Group interviews are a new concept for me, would you be so kind to tell me a bit more about yourselves?
Dr. Dana Emerson: I am the Dean of Instruction at Coastline and the Administrative lead of esports at our college!
Katherine Amoukhteh: The professional expert of Coastline College focused on launching the Esports Program. Former High School League of Legends manager and engineering teacher
Stephanie Bridges: Full-Time English faculty member, currently the faculty advisor for the club. I have been gaming and watching games for as long as I can remember. Esports and gaming, in general, is my passion
What was the boardroom like when deciding to pursue esports with the college?
Dana: 2 ½ years ago, I met Katherine and asked if esports is something that could reach all of the college, including students with disabilities and non-native English speakers and we agreed that it is entirely possible. We pitched the esports club and curriculum to the college and it was approved on the basis that we were not in the business of creating professional gamers but rather we are developing a curriculum to educate the students on the other possibilities within the esports space, beyond the players you see. Shoutcasters, Event Managers, Team Managers, Psychological health advisors are supporting professional athletes in other sports, they are just as necessary in esports as in mainstream sports
Is the club more related to competition or community building? Or both with a social space for players to hang out and connect with regular students other than the athletes?
Dana: I will say that we are in the process of creating a gaming lounge. This really took off during the pandemic and it’s a good way to keep students engaged. Now that we are on a path to chase funding, we are developing an esports lounge as we move back to on-ground classes. We are more concerned with getting educated about the industry.
Katherine: We are targeting all of the Zacharys in the world, who are seeking their way into the industry other than being the players on the stage. We like to be the conduit for the students like yourself to find a path and develop a path into the industry while it is still young and being formed.
What is your most successful or active game within the university/club?
Katherine: In our club, we have a lot of gamers with different skill levels and different interests. Among Us, Dota 2, etc. while trying to support the casual players and the competitive players. Our first Valorant team got 2nd place in their first tournament and was overjoyed. On the flip side, we also have many people who love to kick back and enjoy playing JackBox with others.
What is your local competition like or is it more focused on a national level?
As far as the college is concerned. There are Community college leagues but it depends on the game. The Valorant tournament was national but we had rocket league players compete in an orange county-specific competition recently!
We are one of the founding members of the Community College Esports League (CCEL) with 8 founding members (we are one of the first 2). In the Fall we will be kicking off the CCEL with a Smash Bros tournament!
Do you have a “rival”?
Rivalry is interesting as we are in a 3 college district. We are the only school without an athletic program but with Esports that puts us on par with the other two colleges. There is always an internal battle and rivalry within us 3 but also the Orange County and Southern California region are looking to compete and go back and forth with each other!
What is it like to develop an esports program from the ground up? What caught you off guard that you were not ready for?
From an administrative perspective, How much of a lack of knowledge there was with what the industry is all about. When originally discussed people thought we were looking to develop professional players and the administration did not understand that there is an entire ecosystem of people that work in the field that keep the industry afloat. This industry is not exclusive to the players but also with writers, entertainment, psychology. Stop the focus on pro gamers being the focus of the industry and realize there is so much more to the ecosystem.
When I was researching for this interview, I came across another article that touched on the topic of you all being Women of Color that is running an esports program. At first, I didn’t blink an eye because, in my generation, I firmly believe in the idea that anybody can do anything. But this is truly something incredible that I initially glossed over. Is there anything you have to say about this topic?
Dana: Coastline’s Esports program is centered on inclusion. As I mentioned, earlier, I was not interested in a program that did not make or create space for all of Coastline’s students. I was especially concerned about student populations who are readily left out of general activities due to language barriers, mental, emotional, and physical ability, and overall historical discrimination based on age, gender, and/or skin color. Another component of inclusion that we address is the socioeconomic barriers to gaming to impact so many of our students. At Coastline, we want opportunities for students to join gaming communities because this is what they want to do. We all know that gaming computers are not in the budget for everyone, we are adamant about including console gaming in our program for those who may not be able to purchase a $1700 computer for gaming. We also want to encourage students who don’t often see themselves represented in the gaming world to give gaming a try, whether that be playing a game or being a spectator.
In the academic component of the program at Coastline, we are actively seeking experiences and the stories of the games that reflect populations that often get ignored. For example, with the help of faculty from multiple disciplines, we have created a learning experience based on the VR documentary experience “Traveling While Black” which is based on the famous Green Book used during the segregation era that listed safe places for Black folks to travel in the country. We are engaging this opportunity to have students, faculty, and staff have a personal experience with that time in history. We hope that the end-user will walk away from the experience with a greater understanding and a willingness to learn more. We are in the process of purchasing Oculus kits to bring this and other learning opportunities through gaming technology to the curriculum and Coastline experience.
Finally, the make-up of Coastline’s Esports program leadership is unique. We have 3 very intelligent and talented women of color leading a program which is generally represented by white males. We are aware of female-led gaming organizations that are doing amazing work for gender inclusion, and we stand with them in our endeavor to build an Esports program designed to create pathways into the workforce of the Esports Ecosystem….and if our students have fun gaming while learning, well, we want that too!
Is the title of a community college affecting your ability to draw people to your program or is that not a factor?
Coastline is really good at helping its students and their pathways in education. We have bonus programs that transfer the credits straight into a university with no hiccups. I see Coastline as a success because it draws a wider range of students.
We are really focused on developing the industry’s curriculum and taking non-credit classes that enhance their degree and these certificates are focused on esports. We want people to take these courses to really set themselves apart
· English Careers in esports
· Business careers in esports
· Health careers in sports
· Graphic careers arts in esports
· IT careers in esports
If you would like to learn more about Coastline’s Esports program or its leadership team you can access them from the links provided below:
Coastline College Esports: https://www.coastline.edu/student-life/clubs-and-organizations/esports/index.php
Dr. Dana Emerson: https://www.linkedin.com/in/dr-dana-emerson-5758234/
Katherine Amoukhteh: https://www.linkedin.com/in/katherineamoukhteh/
Stephanie Bridges: https://www.linkedin.com/in/stephaniebridges/
Link to original article.