DANBURY, CT – Arda Durukan, a junior in the Saint Peter’s University esports program, was born in Turkey. His family moved to the United States when he was ten. He didn’t know anyone in his new country, and didn’t know the language, which made making friends a real challenge. As a result, he took to video games, which very soon became much “more than just a hobby”. His older brother mentioned to him that some people made their living playing video games, which motivated him to become better and better.
By his sophomore year at Paramus Catholic High School in New Jersey he had become a very competitive gamer. Through the internet he found competitive teams to join, and bounced around with various teams participating in on-line tournaments. With some friends he started a video gaming club at his high school, which quickly became the biggest club at the school.
When he got to Saint Peter’s, the school had no esports club, so he continued his participation on-line by entering various tournaments with different teams as his schedule permitted. He fondly recalls the moment he received an email from David Bryngil, Saint Peter’s Executive Director of Wellness and Recreation, with a survey seeking to gauge student interest in esports at the University. He instantly knew this would be a gamechanger. His girlfriend did too, he recalled with a laugh, as she was very excited for him but fearful that it would mean less time with him. He responded enthusiastically, and was soon being asked to help the University organize its competitive esports program.
Bryngil calls Arda a “godsend” for the program. “He was enthusiastic about this right out of the gate,” says Bryngil. “He’s been a key cog for us – our quarterback, our point guard – all those things rolled into one. He is 100% my right hand man, and we couldn’t have done this without him.”
Arda got the word out, generated interest, collected names, set up the tryouts, and served as chief advisor throughout the process of getting the program off the ground. At about the very same time, the ECAC was reaching out to member schools soliciting feedback about its tentative plans to unveil a comprehensive esports program. “It was a like a perfect storm,” said Bryngil, who stated that the University was quite interested because of what it could mean for student recruitment, engagement and retention.
Arda is leading the way as his Saint Peter’s “A” team is 4-0 in ECAC-facilitated competition this fall. He says the whole experience has been everything he could have hoped for.
He also believes the esports program will be a tremendous asset to the University. “I know for a fact that in the future, we have plans to advertise this some more, and the fact that our current team is doing so well, we’re definitely going to attract more people,” said Arda. “If I had known that Saint Peter’s had an esports program when I was applying, that definitely would have been a plus for me. This will definitely make Saint Peter’s way more attractive for people who are competitive at playing video games.”
Moreover, for Arda, who years ago as a child turned to esports when he struggled to make friends, esports has now become the vehicle by which he forms valuable friendships. His teammates have become some of his best friends, in contrast to the on-line teammates he used to have that he never met or interacted with outside of the games. “That feeling of everyone on the team being in the same room for two hours together and talking, working together, eating lunch and making sure we are all on the same page for the next games to come is something that you just can’t get from being on a team on line,” he says. “It’s the new friendship building and the competitive spirit that drives all of us there. It’s really nice to see that.”
And if that’s not enough he’s managed to keep his girlfriend as well…
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ABOUT THE ECAC
Established in 1938, the ECAC is the nation’s largest Conference, ranging in location from Maine to Georgia, and westerly to Missouri. The ECAC hosts numerous championships in men’s and women’s sports across Divisions I, II and III, offering opportunities for thousands of student-athletes. For more information, visit www.ecacsports.com.