Take a love of sports, thousands of hours competing against the best gamers in the world, and an uncompromising work ethic, and you have the ingredients to build a gaming empire.
“It all contributed to the career I have now. I combine my hard work in school, my love for video games, and my passion for competing in sports. All those things got mixed in a bowl and made my career in esports,” says Mike Rufail ’05.
A broadcast cinema (now media studies) major, Rufail converted his passion for video gaming into a multi-million dollar enterprise.
“I’m fortunate that I got that background at UNCG. I’m not sure I would have gotten it anywhere else.”Mike Rufail ’05
He is the founder and chief gaming officer of Dallas-based Envy Gaming, Inc., one of the largest esports groups in the world.
His love for gaming started early. When most others were into Nintendo, he focused on PC gaming. He got to experience PC games right from the start and came of age along with the technology. It didn’t take him long after college graduation to realize he could pivot from his budding career in film and TV to full-time gaming. Within two years he’d created Envy Gaming.
Rufail credits UNCG with teaching him the psychology of media, or the interaction of human behavior with media and technology. He used this concept as the company’s CEO to grow Envy Gaming into the gaming, esports, and lifestyle brand it has become. “I’m fortunate that I got that background at UNCG,” he says. “I’m not sure I would have gotten it anywhere else.”
Career opportunities in esports aren’t just reserved for elite gamers and entrepreneurs.
“We are a large industry now with many different kinds of jobs,” Rufail says, listing roles such as accounting, business operations, social media marketing, management, content production, athletic training, and merchandising. ”I think it’s fantastic that UNCG is taking a step forward with not only building an esports curriculum but also building a place on campus where students can go enjoy esports in a custom, live setting.”
As a student, he made time for gaming and so much more. A member of the Student Government Association, he also fueled his competitive drive as a Club Soccer player. Frank Donaldson and the late Department Head John Jellicorse were his most influential professors.
Known by his gamer tag, Hastr0, Rufail still makes some time for gaming. So what’s he playing these days? Mostly, Overwatch. And he’s looking forward to the release of Amazon’s New World.
By Rachel Kelly ’07, ’09 MPA