Using controllers to play a video game are, left to right, Carlos Carrillo, a senior at Socorro High School; and Adrian Rincones, a San Antonio Elementary student. Gary Lam, head coach for the “Call of Duty” team, is mostly obscured between them. Photos courtesy New Mexico Tech

A new Socorro business is helping Socorro’s youth take their gaming to the next level.

Damian Banks, New Mexico Tech’s director of e-sports, wants to help young people in New Mexico find career opportunities in the e-sports world, whether they want to be players, coaches or game analysts. The e-sports industry is big business and growing in popularity. Banks has built his own career in e-sports.

This year, Banks officially began the company Ecliptix — an e-sports business with three components: free education on gaming for youth, content creation and its own e-sports team. But Banks and his brother Kyle Banks, who handles IT and cyber-security for Ecliptix, have a long history of gaming.

The pair played “Call of Duty” heavily as teenagers and were trying to get recruited as a duo for a professional team. Damian Banks said they had a couple of opportunities but “because we were really young and the scene was super early, our parents didn’t really understand, so it didn’t end up happening.”

Banks gave up gaming for a while, but as an undergraduate student at New Mexico Tech, he became involved in e-sports once again. He built up NMT’s e-sports program beginning in his sophomore year of college, so much so that the school offered him a job to keep building the program after he graduated.

This year, the brothers decided to revive the dream of Ecliptix games.

“Basically, the goal of it was to make sure that kids didn’t go through what we went through and be able to get them exposure to all these different careers in e-sports,” said Banks.

Ecliptix Gaming Academy instructor/owner Damian Banks hands out the day’s curriculum to students at a session in the esports lab on the New Mexico Tech campus.
Photo courtesy New Mexico Tech

Ecliptix is partnering with New Mexico Tech, the City of Socorro and the nonprofit DreamBIG to make an e-sports academy available for free to Socorro’s youth.

The academy is holding eight summer camp sessions for kids in sixth through 12th grade at the New Mexico Tech gaming lab. The sessions are Saturdays, 1 to 4 p.m., through Aug. 20 at the e-sports lab in Tech’s Gold Building.

During sessions, kids can get coaching on playing “Call of Duty” or “League of Legends,” two of the five big games in the e-sports world currently. They can also learn how to be a coach or an analyst.

“You go through a lot of things that players don’t think of,” said Banks. “You have stretches, you have warm ups, you have different things in order to get yourself prepared physically and mentally to even start practicing. These are things that we do in traditional sports that get overlooked when it comes to video game sports, because it’s not as physically taxing, but there’s still a need to try not to develop arthritis and making sure that your hands are warm.”

Players learn hand warmers, and techniques to prevent their body from just sinking into the chair while sitting for extended periods of times. New players may also learn about the resources in the game, defining their role and what they want to do as a player.

“For those that have a background in the game, now we’re breaking habits. Because things you don’t actually think of if you’ve never had formal training, you do and you think is right but it’s actually not right when it comes to a competitive setting,”

The academy also compiles a portfolio for kids of their gameplay during the summer.  Kids interested in being a game analyst learn how to break down clips of game play and talk about strategy, why a team was picked and staying with the action of a game. They practice talking in front of a camera, just like a professional e-sports analyst.

A professional player’s career can be lucrative but relatively brief, much like other sports. A player’s best years come between the ages of 17 to 25, said Banks, which is part of why he wants to push more kids to also consider other e-sports careers as well. Jobs like content creation or coaching can be done for decades and at any age.

Unlike other sports, e-sports games and strategies change constantly with weekly, bi-weekly or monthly game updates. Also, unlike other sports, the barrier for entry to becoming a competitive e-sports player is more accessible to more people. As Banks points out, you don’t have to be over 6 feet, 5 inches, to be competitive, like a professional NBA player would be, but those traits that benefit other professional athletes — determination and resilience, are still key to being successful.

Ecliptix will soon be offering opportunities for free e-sports coaching in Albuquerque. They are building an academy at the Raymond G. Sanchez Community Center on Albuquerque’s West Side, which Banks expects to open before winter break. Ecliptix will also be announcing partnerships with content creators later this year, and is actively building a roster for its own e-sports team, to be coached by Gary Lam.

Summer sessions are Saturdays, 1-4 p.m. through Aug. 20 at the e-sports lab in Tech’s Gold Building. For more information on how to participate email [email protected].