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Our Story

The original event flyer that kicked off all student development in April 2017.
The flyer of the first event ever from April 2017.

In Fall 2016, research and discovery began with the simple focus of finding energy on campus in students and seeing what they were interested in specifically. This all spawned from one simple question from the CIO of IT at the time, "What is Twitch?". From the beginning to now, Mike "Moog" Aguilar, started exploration of the topic and finding paths.

At the time in U.S. & Canada there were less than 25 institutionally supported esports programs in higher education versus over 250 in 2020. For the first several months pinging other institutions, researching the industry, and coupling it with general gaming and OU specific cultures resulted in a singular event in April 2017 that served as the kick off.

Origin Story & Development Compass

Jack Counts and Alex Tu, the original student founders
Originating Student President, 2020 alum, Jack "JackLovesLamp" Counts and Vice President, 2017 alum, Alex "AgentA2" Tu.

The April 2017 event had over 100 students attend and helped discover the originating Vice President of the upcoming org, Alex Tu, a 2018 Alum, as well as Jack Counts, a 2020 alum, the originating President. Over the summer of 2017, we sat down to build the strategic plan and roadmap that is still 90% in execution today and highlighted in Moog's 2019 TEDx Talk challenge to higher education to do more with gaming and esports development. 

We looked at three metrics for all development ideals as our compass for intentionality and scope: 

  • Gaming Culture & The Student VoiceAt no time will gaming cultural sensibilities be aggressively shifted. This will allow us to stay true to the very core audience we are building this for. Evolution over revolution! This means students will build equity, be able to take ownership of this part of the Sooner Nation, and above all always have a place to call home in gaming at The Unviersity of Oklahoma. Students are the most valueable resource PERIOD and their voice will ALWAYS be heard!
  • The OU Mission: We referenced program descriptions, publicly available syllabi, and university mission to sculpt the roles, policies, and standards to adhere to as our operational norms since day one. As OU become more supportive and aware we'd already be speaking the same language with the same considerations and intention. This has set us up to explore so many preexisting topics on campus both to add value back to them but to also elevate them through our engagement focuses. 
  • The Gaming & Esports Industry: Creating opportunity is what we wanted to be all about. This means that we keep a pulse on industry trends, look at the jobs in the space, and watch the trajectory of brands in the space. This allows us to be the internal advisor to all things esports to OU, stay relevant and plugged in to external opportunities, and diversify the offerings we created since day one. Many people initially thought this was purely about playing video games, but in actuality that is only the common ground of interest. There is so much more than that to this topic. 
Director of Esports & Co-Curricular Innovation and Staff Founder, Mike "Moog" Aguilar's 2019 TED Talk on the Sooner Nation approach to esports development.

The Student Organization Use Case

In September 2017, The Esports Association at OU, an interest-based student org was founded with a strategic six pillar rollout plan that is highlighted in our programs portion of this site and the above TED Talk. It is still the strategic roadmap utilized today. In November 2018, OU IT endorsed elevation of the student organization from an interest-based classification to a competitive club classification resulting in a rebrand to the OU Esports Club and affording us brand likeness as one of the energies in the entire nation to still have it's university brand likeness versus an esports centric derivative. 

In September 2020, Moog was appointed the Director of Esports & Co-Curricular Innovation by Dr. David Surratt, the VP of Student Affairs and Dean of Students and placed under Student Affairs. What you see now in the department of Esports & Co-Curricular Innovation is planned milestones and the biproduct of intential strategic design since 2016 with plenty of analytics and documentation along the way. (ref: Sooner Esports) In January 2021, the OU Esports Club org sits at 1.7K+ members and is the largest student organization on campus by more than three fold. 

Each milestone is full of student buy-in, ownership, and intentionality. As a highlight and showcase of execution of all this from start to Fall 2020, the OU Esports Club has raised $8.9K in charitable contributions for youth in need in Oklahoma. The University of Oklahoma has only invested $8.1K through miscellanous expentures and odd and ends in the same duration.

The power of strategic planning with student leadership fully realized. Instead of venue we partnered with preexisting resources on campus to build relationships, instead of asking the university for money we leveraged sponsorships and industry resources, instead of waiting for things to happen we went to work and made them happen ourselves. This is entrepreneurship coupled with community coupled with passion and sacrifice and even with elevation we still have tons more we want to prove as we built the next chapter of OU legacy in a brand new industry.

Pre-Institutional Elevation Student Achievements (2016-2020)

  • Total budget from 2016-2020 from OU resources: $8.1K
  • Total student led charity fundraising for youth in Oklahoma from 2016-2020: $8.9K
  • Total donation, contributions from 2016-2020: $5K
  • Largest student org at OU: 1.6K members+
  • Over 120 students involved across the 6 pillars of development!
  • Representation from all discernible demographics present in club! All colleges, genders, heritages, 3 campuses, and classes represented.
  • Over 40 events executed for departments, students, and different titles.
  • Consulting other universities, K-12, and public and private sector businesses.

The Final Student Org Rebrand

In July 2021, The OU Esports Club was renamed and rebranded to the OU Gaming Club. Since the beginning we knew we wanted to foster community over everything. However, the world wanted the word "esports" to help push the topic and industry forward. Esports can sometimes intimidate people from getting involved as it emphasizes competition versus community. With this rebrand it focuses it back to the initial intentions of day one as we split the free-spirited gaming community goals and the industry develoment focuses of OU Esports & Co-Curricular Innovation. 

To keep everything connected all of our programs are fed through the natural community pipelines of the OU Gaming Club. This means the only way to get involved with actual development is to be a member of this organization which fosters community over all. Community is everything and it will remain the core foundation for which we continue to elevate further. 

The Summer 2021 snapshot of achievements up to this point in our journey.