June 9, 2023
Uniting Freshman Scholars in a 24-Hour Gaming Marathon at DePaul University: Building Community and Embracing the Vincentian Mission
Stephen Wilke, Esports Coordinator, DePaul University (IL)
In February 2023, DePaul University tried something new: a 24-Hour Gaming Marathon in support of Extra Life Chicago. While DePaul already excelled in hosting events like the annual DEMONTHON dance marathon, this gaming marathon provided an alternative way for students to come together and support a common cause. This post highlights the unique aspects of the event, including the involvement of freshman scholarship recipients, pioneering the new tradition, and its focus on building community and embracing the Vincentian mission.
The Power of Fresh Perspectives
The event's success was driven by the participation of talented and motivated freshman scholarship recipients through the Esports Ambassador Program (EAP). This was an experimental scholarship program that was not based on competitive merit, but rather the students' focus on building community and pursuing degrees in the field of video games. These students not only contributed to organizing and running the marathon but also played a pivotal role in shaping its vision. Their fresh ideas and diverse connections within the gaming community led to a variety of engaging activities. Unique events like our Breath of the Wild Cook Off speed run would not have been possible without the fresh perspectives of our Freshman Ambassadors. Collaborations with student organizations like DeFRAG, the DePaul Animation Lodge, and DeRPG enriched the event and provided networking and leadership opportunities for these students.
Pioneering a New Tradition at DePaul
The 24-Hour Gaming Marathon was a brand-new event for DePaul University. Unlike traditional dance marathons, it focused on a broad spectrum of activations related to gaming and nerd culture. The event fostered inclusivity and showcased the university's commitment to supporting diverse passions and talents. The EAP students and I developed programming for many facets of the gaming milieu, including tournaments, discussion panels, movie nights, and tabletop role-playing games. The marathon brought together students from various geekdoms and helped forge stronger connections between different gaming communities on campus.
While smaller groups have done lock-ins and overnight events in the past, including our own video game developers club DeFRAG's Geek Till Dawn program, this was the first time that we were able to synchronize all of those events into one large intra-organizational collaboration.
Embracing the Vincentian Mission through Extra Life Chicago
Collaborating with Extra Life Chicago allowed the gaming marathon to align with DePaul University's Vincentian mission. Like DEMONTHON, which supports Ann & Robert H. Lurie's Children's Hospital of Chicago, this event raised funds and awareness for the same organization. The marathon demonstrated the power of gaming to engage a community in philanthropy. By organizing a 24-hour live stream and raising over $1,700 for Extra Life, the event embraced the Vincentian value of giving back to the community. In future events, we would like to see a stronger focus on service and community engagement to further exemplify the mission in our work.
The 24-Hour Gaming Marathon at DePaul University showcased the incredible potential of freshman scholarship recipients and their ability to lead and innovate. It also displays the power of Esports scholarships not based on competitive merit. The event, a pioneering initiative, highlighted the university's commitment to inclusivity and community-building. By embracing the Vincentian mission through collaboration with Extra Life Chicago, the marathon demonstrated the positive impact gaming can have on charitable causes. While there were challenges, the overall experience was highly positive, fostering a sense of belonging, forming new friendships, and inspiring plans for future collaborations. As the world of Esports and Gaming Orgs at the university level continues to evolve, DePaul remains dedicated to constant iteration, innovation, and collaboration in pursuit of success.
Stephen Wilke serves as a coordinator for Esports at DePaul University. There, they work to provide outreach to incoming students, direct the new Streamin’ Demons program, and develop strong relationships with collaborators outside of the university.