After a year of loss and grief, Madison Marquer signed up to lead a team of gamers at a community college in Cheyenne, Wyoming. Brendan I. Koerner chronicles the journey.

By early 2021, Walsh had gathered ample evidence to prove that esports could bring in as many as 20 ­student-athletes per year and boost the college’s brand among potential applicants who’d been weaned on Fortnite and NBA 2K. Still, some of the school’s administrators scoffed at the idea that gamers deserved the same respect as, say, members of LCCC’s well-regarded rodeo team. “They’re not athletes, because an athlete, by definition, manipulates their body and muscles in a way to interact with some object,” Walsh recalls an administrator saying. “And I said, ‘You just described esports.’ And they’re like, ‘Well, no, they’re not moving.’ And I go, ‘They’re moving their wrists and their fingers with dexterity. And they’re using their brains in such a quick and decisive way. How is that not a sport?’”

Cheri has been an editor at Longreads since 2014. She's currently based in the San Francisco Bay Area.