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Jacquie Lamm is no foreigner to the gaming world.
From a young age, Lamm immersed herself in video game culture, entering a post-apocalyptic realm of flesh-eating creatures and adventuring through Spiral Mountain on a rescue mission for the beautiful brown honey bear. Now, Zombies Ate My Neighbors and Banjo-Kazooie may be in the past, but Lamm’s passion for gaming has continued to grow and even paved the way for her to become the first coach of Minnesota State University, Mankato’s brand new varsity esports team.
Level one: Where it all began
Growing up in Lake Crystal, Lamm ventured into the world of video games early in her childhood, experimenting with games such as Mario, Donkey Kong, Banjo-Kazooie, 007 and Halo. Her very first game, though, was Zombies Ate My Neighbors.
“This was an original game on the Super Nintendo,” she explained. “My twin and I saw it while at a game store at the Mall of America. Our grandparents bought us the game, and we devoured it night and day.”
I’ve loved the challenges that games bring and the opportunity to immerse yourself inside another world. I like that you can become someone else.Jacquie Lamm
Lamm and her twin sister were the only two gamers in her household, but the rest of the family was supportive and still is.
“While they might have laughed at the dreams I had at bringing awareness about esports to high schools and universities, they still have supported me and are proud of where I am today,” Lamm said.
Lamm calls herself a gamer at heart and said she’s especially drawn to how games allow the player to dive into a whole different world.
“I’ve loved the challenges that games bring and the opportunity to immerse yourself inside another world,” she said. “I like that you can become someone else.”
Playing video games has not only brought her joy throughout her life, but it also led her to her husband, whom she met at South Central College. They started as friends who played Halo together, and now he’s her No. 1 teammate.
“My husband took care of our daughter while I finished my master’s degree, and he once again is picking up the slack because I’m working longer hours and most nights/weekends while we get the program up and running,” Lamm said. “He really has been my rock and has pushed and supported me through everything.”
Level two: Building her own dream job
Lamm started attending MSU-Mankato to earn a master’s degree in educational leadership. She planned to find a position in a university that would utilize her area of expertise after graduating, but she changed her mind after taking a research and design class during her first semester.
“We were supposed to pick something we were passionate about and make up a fake research project,” Lamm said. “My instant reaction to this was, ‘Why not make an esports program?’ So I did.”
If it wasn’t for that [one] class and [that] one project, I don’t know if I would be in the position I am right now.Jacquie Lamm
With the help from Jason A. Kaufman, her advisor and professor, Lamm dived deep into esports at both high school and collegiate levels. For the past three years, she has been researching and creating varsity esports programs for high schools and universities.
“If it wasn’t for that [one] class and [that] one project, I don’t know if I would be in the position I am right now,” she said.
This led to her working with other MSU faculty and staff to create MSU-Mankato’s first-ever varsity esports team, which was announced in September with plans to be up and running by spring 2021. The team is a member of the National Association of Collegiate Esports (NACE) and is overseen by director Mitch Wallerstedt, Chief Operations Officer for campus IT Solutions. Lamm was chosen to be its first head coach.
“This was a huge project,” Lamm said. “There will always be challenges when creating anything new.”
One challenge was simply knowing where to start, since MSU-Mankato hasn’t had much experience with varsity esports teams.
“I think one of the biggest challenges for MSU was where to start and how to structure the varsity program,” she said. “There were discussions for almost two years about creating a varsity esports team at MSU. An advisory esports board was set up to discuss what was needed and how to go about creating a program. I was in several meetings throughout the year, giving my own advice based on my research while obtaining my master’s.”
I got to reach out to current universities and high schools about their programs… I could talk about gaming and varsity esports all day to someone who was interested.Jacquie Lamm
For Lamm, the idea of researching and learning more about establishing a varsity esports team was appealing.
“I got to reach out to current universities and high schools about their programs and what is working, what needs to change, what they would have done differently,” she said. “I could talk about gaming and varsity esports all day to someone who was interested.”
Level three: Work hard, play hard
There’s no time to slack when defeating video game enemies, nor when you’re a head coach of a newly established team. The position requires a lot of work, such as creating a social media posting schedule, writing a player handbook and setting up scrims for the varsity players. Right now, Lamm and MSU-Mankato are in the beginning stages of forming and selecting teams, which will consist of five to seven students.
“My current plans are getting our first two varsity teams selected,” she said. “We would like to have the teams set and practicing before the spring semester, where we hope to compete in the NACE and ULoL (the College League of Legends) tournaments.”
My current plans are getting our first two varsity teams selected. We would like to have the teams set and practicing before the spring semester.Jacquie Lamm
Although the varsity team will compete mainly in ULoL, the varsity Counter-Strike: Global Offensive team, CSGO, will also compete in other tournaments throughout the semester with opportunities to win scholarships to apply towards tuition.
The selection process will take a few months to complete, but anyone interested can still apply on the MSU-Mankato’s varsity esports website.