There are moments that, some six years later, still stand out to Elvin Moy.
Moy (ME, EMGT, M.Eng. MAE ’18) can recall the first group gaming event, one where students gathered to play video games online together, that he and his Illinois Institute of Technology gaming organization held on campus. Specifically, he recalls how they forgot to tape the master ethernet cable down and that it was pulled out when someone tripped on it, putting a pause to the 50-plus players participating in the event for a full hour. Then there was the time he decided to host a gaming event and only two people showed up—but he had ordered the pizza, a great deal of it, without asking for anyone to RSVP.
It was through these moments, and others he experienced during his time at Illinois Tech as a student and as one of the leaders of the university’s gaming community, that Moy came to develop a maxim that he continues to live by in his personal and professional lives.
“It’s always about learning,” Moy says. “I think that’s kind of the Illinois Tech training, where learning never stops—even after graduation.”
That gaming was a forum though which Moy gained these insights is no coincidence.
His interest began with Pokémon, on Game Boy Color, his first game and video game device, which his father bought for him when he was in elementary school. His passion for what was still just a hobby started to burrow in, and to expand, when Moy arrived at Illinois Tech.
An activity that once focused on consoles—devices such as the Game Boy Color, or an Xbox or PlayStation—expanded into personal computer-based games that were built around the idea of connection, to games such as League of Legends that emphasize building relationships and working with other players in a virtual environment.
In playing these games, Moy built a network of people he now considers lifelong friends. But as he got more involved in the informal gaming community at Illinois Tech, he recognized that there was an opportunity to expand and build upon that shared interest in gaming in a meaningful way.
“The niche that I saw, or the need that I saw, was trying to create an organized community,” Moy says. “People get to know each other, people get to create connections because, on campus, you have professional engineering societies, right? It’s a similar kind of knowledge, or community, that you build within gaming.”
Three years after graduating from Illinois Tech and firmly established as an engineering associate with Sargent & Lundy in Chicago, Moy remains, as Illinois Tech Esports Executive Director April Welch (M.S. TCOM ’09) says, “the heart of the program.”
“The [gaming] scene before Elvin was very casual and very disparate, and I was the faculty liaison for multiple different little clubs that never paid any attention to each other,” says Welch, who is also the associate vice president for strategic initiatives at Illinois Tech. “When Elvin came, his technical skills, his ability to rally, and his ability to organize and run tournaments and run events…he’s the glue that brought all the other clubs together and elevated [Illinois Tech’s gaming community] to a higher level.”
Illinois Tech Esports is the university-backed gaming organization that Moy has helped build and grow. The organization now has more than 100 students who compete against other colleges and universities across North America in competitions. It also now provides scholarships to incoming Illinois Tech students and will play a key role in upcoming university gaming initiatives.
But while Moy still remains a gamer—with remote work during the COVID-19 pandemic, he says that his focus was on his engineering projects from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and once the day was over, he could put the work laptop away, switch his computer monitor’s input, and start playing games—he is involved in different ways.
Now he finds ways to include gaming in his life as an engineer. His job involves working with clients around the United States—people at places like power plants and companies within industries such as mining—to help them better navigate their current projects. When he’s on a trip to visit a work site or even when he’s on vacation, Moy says he tries to meet with local gaming contacts or visit internet cafes to learn about that particular city’s setup and talk to those involved in it to get an idea what the esports scene is like there.
“Whenever I can make time for it, I like to see how [esports and gaming] can affect what I’m doing right now,” Moy says. “Whether it’s mixing it with education, collegiate esports, or maybe it’s an underrepresented community and trying to say, ‘Hey, we should try to create a league here or try to provide equipment.’”
Moy has backed those words with actions. Through Illinois Tech Esports, he helped refurbish Xboxes and gave them to local hospitals for children to play with during their stay. He’s also a mentor for high school students through a program called ACE, where Moy is paired with a student for one academic year and serves as a resource while teaching them about engineering.
That passion for teaching others and a continuing quest to learn—a skill he says he developed through the ups and downs of helping to build Illinois Tech Esports—has made an impact on Moy in a significant way, one that he believes still resonates today.
“I had a similar conversation with a friend that’s from Ohio. He’s also an alumni of the school that was very involved in esports, and we both came to the same conclusion,” Moy says. “I would still be graduating with an engineering degree, sure, but I’d be just a completely different person in terms of the experiences that esports gave me.”
Growth Through Gaming: Illinois Tech Esports Has Grown into Valuable Campus Asset
While it took time and a great deal of effort since its precursers’ founding in 2013, Illinois Tech Esports has been a successful venture for the university—and its continued growth seems inevitable after becoming a partner in the Surge facility, Chicago’s first esports-specific facility. Among the opportunities the partnership will provide includes establishing, with the support of Chicago Alderman Pat Dowell, the Bronzeville Esports League to provide opportunities for competition and creativity to students in the broader community.
While Elvin Moy (ME, EMGT, M.Eng. MAE ’18) was among its chief student drivers, the more formal organization came about also because of the work of April Welch, the associate vice president for strategic initiatives at Illinois Tech, and at the suggestion of Jennifer Agosto, the former coordinator of compliance and student-athlete services for Illinois Tech Athletics, who championed a formal esports organization.
Over the course of what Moy says was a six- or seven-month process, the group put together a proposal book for the creation of an official university esports program. Illinois Tech Esports received funding to open the Esports and Digital Arts Center, located in The McCormick Tribune Campus Center, in 2018. The center, the organization’s home base, features the equipment and space needed for gaming and design opportunities.
Illinois Tech Esports now sponsors competitive teams across eight games—Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Hearthstone, League of Legends, Overwatch, Rainbow Six Siege, Rocket League, Smash Brothers, and Valorant. While the esports organization does not have a varsity team, Moy has made sure it is run as though it does, setting up an application process, grade-point average requirements, and holding tryouts for Illinois Tech students to earn a spot on teams that compete against other colleges or universities. Other members take part more casually, building relationships and networks with like-minded peers.
Like Moy before them, the students still lead the organization’s day-to-day operations.
“They are conducting the tryouts, performing the evaluations, deciding the recipients of the awards—in conjunction with undergraduate admission,” Moy says. “This gives a real opportunity for students to develop their leadership skills by interacting with different departments and offices on campus, just like what they’ll be doing with their future full-time careers.”