Humans of UK: Sean Wood builds gaming community


Sean Wood poses for a portrait on Wednesday, Feb. 2, 2022, at the University of Kentucky in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Maria Rauh | Staff

Laurie Jonhatan

Recently, UK’s new Cornerstone Exchange building brought a home to all gamers on campus. Esports, a club that welcomes both casual and competitive gamers, has seen incredible growth in past years — growth that required a permanent residence for its community.

“My freshman year, it was maybe around 50 to 70 people, a lot smaller than what it is today,” esports president Sean Wood, a senior architecture major, said. “Our club size has grown from just a little under 100 people to well over 1,500 people we have right now in our Discord. So we have a very large community, larger than I initially ever thought it would become.”

A lot of this popularity came from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Last year, esports held the competition “Battle for the Bluegrass,” sponsored by Kroger and hosted online to continue student activities during the pandemic. The competition, played against gamers from University of Louisville, received a lot of attention.

“My parents heard about it, and I never told them anything,” Wood said. “We expected it to be big; we didn’t expect it to be as big as it was. It was really amazing to see how many people were interested in esports.”

This popularity continued well after the competition, with the appeal coming from the possibility of in-person events as well as virtual ones.

“We try to do casual events where anybody is able to come, but we [also] host competitions. We’ll have a couple that provide prizes, food, pizza, drinks, and I guess it’s like a game night if you were to have that with all your friends,” Wood said.

These casual gaming nights and competitions also have a reach and awareness that extends past the local Lexington community.

“There are these opportunities that come about, since a lot of it is virtual,” Wood said. “The people [are] from across the country or across the world, and it’s definitely taken off to a point where we have almost 2,000 followers on Twitter and originally we were just at a little over 300.”

As president, Wood’s responsibilities include planning these events alongside the officers of the club. Wood also works with esports’ many sponsors: the University of Kentucky Federal Credit Union, Gen.G, HyperX and Wrigley Media Group. Wood related his experience working directly with sponsors to being similar to “an internship or mentorship,” praising esports’ sponsors for their help with communications, production and advertisements for the club.

“They’ll help guide us towards the right way to do things,” Wood said. “[It’s] really nice to have them there as more than just a financial help.”

This spring is Wood’s last semester as president. “I came to UK not even thinking about esports, and then now in [the] position I’m at, I’d love to see it finally take that one big leap into the mainstream,” he said. “It’d make me really happy.”