As a relatively new, out-of-state transplant, Steven Mejia, a Business Administration/Accounting major in UNM’s Anderson School of Management, has already done quite a bit to change the landscape of the online gaming community here at the University.
“The future of Esports is uncertain, but I’m very optimistic,” says Mejia. The UNM Esports Club is a student run organization, created by Mejia in September of 2018. He is also currently the president of the organization. The team competes on a national level in games such as League of Legends, Overwatch, Hearthstone, and Rainbow Six Siege. The Club is now in its second year of participating in the Mountain West Esports Series.
Mejia has been playing video games for most of his life. As a child, he started off with console, multiplayer games and moved on to online gaming when he discovered League of Legends in 2013. As an inexperienced player he noticed that he was consistently kicked out of games by older and higher-skilled players, when more equally-matched opponents would log on. He eventually decided to stop accepting invites from these players and instead played on his own, in order to sharpen his skills.
“Eventually, I actually surpassed all of them, and that’s when I got more into competing, because I enjoyed the experiences that competing at a higher level gave me,” he says.
Not surprisingly, this is not the first gaming group that Mejia has founded. Formerly a student at Miami Dade College in Florida, he decided that the existing computer club needed an Esports division. So he took the initiative, and created it. While looking into UNM, he discovered that there was no formal Esports program. Mejia saw this as a good opportunity to step in.
“I figured that the state of New Mexico, as well as UNM, needed Esports more than Florida,” he says.
As much attention as collegiate football, basketball, and baseball programs get, Esports is becoming more mainstream and is thought to have the same competitive edge as conventional athletic sports. The benefits of being on a team are also very similar to those of other traditional sports.
“I used to be introverted,” says Mejia, who has since discovered that gaming with other team players helped with his confidence, personal development, and stress management. He adds that it helps to build community, character, and self-control for people who might have a difficult time reaching out in the real world. “Being on a team also really helps you better cope with criticism,” he said.
While other collegiate Esports teams throughout the country have chosen to partner with athletic departments, the UNM team decided to team up with IT instead. This partnership will allow them to create a facility in which their program can be housed to better support the community of Lobo gamers.
The young, but growing industry of online gaming pulls from a variety of different disciplines across the UNM campus – Business Management, Arts, Computer Science, Marketing, etc. “People involved in Esports come from all walks of life,” says Mejia. “We have a historian, we have engineers, we have construction, and we have accounting…that’s me.”
Part of the goal of even having this organization is to try to bridge the gap between college and professional players, allowing graduates to advance with a degree, in the field of gaming.
After graduating Mejia says that he would like to potentially get a staff position within the University in order to see how the student group progresses. “I’d like to stick around to see how the project thrives, and to see how I can help to advise in that role,” he said. ”