited that the hard-launch of the venue has become a reality.”

For the OU gaming community, the launch of the OU Esports & Gaming Venue and the impact of the space goes far beyond the one-day event. The physical location is a testament to the idea that gaming in every form has a place at the University of Oklahoma, and within those walls, all walks of life are respected and celebrated.

But the physical space is only the beginning of the story. With the energy of the community at this event, though, it is certain that the rest of this story will be a good one.