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A career game plan leads to Singapore


By Kate Hoving

The recent announcement of the partnership between Disney and Epic Games should dispel any doubts about the robust and lucrative future of gaming in multimedia entertainment. The success of HBO’s The Last of Us proved that even non-gamers could become enthralled with the characters and storylines, because video gaming is ultimately about storytelling—and storytelling that captivates all ages.

Cam Jones ’24 was a little ambivalent about the positive attention the show garnered. “'The Last of Us' show was really great for gamers, but it was also a little frustrating, because when it came out, a lot of people were saying they didn't realize games could have any artistic value, but gamers have been saying that for thirty years.”

And that’s longer than Jones has been alive, so his comment is both insightful and an indication of the thoughtful and determined approach he brings to gaming and finding his place in it as an undergraduate and ultimately as a career.

Taking on leadership roles

Jones is serious about gaming. He is president of the W&M Esports Club, a recognized student organization, which has 300 to 400 members who game casually. He is also a varsity player.

Dr. Michele King, director of the varsity Esports Program at William & Mary explains the difference. “The Esports Program is funded and supported through the Provost’s Office. You have to try out to make the varsity roster, which is a significant accomplishment. And as a varsity player, Jones is also an Esports Pioneer. Only a handful of students get to do that.” Students have to propose to King how their area of expertise can add to the Program. Then, they are chosen by the Esports Advisory Board to focus on that area, such as data analytics, sponsorship and outreach, community building, broadcasting and media and wellness.

Jones’s role as a Pioneer focuses on sponsorship and outreach, so he helps with bringing speakers to campus and getting endorsements. He is well-suited to that position, as he has an instinct for finding opportunities that benefit the students, the university’s program and gaming companies.

He has worked with other students to start the Splatoon team at William & Mary. “That meant for a semester he had to recruit students to try out and compete,” according to King. “Then he made a pitch to the Esports Advisory Board to make Splatoon an official game title in our program, because not all games are supported in the Program.”

For those unfamiliar with it, Splatoon is a third-person, competitive shooter game, where the players shoot paint.

“I think Splatoon reaches a niche audience that we didn't really have in the Program. I saw it as an interesting community that was growing rapidly, so I wanted W&M to get in on the ground floor with it.”

A major that reflects passions as well as career goals

Jones has had a vision of where he wants to go with his love of gaming, but that vision didn’t fit into conventional majors.

“I've always been interested in the game industry, but I thought my only pathway into it was through computer science major. After a few classes, however, I decided it really wasn't for me, so I needed to figure out a different approach instead of just giving up.”

Jones designed his own major in Game Studies, which explores the more artistic side, such as creative writing, music, art design and voice acting.

His sophomore year, he reached out to King “I figured she would understand better than anyone else the importance of looking at gaming in a multi-lens way. So we put together a series of classes.” He’s taken a lot of theater courses as well as art and creative writing courses.

“Courses such as theater and art enable you to bring out your creative side,” he explains. “They allow you to develop new stories and new ideas and discover things about yourself and about the world through the artistic process. And that is essential when you're designing games, because you want to design something that players are going to feel is fresh and new.”

Jones wants to provide a sense of wonder and joy in the games that he makes. “When you turn on that game for the first time, I want to make you feel like you're a little kid again. That you’re lost in that world that I created.”

The path to an internship

King works tirelessly to promote esports at William & Mary and around the world, and she is even more determined to advocate for her students to help them turn their gaming skills and experience into career opportunities. With Jones’s unique combination of passion for gaming as well as marketing and business development skills, King wanted to set things in motion for him.

The opportunity turned out to be GAMEmason, a tournament hosted by George Mason University last spring.

“I was a guest speaker and leading a workshop at GAMEmason, and we had some of our teams competing. Although Cam wasn’t competing, I knew companies were going to be there, too, and I knew what Cam wanted to do. So I said to him, ‘Showing up is 90% of it. Let's just show up and network.’”

One of King’s connections at the tournament didn’t have any openings at the time so King continued networking. “I'm always asking on behalf of students, ‘What internships do you have? What jobs do you have?’

King had done the reconnaissance and set-up; Jones closed the deal. “Cam went right on up and introduced himself, and he just took it away from there,” King says proudly. “He never gave up. He kept going. He had that grit, that determination, and then he made it happen.”

In his usual self-effacing way, Jones remembers the exchange more simply. “I met the CEO of MAINCARD, Victoria Cheng. We started talking, and she gave me her business card, so I followed up with her, and that’s what led to the internship with her company in Singapore.”

On to Singapore

Cam Jones in Singapore (Courtesy photo)The connection King and Jones made at George Mason yielded unexpected opportunities – and travel. MAINCARD is an esports company based in Singapore who is creating an app/platform which will work directly with esports athletes and scouts. “When I saw the app pitch, it looked like a mix of LinkedIn and Instagram. It allows players to share their statistics so scouts can look on the platform and recruit players,” Jones explains. “And it allows MAINCARD to manage that and potentially set up opportunities between the recruiters and the gamers themselves.”

Jones’s internship with MAINCARD lasted approximately three months, and he was in Singapore for about five weeks of that. He was able to do the work that didn’t require him to be in person virtually.
“They were primarily involved in the Southeast Asian esports market, and they were interested in breaking into the North American market,” Jones explains. “I was serving as a consultant to them on the differences in the gaming market and the collegiate structure in America. I was doing research and giving presentations on financing, programs, and tournament organization.

At the Olympics (Courtesy photo)Outside of work, MAINCARD wanted Jones to experience the Esports Olympics while he was in Singapore. “They got me a free ticket because Victoria was involved with casting it. In addition to arena settings where you can sit down and watch the competitors play, there were lots of demos and hands-on opportunities to try new products like VR [virtual reality] or just play different games,” Jones remembers. “It was like an expo, really, with all kinds of technology from different companies. A new Sonic game came out recently, but I got to play an early version of it back in Singapore several months before it was released because Sega (the company that makes Sonic) was there and had a demo for people to try. Usually those kinds of opportunities are reserved game journalists or reviewers.”

Next steps

Jones returned from the internship more committed to working in the game industry as a career than ever before. “I don't have concrete plans right now, but I am looking at jobs throughout the country.”

His dream job would be something akin to a creative director, overseeing all the individual aspects of production. “I’d be working with the voice actors, artists, musicians, sound designers, environment designers, writers— every facet of the projects.”

“I hope to join the list of greats like Yuri Lowenthal '93, Todd Howard '93, and Raul Fernandez MBA '05, who have graduated from William & Mary and gone on to impact the gaming industry.”

Cam Jones with Todd Howard '93 (Courtesy photo)