Kyle Wilson, a junior Data Science major from Atlanta, Georgia, has been gaming for much of his life.

“It’s just something that I’ve always been passionate about,” says Wilson. “I know that sounds silly, but like, all throughout high school, that’s like all I did. That’s how I made friends. After school, we all lived like 45 minutes away from each other so we could just hang out online. And then in college, I could do it in person through a club and online.

“[In my] freshman year, I saw a gaming club poster on campus, and I got really excited because that’s what I did in high school. I joined the meeting and they told me about esports meetings. When I went to the first one, there were only five of us, so we didn’t even have to do tryouts. So I joined another team as well that did involve tryouts, and was on both teams that semester. I had a blast! I had a lot of fun. Then one of the teams fell apart because people graduated, but the other team kept going and I ended up making most of my friends that way. We created a friendship outside of the team, too. We called ourselves the LUsers — we weren’t very good! But we had fun, and that’s what mattered to us.”

At first, the LUsers’ meetings were pretty quiet, but as they played more, the team began to open up and goof around a little more, and Wilson says it was pretty much downhill from there. The LUsers grew and started creating club leadership. Now, all of the people on the team are leaders, excited to welcome a new batch of friendly faces.

“We believe it’s time now for us to help create the next generation of LUsers.”

With that idea in mind, the leadership team has gotten busy, with many responsibilities utilized to help the group’s goals materialize. Wilson acts as the esports coordinator of the club, working under president Abby Fink.

“This semester, we have three teams,” Wilson says. “Two of them have the bare minimum of people — which is five — so they don’t require tryouts. The other one does require tryouts though, so that’s part of my job.

“I’ve just gotten all the data from the teams, so I’m going to have a meeting with them soon to sort out game times. From there, it’s up to them. Some teams will be more competitive than others. We do have a requirement that says you do need to be doing tournaments, because if you’re not doing tournaments, you’re just a couple people playing video games.”

When asked whether he’d like the club to be recognized, Wilson responded enthusiastically.

“We’d love to get it to a more recognized level. Some colleges have it as part of the college like a real sport, and even include some scholarships. This would be a way for people to earn scholarships by playing for eSports teams. A lot of people like doing this, and we think that it would be in the interest of the college to have this happening.

“I mean, it was really a draw for me. I remember taking a tour through Swang [Center] and seeing those posters for esports and thinking, ‘Oh, they have that here! There are people who do the same thing I do.’ We think that that point of connection could be a little bit larger if we put a little bit more time and effort into it.”

These days, tournaments are highly popular events, both at the professional and amateur levels. People gather around different games and cheer each other on, or talk to each other while playing completely different games.

“Watching the tournaments we have now, I usually see conversations spark about the games, and then they build that camaraderie. There’ll be little fist bumps going on and stuff. Even though they’re fighting against each other, there’s a sense of community and being together.”

One of the most appealing things about the Lipscomb eSports club is how casual it is. People get to know each other and make new friends.

“People have been very positive, and I’ve been really happy about that.” Lipscomb eSports is doing bigger and bigger events. Last year, they were planning a tournament with Belmont — Battle of the Boulevard but for eSports — but COVID shut it down for a little while. The plan is to revive the club to what it was pre-COVID.

According to Wilson, one of their most rewarding events is a 24 hour stream for charity that they do once a semester. Oftentimes, they’ll give to an organization such as Vanderbilt Hospital. Since they’re sponsored by Monster, they use the drinks as fuel to get through those hours.

Wilson says he’s thankful to have this club, because it connects him to a positive community that likes and understands the same things he does. However, some video game communities are less positive. Wilson remembers having a less positive experience outside of Lipscomb’s club.

“You learn to be very good at ignoring useless criticism. Sometimes it helps to be yelled at, even though it can be misguided. It’s also helpful to learn how to ignore it. It can be brutal, and sometimes it’s so bad to the point where you question whether you even want to play the game anymore. You learn to deal with it.

“I’ve also learned how to respond with kindness. It’s important to be gentle, because it would be better if the toxicity wasn’t there. I usually like to reply to those particularly nasty people by saying something like, “Have a nice day” or something. There are some overwhelmingly positive people, and they’re the ones you stick with.”

Gaming also has the power to bring people together in surprising ways.

“Last summer during quarantine,” Wilson says, “I met a bunch of people from Oregon — across the country from my home in Atlanta — and we still play games like a year later. They all knew each other in person. I’m the odd person that they ran into online, but they let me join them. I think it was just because we were the same age and played the same game. I’ve run into people who have like families, who are like 30 years old and from the Midwest, and they’re in our circle too. I guess it just comes down to being reliable.

“We all use Discord, which is just a channel with text channels and voice channels and you can suddenly be in a group with like 20+ people and can hear them really clearly as they talk. Then you can just talk to each other.

“This is a nice way to make friends because gamers are typically more introverted. They have more community online, which is usually what’s so appealing. You can interact with people from the safety and comfort of your own home. But with the club, we learn that it’s even better in person.”

Wilson maintains the fact that despite its power to bring people together from afar, gaming is most impactful in person.

“I’d consider myself an introvert, but the club has brought me more into the social scene. In high
school, I was the only one I knew who played video games, so it was difficult to interact and
connect, but with the club, I can meet with people and talk about stuff and it makes sense. Now,
I’ve gotten used to being more socially active.

“And now, I’ve fallen into the leadership role because I felt like nobody else was going to do it. Somebody had to do it. It was a little bit of stepping up, but I knew it was something I’d enjoy and be able to commit to. It also helped that all my friends in the club were also taking on leadership roles.”

Wilson is a data science major, which is in the computer science field. There are different branches, and he is in the environmental branch.

“I hope to work at a national park and help with animals,” he says, “But it would also be great to work for a video game company. I was in Boy Scouts and so was my dad, and he taught me to be mindful of my waste. I’m really good at turning off light switches and not throwing away food. Sometimes, my sisters get mad at me for it!”

After graduating Lipscomb, he is interested in attending graduate school and studying Decision Sciences.

“I think it would be cool to both have the information to make a decision and then be the person to make that decision. Ironically, I’m super indecisive.”

One thing Wilson has decided is that esports have been a blessing to him, and he looks forward to more people getting involved. The club meets on Fridays at 5pm in the CCT portion of the Swang Center (aka “the fishbowl”). Members get free pizza, a free t-shirt and free entry into tournaments. However, anyone is welcome to show up to watch or play.

The club exists to have fun and build community with people who enjoy the same things.

“Bring your own game system and play whatever you want. We have people playing Minecraft on one screen, Smash on another. People can be playing different games and socializing anyway. As long as you’re talking and playing games, that’s what we want. The more the merrier, that’s our whole point.”

Kyle Wilson’s mission is to bring people together, and by stepping up into a leadership role with Lipscomb eSports, that’s exactly what he’s doing.

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