A new way to connect with ’Canes

A new way to connect with ’Canes

Illustration by Lucas Rosen
By Nailah Edmead

Illustration by Lucas Rosen

A new way to connect with ’Canes

By Nailah Edmead
Open to both gamers and non-gamers alike, the University’s new server on the popular Discord platform aims to connect students beyond video games.

Relying on traditional ways to connect with others has proven to be difficult, if not impossible, as the pandemic continues to limit in-person interaction with others. Throughout the past year, all areas of the University have strived to facilitate student engagement through various virtual outlets and safe in-person events. But now, a new tool has been added to the list of ways for students to connect with each other: the University’s own Discord server. 

Discord, an online platform that allows users to chat with one another via text or video, was introduced in 2015 and has bloomed in the past year, doubling its membership and now boasting over 120 million active users. Made up of “servers” consisting of members that can communicate about a range of topics known as “channels”, the platform is characterized by niche communities with similar interests. While originally built for gamers, Discord has expanded its boundaries to include anyone who wishes to virtually connect with others. 

Tom Soria, associate director of recreational sports, wants the University’s server—and the Department of Wellness and Recreation’s new Esports program as a wholeto reflect the inclusive features of the platform and welcomes all members of the 'Canes community to join. 

“The program and server are open to everybody—staff, students, and alumni—to create connections and establish a sense of belonging within our community,” said Soria, who had been researching Discord even before the pandemic in hopes to launch the platform on campus. 

Spencer Bailen, a first-year student studying vocal performance, is one of the student moderators and has used Discord to create connections that the pandemic may have made impossible. 

“As a freshman, the new Esports server has helped me create relationships that I didn’t think were possible during the pandemic. There are so many things you can do on Discord: listen to music, send photos, or connect with other students with similar interests,” he said. 

While virtual friendships cannot completely stand-in for traditional in-person engagement, the University’s server has its own unique aspects that allow for easily finding compatibility amongst the community. 

“On campus, you can’t just look around and know who has the same interests as you, or what games they play. The Esports server helps skip the step of finding people who you relate to,” said Nathaniel Britton, fellow moderator and a sophomore studying ecosystem science and policy. 

Despite Discord’s intense gaming reputation, the University's new Esports program focuses on casual gaming and community feedback to serve its members. Hosting nearly 100 participants since launching in February, the server will be driven by members’ input regarding the games hosted on channels, the type of challenges offered, and any tips to help refine the server to best fit the community.  

As the server continues to grow, the team of staff and student moderators plan to host open tournaments, community game nights, and weekly challenges where participants can post their scores within a channel, post a picture of campus, or even a photo of their pet. 

“We’re looking to grow this organically by intentionally adding members over time to build a community environment,” added Soria. 

More information about how to join the server and upcoming events is available at miami.edu/esports.  

For students looking for a more focused, competitive gaming experience, the Video Games Club offers intercollegiate online tournaments and competition teams.