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By Katherine Stein, Graduate Writer

Photograph By Hannah Montgomery, Graduate Photographer

First-year Joi Dunston has noticed that far too often video games are associated exclusively with STEM fields.  But can the world of video games connect to the world of ECL? As Joi’s story demonstrates, a humanistic perspective can contribute quite a lot to the world of video games and eSports.

Joi, who began her time at UNC as a biology major, immersed herself immediately in the vibrant gaming community at Carolina and became a member of campus eSports, where she was elected as the club’s social media moderator. While Joi knew immediately that she had found a home in Carolina eSports, she felt that something was lacking in her academic life.  

Sitting in her biology classes, Joi didn’t feel the passion or sense of community that she sought. While Joi has always recognized that “English is just what I’m passionate about,” as a biology major Joi struggled with the “stereotypes that go along with non-STEM majors.” Joi simply wishes that others “would be more open to seeing the English major for what it is” and is dedicated to advocating for its relevance: “English is just as important as the other majors.” Now, in ECL, Joi is pursuing her passion and, in the process, has found a community. “I feel at home with the English department,” she says.

In Carolina’s gaming community, Joi’s ECL major sets her apart; in her estimation, about 99% of the students in eSports are STEM majors. As Joi continues to discover how ECL contributes to the gaming world, Joi’s leadership role in eSports has been especially illuminating. In her position as social media moderator, Joi has come to a deeper understanding of the many integral ways that an ECL degree works within today’s technology-driven world. With her ECL major, Joi offers a unique and valuable perspective to the Carolina eSports community. Among other things, for example, Joi explains that “it’s easier for me to be clear and concise.” Thanks to ECL, Joi has developed expertise as a writer and communicator that is applicable beyond the limits of the English classroom.

Beyond the writing skills Joi has developed across her ECL coursework, she has also come to a deeper understanding of narrative, which she has applied beyond literary texts and into her work with eSports. Before she began to study ECL at Carolina, Joi engaged with video games more passively. “Now when I play video games I’m really looking for deeper meanings. It makes it a lot more meaningful,” she says. Now, Joi recognizes video games as texts that provide far more than entertainment value alone. As she remarks, “The developers did intend for people to get something out of the game—that’s why they made it. Now I’m more conscious of the actual meaning behind games and why certain things are the way that they are and it makes the whole experience more enjoyable.” Joi finds herself thinking more concertedly about the role and function of video games specifically–and narratives more broadly–within society.  As she says, the narrative understanding that comes with studying English “is very important for society as a whole.”

Interested in exploring other ways that ECL connects to the world of video games?  In 2019, the Digital Literacy and Communications (DLC) Lab was awarded a grant from the Center for Faculty Engagement and Lenovo Instructional Innovations to research gaming as an academic discourse and pedagogical tool. Read more here.

You can find UNC eSports on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook @UNCeSports.

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