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This Article was contributed by Matthew Carrico, Editorial Intern.

Esports has brought people together in many different ways from collegiate teams working towards a prize pool in a tournament and hanging out during team practice to casual bouts straight from your home. No matter the genre or game being played, esports offers people a chance to be cooperative, learn to work together, and build off each other’s skills that can be applied to the real world. 

This article means to serve as a teacher by relaying various stories involving esports and how it serves to bring even the most unlikely people together. Through this series, we hope to inspire people to make a difference in not just esport but through their decisive actions.

Our first story is also a recent one. An article by the Mineral Daily News-Tribune highlights the story of how an esports champion was challenged by the vice president of the parent company he happens to work at part-time. Alex Oates is a sophomore at WVU Potomac University aiming for a degree in physiology. He also plays Madden and through his love and skill at the game went on to win the Level Next Big 12 Championship. Oates works part-time at Martin’s grocery store in Keyser, West Virginia.

Matt Lutcavage is the vice president of Team Experience for the Giant Company, which is the parent company of Martin’s. Lutcavage heard about Oates’ victory at the championship and decided to test his own gaming prowess against him, in a game of Madden. To make this bout more interesting, Lutcavage wagered that if Oates could beat him by 14 points, he would donate $1000 to the local food bank. By 28 points, Lutcavage would donate another $1000 to Oates’ college’s Catamount Care Closet. 

The competition-turned fundraiser went underway with Oates quickly gaining the advantage. At one point during the match, Oates questioned Lutcavage’s prior experience with the game to which both players enjoyed a laugh. The final score was 45-7 and with that, both players congratulated each other. Oates thanked Lutcavage for the donations to the food banks while Lutcavage wished Oates luck on his continued esports path particularly in the field of Madden.

This story shows how esports can bring the most unlikely people together even in places such as on the corporate hierarchy. It shows how open and engaging the medium is even among people who may feel as if they do not belong. Speaking of which, the next story is about a gamer who struggles with a disability but manages to be a key player for his esports team.

Capcom featured an article about Michael “Brolylegs” Begum. Begum, 31 years old at the time of the article, is an avid esports player who suffers from a condition called arthrogryposis multiplex congenital (AMC). This condition affects an infant’s muscle growth in the hands and feet and can result in joint stiffness, deformity, and loss of muscle control. For Begum, this condition made it so he is unable to properly handle a control. However, he had an unorthodox method to remedy his love for playing Street Fighter. He honed his skills in order to play with his face, more specifically his tongue against his cheek.

This technique took time to master but Begum soon became a pivotal member of Team Inferno, a professional team specializing in Street Fighter. With his teammates, Begum would top online ranks in the Street Fighter community and would later gain the title of Grand Master in Street Fighter V: Arcade Edition. Despite his disability, Begum helps contribute to his team and even expresses his pride when noticing the ongoing progression of his teammates. 

Begum has not only become a role model for his team but also his family and friends. His brother, Jonathan Begum, mentions his personality as “humble but aggressive.” Despite his disability, Begum makes an effort to engage with his audience and even his opponents. Begum still struggles in his day-to-day life but the people around him help make that more manageable.

People with disabilities are one of many groups underrepresented in esports. This story brings to light how despite their limitations, they can still give as much as any other player and serve as an inspiration. 

When it comes to esports or video games in general, there is often much miscommunication between the older and younger generations. Over time, the older generations may take the time to look at it closer and develop new perspectives. The final story will demonstrate this concept.

This final article comes from ESPN’s Emily Rand during a trip to Chang-Dong, South Korea. It features Han “Peanut” Wang-ho and his dream to become a professional League of Legends player despite growing up in a family-owned business. Wang-ho first relayed his dream at age 16 to his aunt before talking to his parents. She told him that school comes first for his parent’s priority. He did well in school but still wanted to pursue a path in League of Legends.

When Wang-ho finally told his mother Kim Yoon-mi, he was met with anger and disapproval. This marked the first time that Wang-ho had opposed his parents. His sister even talked to him about his decision but his mind was made up. His conviction was strong enough to earn his father’s approval. With this, the family decided to get a computer to where Wang-ho would hone his skills. His mother remembers times when she would leave food for him but he would remain in a state of absolute focus. Unlike other parents, Wang-ho’s mother understood that one could not just “pause a game.” 

Wang-ho soon caught the attention of the Najin organization and began to play more professionally. Yoon-mi made an effort to understand her son’s new path. She would do things such as bring food to him whenever she could, sneak into team meets and take pictures, and also get to know his coaches. Yoon-mi often found it difficult to watch the matches her son was a part of but supported him nonetheless. Many years later during Rand’s visit, their family restaurant, Yumine, is decorated with various memorabilia of Wang-oh. From posters to photographs and even a cheerful slogan in “#Operation Wang-ho-ah!,” A mother’s love and support for her son is on display for all customers to see.

There can often be many misunderstandings between the older and younger generations in regards to mediums such as this. So much so, that the older generation does not take the time to fully understand what the field can offer. Yoon-mi is an example of taking the time to take in what is new and support something that the younger generation finds appealing. It also demonstrates that you do not have to be a player when it comes to supporting the esports field just as long as you are doing it for something or someone important.

These stories are but a few examples of how esports has brought people together in many ways regardless of the hindrances present. They can serve as inspiration for others looking to pursue a path in esports knowing that there will always be obstacles but can find support even in the most unlikely of situations and build connections off that. 

Photo by Dave Reginek/Getty Images