Esports broke out at the Century Villages at Cabrillo last week, thanks to a group of college students from Cal State Dominguez Hills.
Ruby, a 10-year-old who lives at Century Villages at Cabrillo, was among the players. She’s resident at the 27-acre permanent supportive housing community that is home to more than 1,500 people, including veterans, seniors and families with children who have all experienced homelessness.
Children growing up at the Villages have the opportunity to participate in after-school programs, as well as summer enrichment programs, that help them succeed academically and socially. That effort offered something new on Thursday, July 22, when college students from CSUDH’s esports club came to host a video game tournament for the children.
Electronic sports — or competitive video gaming — is now so popular that people fill sports arenas like Staples Center and pay upwards of $50 to $100 to sit and watch the games being played.
And at CSUDH, the esports club has more than 250 students. A few of them, led by Ricardo Lopez Jr., coached the kids at the Villages on strategy as they competed in SuperSmash Bros. and Mario Kart, and showed them how to put on a tournament and how to call a game.
Lopez, a third-year student majoring in English education, helped organize the event and was the head of registration.
“I saw them face-to-face at the beginning,” he said. “I noticed the transformation at the beginning. They were a little nervous and unenthusiastic, but after I talked them through the process, they were excited.”
Except for Ruby.
“This one student (Ruby) wasn’t talking much,” Lopez said. “I had to be more proactive and make sure she wanted to compete. But after a bit more conversation, we got her to enter the SuperSmash competition.”
Before everyone got into the competition, Alyse Freeman, who is part of the health and wellness division at CSUDH, got everyone to stretch and do warm-up exercises.
“These gamers are athletes,” she said. “It was a really good experience and it was good to see all the students engaging in exercises in-between their competitions.”
Jaylene Westfall, director of residential services for Century Villages, said Ruby is usually shy and quiet. But after the tourney started, Westfall said, all that shyness and nervousness melted away — Ruby didn’t lose a bracket and won the grand finale.
“All of my staff commented on how happy and confident she looked at the end of it,” Westfall said. “That really brought her out of the shell. I got nothing but positive feedback.”
Westfall said the Villages looks forward to further collaboration.
“It’s good for the kids to meet other successful kids,” she said. “Our kids come from a place where, ‘Oh, college, it isn’t for me.’ It just opens the world for them.”
Ruben Caputo, the CSUDH esports club adviser, said outreach and mentorship is a major focus of the club.
“There were a lot of good moments,” he said. “A lot of what we are trying to show is just show the joy of esports. We made big impacts in the kids’ life. This turned around a child’s day. She wasn’t having a good morning, but this flipped the day. She made it her goal. It was cool to see Ruby’s journey.”