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One year later, UNT esports continues to grow behind Dylan Wray

One year later, UNT esports continues to grow behind Dylan Wray

One year later, UNT esports continues to grow behind Dylan Wray
March 01
01:08 2019

The Media Library in Chilton Hall was packed  Saturday with people casually and competitively gaming. Between live streams of the competitive games and working with the student esports athletes, the man who makes everything work in the chaos is UNT eSports coordinator Dylan Wray.

Wray was hired about a year ago to help create a varsity esports program for UNT. Wray graduated from Colorado State University and proceeded to get his master’s University of Colorado at Denver for audio design in video games.

Wray first got into esports when he started playing “Defense of the Ancients,” otherwise known as “DotA”, competitively when he was a sophomore in college after he tore his ACL in a skiing accident.

“I’ve been very competitive and played a lot of sports up until that point and was out of commission for a while,” Wray said. “A friend of mine was like, ‘hey, you should try this game.'”

Wray fell in love with “DotA” and played it for an entire semester and summer.

“We had essentially this home base [in] this really run-down apartment on this really crummy coffee table,” Wray said. “All five of us [would] have laptops set up around this five dollar coffee table, and we would kneel down and play each other over and over and over again for hours at a time until we finally felt like we had a grasp for the game.”

“DotA” eventually became the founding basis for current competitive esports games including “Dota 2,” “League of Legends,” “Heroes of the Newerth” and “Heroes of the Storm,” a category known as Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA) video games. After playing a lot of “DotA” throughout college, Wray attended some tournaments and events for the game.

“[I] was always on the fringe of esports and loved it, but never really thought it could be a career,” Wray said. “So I was continuously always working on my education and always thought I would get a job working in the video game industry as a game developer.”

Wray moved to Texas with his wife in the winter of 2017-18. Shortly after, his wife got a job and the position at UNT of esports coordinator opened up. Wray was officially hired on Feb. 12. After a year, the first word that comes to Wray’s mind when he thinks about the UNT esports community is “amazing.”

“The students here before I ever arrived had organized themselves under a club, UNT gaming and esports, and they had been pushing for an official varsity team for the college campus,” Wray said. “Eventually, it made it to the ear of the president, and the president got wind of what esports is and he decided that we’re going to do it here on campus, I think it’s such a huge testament to the students that are here on campus.”

Even before Wray and the varsity program were present, the student gaming and esports community were strong.

“The gaming and esports club had a lot of success before we created a varsity program,” Wray said. “There’s an entirely dedicated club to ‘Super Smash’ that has over 100 members that are actively curating talent. There’s also a general UNT fighting game club, so it’s just really robust here on campus.”

When he began to set up the varsity program for UNT last spring, Wray identified games that were very strong on campus, had a wide variety of popularity or had tournaments that he knew UNT could send students to. Those games included “League of Legends,” “Hearthstone,” “Overwatch” and “Heroes of the Storm” all of which Wray coordinates with the student esport athletes.

Wray works with Tespa, who manages “Hearthstone,” “Overwatch” and “Heroes of the Storm” and Riot Games with the uLoL series with “League of Legends.” Wray helps to coordinate all four of these games, which includes six total teams that include a “B-team” known as “UNT Eagle Team” in “Overwatch” and “League of Legends.”

“I could not do it without the student staff members that are assisting the program,” Wray said. “We have a volunteer community that’s helping out as well as some paid staff members. I’d be nuts. I’d be super crazy without them.”

The setup of UNT eSports coordinator Dylan Wray at The Nest in Chilton Hall at UNT on Saturday, Feb. 23, 2019. Image by: Emily Olkkola.

On top of enjoying the company of his coworkers and employees, Wray exhibits an appreciation for the gaming community that gives him the opportunity to have a job at UNT.

“We have a lot of incredibly talented students that are on this campus that either in the past were part of the Gaming and esports Club, so it’s kind of part of their DNA, or we have recently found them and discovered them and we were like, ‘we need you in some of these positions and some of these roles,’” Wray said.

One of the students who works with Wray is computer science sophomore Joseph “Joe” Fergen, who plays the “main support” role on the “Overwatch” team.

“[Wray] is someone that is always able to talk and if there is a problem, he will do best to make sure it gets fixed in the best way possible,” Fergen said in an email. “He is a very hard worker that I think inspires us all to try our best to not let him down.”

Fergen finds himself growing as a person and a leader as captain of the “Overwatch” team by working with Wray.

“Dylan has done a lot for me in the way of teaching me more about being a leader and enabling me to learn more about myself and what it means to be hard working,” Fergen said.

One event in particular that stands out to Fergen is when Wray drove the “League of Legends” team down to DreamHack Austin, where the “League of Legends” team competed in a tournament and won.

“Looking back on it, Dylan must have had so much on his plate and so much going on, but he still made it a priority to drive us down there and be there to cheer us on for [three] days,” Fergen said. “It really made me respect him and was a great experience.”

Another student Wray has worked with is Bradford Love, a graduate freshman MBA student with a focus in IT. Love is the coach and manager for the UNT varsity esports “League of Legends” division.

“[Wray] really wants to help bridge the gap between casual gamers and competitive gamers,” Love said in an email. “A prime moment that sticks out for me is when Dylan steps in to help motivate teams when they are down, especially in between games. He will always come in with a positive mentality/talk that helps revive the players in a sense and get them refocused.”

There are plans to expand which games have varsity teams are in the works. The choices all comes down to resources, if the program can gather enough resources to add on another team, then discussions will begin.

Wray will help evaluate what games UNT will field in the 2019-20 season in about a month. “Rocket League” and “Super Smash Bros. Ultimate” are currently the front runners to add into the program, but changes can happen at any time.

Besides “Super Smash Bros. Ultimate” and “Rocket League,” Wray wants to see “Counter-Strike: Global Offensive” (CS:GO) eventually become a competitive game UNT fields as well.

“What I like about [CS:GO] is that it’s probably the most robust esports title that’s out there,” Wray said. “It’s been tried and true. It has an incredible community, incredible scene and I know that there’s talented players here on campus.”

Wray is very happy with the current varsity esports program and his position as esports coordinator at UNT.

“When I was hired last year, me and my supervisor were figuring out, ‘what does [the esports program] look like?” Wray said.  “‘What will it end up being?’ It’s truly amazed me — blown me away — the talent of the students that are here, the amount of work and effort that has gone into it, that they’ve put in and what we’ve already achieved in one year. It’s really exciting. It’s awesome to be apart of.”

Although Wray manages the “best of the best” on campus, he wants everyone to know that anyone can participate in the UNT esports community.

“[The program] is designed to cater to all students,” Wray said. “We partner with the gaming and esports club, so that we create open teams so it doesn’t matter what your skill level is. You can work your way up. We do take people from those club teams and bump them up into the varsity program.”

With esports programs and tournaments going on year-round, Wray stays busy and wears many hats throughout the organizations. Despite this, when asked for an interview, Wray wanted to focus less on what he does and more on what the student athletes do for him.

“If you insist,” Wray said in an initial message on Discord. “I’m a much bigger fan of our students getting all of the attention though.”

Featured Image: UNT eSports coordinator Dylan Wray watches live commentators discussing on-going “League of Legends” games in which the University of North Texas was participating in and manages live Twitch streams of the games at The Nest in Chilton Hall at UNT on Saturday, Feb. 23, 2019. Image by: Emily Olkkola.

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Emily Olkkola

Emily Olkkola

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