WILMINGTON, N.C. — In the last few years esports has exploded in popularity across North Carolina.

What You Need To Know

  •  UNC Wilmington esports has a $300,000 budget for the next three years

  •  The school has a Valorant team and is looking to add another varsity team next fall

  •  A documentary, "Game On UNCW: Esports + Education," about the growth of esports at the school, premieres at 6 p.m. Monday at UNCW’s Lumina Theater

While many college clubs came to a halt during the COVID-19 pandemic, esports began to thrive.

At UNC Wilmington, the esports club has grown since its start in 2019.

“I decided to start doing game nights twice a week where we would just play on Discord and it really made people feel like they had that sense of community,” said Maeve Klimek, a leader of the UNCW Esports Club.

After coming back to campus, the club continued to grow and began holding events, including Gamecon

“We have multiple tournaments like free to play areas, all of that because we wanted to mesh together the casual gaming community and the competitive for kind of like a mini-convention,” Klimek said.

Klimek is a full-time student and also works full time. 

“There is an esports club like at the school, and I was like, there's no way I can't be involved in this. So it can be really stressful at times, but I'm super passionate about it and I wouldn't change anything,” Klimek said.

She says esports is not just growing at UNCW but all over North Carolina. 

“It's becoming a huge industry and you can really go a lot of ways with it. You can become a pro player, you can go into marketing, you can go into production," she said. "There's just so many different avenues.”

Klimek began gaming at the age of 3.

“All of my older siblings had like Super Nintendo, Sega, Genesis and 64, all of that and I would play with them,” she said.

She also played Overwatch semi-professionally from 2018 to 2020.

“I was a pretty high ranked player. I played on a few different teams. We would scrum about three days a week, do bad reviews where we would basically just overview our matches and see what we could do better, and then we would also enter into tournaments” said Klimek, who is now playing collegiately.

"Game On UNCW: Esports + Education," a documentary about the growth of esports at the school, will be screened at 6 p.m. Monday at the Lumina Theater. The event is free and open to the public.