Students Develop Gamer’s Paradise

The Co-Op Esports and Gaming Arena didn’t exist when William Katsigiannis entered college at the University of Central Oklahoma (UCO). Now, as he graduates, he leaves school knowing he not only helped spark the idea of developing Esports at UCO, he helped design the gaming arena which came to fruition in September. The Esports arena is available to campus students by day and to the public at night, with options that include computer battle stations, virtual reality stations, and traditional tabletop board games.   

It all started in 2018 when William took a gaming music class under Dr. David Hanan, the band director. The two bonded over a mutual interest in electronic gaming and wondered if others might see value in Esports on campus. A fellow student, Anwarul Zulkifli, and Robert Howard of the Office of Global Affairs joined the discussion, and the four formed an organization. “We posted meeting flyers, and nearly 40 people showed up!” William said.  

To the Drawing Board

The school’s leadership, seeking creative ways to embrace new technologies, quickly got on board with the idea. The International Office was also receiving inquiries from prospective students about Esports opportunities. The idea went from the dream stage to the actual drawing board, resulting in a 5,700 square foot, multi-million dollar facility along University Drive. 

William had a voice in every aspect of the design, from floorplan to the atmosphere. “The entire framework was designed by students, but it was this great collaborative effort with faculty and staff. They came to our meetings because they saw us as the subject-matter experts, and we were using what we learned in their classes to bring it all together. It’s been a great experience.” 

He feels extremely pleased to have contributed to the final product, from selecting color schemes to cable drop locations. “Gamers like it dark, so we picked black walls with licensed game characters everywhere. There’s an arena and stage for competitions, comfortable couches and vending machines,” William said, “But what really grabs your eye is the ocean of computer screens and LED lights. It’s beautiful, fantastic, a gamer’s paradise.” 

A Lasting Legacy

Now, as William leaves UCO with the title of Co-Founder and President of UCO Esports, he hopes his grassroots program continues to evolve. “Many of the universities, technical schools and even the YMCA are expanding into Esports. My vision for the UCO program’s future would be bringing the community together by building rivalry tournaments,” William said. “You can have all the football players on the field, but if nobody’s watching or covering it—why does it matter?”

William was just six years old when he started playing on the Nintendo GameCube and making online friends. He never dreamed that his pastime could become a viable career. He believes the university’s investment into the Esports arena is a testament to the future of gaming, not just for entertainment, but for industry. “I hope the school will create an educational curriculum, starting with a minor degree, and maybe moving towards a major. Gaming is close to my heart. I look forward to coming back five or ten years later and seeing the growth of this program. I’m proud to leave this legacy.”

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