The University of Oklahoma (OU) has made significant strides in its pursuit of an esports program and recently announced the Solidus Scholarships for esports and gaming opportunities. Ngame sat down with Jody Farmer, OU’s Head Call of Duty coach and streamer, to learn about her journey from leading soldiers to leading student gamers.
NAECAD: How did you make the transition from Army Veteran to Oklahoma Esports?
Jody Farmer: It started with a veteran organization called the Wounded Warrior Project. I decided to go back to school in 2019, and I’m in a program through the VA called Vocational Rehabilitations. I’d been a part of the Wounded Warrior Project since I was injured in 2008.
They started by inviting me to join Discord (I had to ask my 19-year-old son what that was), and now I’m one of the leaders for a weekly event called Monday Night Mayhem in Call of Duty. It’s just veterans playing, so you don’t get any of that toxicity you get in a public match.
I started learning the CDL competition side because Wounded Warrior wanted to start doing 2v2s on Search and Destroy in a bracket-type tournament. Helix Gaming was the production and casting team for the tournament to make it seem as real and as hyped as if we were in-person and on-stage. It was kind of awesome.
Through the project, I met some Veterans who are in the UK from the Royal British Legion, and they started playing vs. us and kicked our butts (laughs), but we made some really good friends, so they started teaching me the CDL side of Call of Duty. The more I got into it, the more people said they wanted to hear my story so I started streaming.
Around that time, I got an email about esports at Oklahoma, and I applied. The Director and I talked, and he said he had been trying to start a Call of Duty team for over a year without luck because the leaders didn’t stick around. My military background makes dealing with a bunch of young guys. No big deal - I was an NCO, I got this. The guys from England’s Royal British Legion helped me learn how to run tryouts, and I built my first team last year.
NAECAD: What is it like being a student but also leading students of the esports program?
Jody Farmer: I am a unique coach because I’ve been a leader already. Being a student comes first and foremost - we require that our students maintain a GPA of 2.5 or higher to be able to compete, and for leadership, we ask for a 3.0+. Holding a standard is like second nature for me.
When I got into OU esports, it was the first time I felt that I could be a leader again, and I was respected - it didn’t matter that I was broken. I ruptured my spine in three places, I have a messed-up knee, with Fibromyalgia on top of it … and I struggle with depression and insomnia. In esports, that doesn’t matter. I don’t have to run and keep pace because finishing an objective in esports releases the same chemicals in your brain as if you hit a home run in baseball or a touchdown in football. That makes esports completely inclusive and diverse. I think that being a student leader in college to help build others up is the important part. A lot of gamers are introverts, so it’s allowing them to open up and show themselves to others in a safe place. I think it’s super important to teach them that before they go out into the world because they’ll be able to handle certain stressors in life.
NAECAD: What are some of the initiatives and projects the program will focus on in the upcoming semester?
Jody Farmer: I’m starting some initiatives early. Next week, I’m going to be streaming with a few others from the OU stream team to benefit Stand Up to Cancer. The fundraiser will include streamers for the first time this year. We’re also going to host a mini-tournament where VALORANT and Call of Duty get to go down to the Arlington, TX stadium and talk to high school students from DFW. Those students will be brought to the arena for potential recruitment and to learn about different esports programs. It’s really important that Oklahoma be there to show the other colleges that we’re here, and they need to catch up.
We do a rivalry tournament with UT every semester called the Red River Clash, and we do production between the two schools, even during Covid to drum up awareness and promote competition for who can raise the most money for charity in their area. We also have an esports version of Bedlam with OSU. It’s our way of playing with other approachable esports programs.
Later this fall, we’ll continue to play for charity, and I’m trying to get more veteran-related events going. Our esports facility is going to open this fall along with 100 beds in dorms, so that’s exciting. Now we can do student camps in person.