Esports Arena manager grateful DC’s investing in gaming

Durham College Esports Arena Manager Sarah Wagg playing a round of Overwatch on one of the arena’s desktop gaming computers. Photo credit: Dennis Price

Sarah Wagg was sitting in a Toronto board game cafe in March when she learned she had been hired as the manager of Durham College’s new Esports Arena.

Wagg tried to keep her excitement inside after learning the news.

“I was ecstatic but I tried to ‘keep my cool’ because I was out in public,” Wagg says. “It was nice to hear because full-time roles in the esports industry are very hard to come by.”

Wagg describes her role as Esports Arena manager as someone who builds a community for gamers on campus. The arena runs events for gamers, integrates college academic programs and helps the varsity esports team with its games against other colleges and universities.

Wagg, 24, is an Ontario Tech biology graduate and says she started gaming when she was eight.

“I started playing Sonic way back in the day,” Wagg says. “From there I went into console gaming, PC gaming and it’s something that stayed with me since.”

Wagg started gaming competitively as a student at Ontario Tech with the local League of Legends team and eventually managed it. This led her to organizing student esports events on campus including launching the esports varsity pilot program.

That program laid the groundwork for what is now the DC Lords’ esports varsity team.

Wagg says she heard about the manager position through an email from Michael Cameron, Durham College computer systems professor and campus esports trailblazer.

Cameron says he found Wagg to be intelligent and confident while working with her on esports events.

“I thought she would be very interesting, and I made her aware of that posting,” Cameron says. “Also, I made the school aware that they should interview her.”

Cameron notes the college was in uncharted territory – it had never been in a position previously to hire an Esports Arena manager and was in the process of learning more about esports.

“There is a big misnomer that… you know people are young and you’re thinking ‘well if they’re young, they don’t have a lot of experience’,” says Cameron. “But a lot of people working in esports have been doing it since they were 15, so they have 10 years of esports experience.”

When the Durham College Esports Arena opened in April, Wagg didn’t expect to be the interview focus of several Toronto and national media outlets at the arena’s grand opening.

Durham College Esports Arena Manager, Sarah Wagg poses with the arena’s PS4 setups behind her. Photo credit: Dennis Price

“I didn’t expect to be more or less the poster child of the grand opening, I’m not used to that. As an introvert I very much like all the paperwork and behind the scenes,” says Wagg. “So, it was very new to me at the forefront of the media’s attention.”

Ross Carnwith, Durham College ancillary services manager, says Wagg excelled at the numerous interviews.

“When we first launched in April, she was interviewing day after day with Breakfast Television, Global News, CTV News, and others, ” Carnwith says. “She took it all in stride.”

Wagg says there are very few females in the esports industry, but wants to promote the arena as a very safe and inclusive space.

Her goal for the Esports Arena is for it to become a home for students on campus. Wagg wants students to be aware of the space and use it.

“We want gaming on campus to be something celebrated,” Wagg says.

“Gaming has traditionally been something that’s been negatively stigmatized and we want to remove that stigma. Especially on Durham College campus, it’s so supportive here and we want everyone to feel welcome.”