Unified Esports - Community Game Nights

OC STEM has facilitated a community collaborative with leaders from NASEF, the Orange County Department of Education, Special Olympics SoCal, UCI Esports, and IVC Esports to host Community Game Nights for students.

Unified Esports promotes social inclusion through shared experiences, connecting students of differing abilities to play, learn and grow on the same team. It is an approved strategy of Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools, which brings together youth with and without intellectual disabilities to build inclusive communities, reduce bullying, and promote healthy activities.

 “Special shout out to Kara Johnson, Unified Sports Liaison and Special Education teacher at Trabuco Hills High School for igniting the group. We saw this as a creative way to not just bring the special education population into the community, but the general population around gaming and esports together,” Jorrel Batac, member of the Orange County Department of Education and Director of the NASEF Scholastic Fellow Program, said. “The pandemic has taken a lot of those in-person opportunities away from our community and it’s important that we continue bringing people together in creative ways until meeting in-person is viable once more.”

The upcoming Community Game Nights are open to all teens and families attending Orange County schools, but as we continue to grow this project we are hoping to include more communities to come join in, hang out, and have some fun in a safe and moderated space. We will be starting off playing games that are accessible to everyone, but we are definitely open to your suggestions!

Upcoming Unified Esports Community Game Nights:

  • Friday, April 16th  - 6:00pm to 7:00pm
  • Friday, April 30th - 6:00pm to 7:00pm
  • Friday, May 14th - 6:00pm to 7:00pm
  • Friday, May 28th - 6:00pm to 7:00pm

How to Join:

  • Register here: https://bit.ly/3cEKHcH and let us know what games you're interested in!
  • Join the “OC Unified Esports” Discord Community: https://discord.gg/yFZSK357hJ
  • First Time Using Discord? Join us in the Zoom room and we'll help you get into the discord and the games.

You can also check out our how-to use Discord guide here: https://bit.ly/31B2T0q

The gaming nights aren’t just about gaming, though. Jorrel talked about how the whole idea is to offer near-peer mentorship opportunities within the community. The team has reached out to students and educators at the collegiate level to come around and be mentors for the next generation. “Providing students with a mentor that is closer in age to them gives them more confidence to interact,” Jorrel said. “It’s one thing for an adult to tell them there are all these cool opportunities, but it’s entirely another thing if it’s a student a few years ahead of them at a nearby college sharing their potential career pathways and they’re actively engaging in an esports program.”

Students who mentor at community night are not only helping out the attendees but building their own collegiate esport communities and giving themselves leadership and teaching opportunities that may otherwise be hard to find. 

One of the most important things about the community game night is it improves accessibility for everyone. The organizers realized that not everyone has access to expensive gaming computers or the latest consoles. A community night is a great way to bridge that accessibility gap in the community while bringing people together. To that aim, they focus heavily on the more cross-console and free-to-play games like Rocket League and Among Us.

The team is also engaging with the parents. A few parents played Among Us with the students at previous community nights. While it changed the dynamic a little, it was definitely for the better. “We see more and more adults who grew up in the gaming space and are now having kids. We’re starting to see these cross-generational opportunities pop up and it’s really cool to see happen,” Jorrel told us. He went on to tell us that while some adults participate in the gaming aspect, others are just there to learn a bit more about gaming or how to do things. Many times he’s walked parents through things like how to join Discord, what Rocket League is, or why their kid may be really engaged in this space.

Community games nights are still new, but Jorrel and the team have high hopes for what comes next. Once live events are possible, they can see bringing in experts to explore the various parts of the gaming ecosystem with attendees and teaching people how to put on an esports broadcast. “What better way to rebuild our school and community culture than getting a bunch of students in the same physical space once it’s safe?” Jorrel commented.

For those interested in attending the community game nights, please feel free to register here and join the Discord server.

If you are interested in beginning Community Game Nights in your area, please contact us at info@nasef.org