‘Cultivating Winning Teams’
UHD eSPORTS Shines at Houston Gaming Expo
By Hayden Bergman
Imagine it: You’re on stage at one of the largest events in Houston, the crowd excited to hear what you have to say, hoping to glean some wisdom they can in turn use for themselves. Imagine that you’re not just on a stage, but the stage—the event’s main stage, in fact. Now that you’re on stage, imagine you’re one of the leaders of the premier eSPORTS team in Houston. Do all that, and you’ll have a sense of what it was like for Sibel Emekli, Overwatch Manager and International Business major in the Marilyn Davies College of Business (MDCOB), as she and her teammates presented “How to Cultivate Winning Teams” at the main stage of the Houston Gaming Expo (HGX).
“My energy was definitely nervous,” Emekli said, “but the room was filled with people who loved gaming. It was really engaging.” Engaging indeed. The mutual love for gaming at HGX created a community dynamic within the room, Emekli said, and allowed her to connect with her audience on a deeper level. And for the content of the presentation? “We talked about finding the team to begin with, as well as how to thoroughly engage each member of the team. We also talked specifically about what a semi-pro team looks like, what scrimmages look like for us, and how many hours we play on average.” Emekli said that part of a winning team and culture is also taking care of your mental health and not letting your passion consume you. “You have to make sure it doesn't hurt you ... It can eat away your mental health if you aren’t careful.”
For his part, Jose Vazquez, Assistant Director of Student Leadership & Involvement, knew that HGX was the perfect platform for UHD’s eSPORTS team, so he submitted a proposal (the contents of which eventually became Emekli’s and her teammates’ presentation, “Cultivating Winning Teams.”). “I was looking for a way to showcase the program,” Vazquez said, noting that he wanted to do so not just in a way that is “siloed,” but in a manner that would get the eSPORTS program “out there interacting with the community, attracting people [to what we’re doing], and enriching lives.”
To wit, Vazquez said that the community response at HGX was impressive, even when compared to his lofty expectations. “We had people stopping by, saying ‘You mean I can actually go to college, play on a team, and win scholarships?’ It was great to be able to tell them that yes, some of our players have won competitions and received money.” And the experience of presenting at HGX wasn’t just a means for self-promotion, but also self-improvement. For example, Emekli noted that the process of preparing for the panel discussion allowed her to learn a lot about professional skills like communication and how to communicate your message effectively and efficiently: “If you don't know how to say [what you’re presenting on] effectively, then no one in your audience is going to be able to connect.”
And while HGX is an obvious example of eSPORTS engendering community, Vazquez says that event is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg—he sees the positive communal impacts of it all the time. “ESPORTS brings [UHD students] together,” he said. “A lot of our players don't necessarily always agree amongst themselves, but they come together to play video games, and they are able to set their differences aside. I think that's beautiful … the world needs more of that.” Agreed.
The University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) is the second-largest university in Houston and has served the educational needs of the nation’s fourth-largest city since 1974. As one of four distinct public universities in the University of Houston System, UHD is a comprehensive, four-year university led by President Loren J. Blanchard. Annually, UHD educates approximately 14,000 students, boasts more than 66,000 alumni, and offers 45 bachelor’s degrees, 12 master’s degrees, and 19 online programs within four colleges: Marilyn Davies College of Business, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, College of Public Service, and College of Sciences and Technology. UHD has one of the lowest tuition rates in Texas.
U.S. News and World Report ranked UHD among the nation’s Best Online Bachelor’s Programs for Applied Administration and Best Online Master’s Programs in Criminal Justice, as well as a Top Performer in Social Mobility. The Wall Street Journal/College Pulse ranked UHD one of the best colleges in the U.S. for its 2024 rankings, with notable distinctions: No. 1 for diversity (tied) and No. 3 for student experience. The University is designated as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, a Minority-Serving Institution, and a Military Friendly School. For more information on the University of Houston-Downtown, visit uhd.edu.