Teaching, gaming and streaming keep DC professor busy

Faculty spotlight – Michael Cameron

At Durham College, students learn from accomplished professors who bring their extensive, real-world experience to the classroom. In this series, we put the spotlight on our passionate faculty members who are committed to helping students lead the way.

Michael Cameron is right at home in front of an audience.

When he’s not commanding the attention of Durham College (DC) students in the classroom, the Computer Systems Technician professor can be found holding court online as ‘GamerDad’, a video game streamer with over 500,000 followers on Twitch, TikTok and other platforms. As a streamer, he regularly entertains hundreds of viewers while playing popular games like League of Legends, Sea of Thieves and Star Wars Jedi: Survivor.

With video games becoming more popular every year, his two audiences are overlapping more and more.

“People yell GamerDad across the courtyard, they’re getting photos,” he said. “I’ll be in class the first week, and I’ll see a kid just looking and smiling at me. They’re looking at their phone and looking at me and they’re like, wait a minute!”

His journey into streaming actually began when his students introduced him to Twitch a decade ago. Combining his passion for gaming with his gift for communication (honed over years of teaching and a stint in stand-up comedy), he was soon reaching a wide audience.

Though a very small number of streamers achieve worldwide fame and fortune, Cameron is perfectly happy with the audience he’s built.

“I am uniquely blessed and grateful because a lot of people try to make streaming their full-time job, and it’s just a fun hobby for me,” he said. “I have a great job. I’m reminded every fall how much I like it.”

A career in education was a natural choice for Cameron as he comes from a family of teachers, and he has taught everything from college to kindergarten. But his expansive resume extends well beyond teaching. He has served in the Canadian Armed Forces, written a syndicated gaming column for multiple publications, produced television and provided IT consultation.

After a decade of teaching at DC, the campus has come to feel like home.

“DC is the first place where I got a vibe that they actually cared about their employees and students,” he said.

That’s one of the reasons he went above and beyond in spearheading the creation of DC’s Esports Gaming Arena. He pitched the idea to DC leadership, who were impressed by his passion.

“I showed them the numbers,” said Cameron. “About 70% of the students at the college are playing some form of video game. Gaming brings a lot of the kids together.”

Filled with the latest gaming technology and titles, the arena breathed new life into the Student Centre and facilitated the launch of DC’s own Esports varsity team. Cameron also designed an Esports Business Management program, but the pandemic threw a wrench in the plans. The program is no longer offered and the Arena lay dormant for a while, but its doors are open once again and students aren’t the only ones taking advantage of it. It’s also accessible to DC alumni and employees, and anyone can drop in and watch the action.

“I like to go over there and just watch kids play. I would have loved something like that when I was younger,” he said.

Cameron has reduced his schedule recently to prioritize his physical and mental health and spend more time with his family, and he credits DC with allowing him to do so.

His wife passed away in 2022, but she was always supportive of his passion for gaming.

“People would ask her, what do you think about him gaming? And she’d go, well I know where he is and he could have much worse hobbies.”

He has also forged connections through gaming, from long-time friends he still plays with to his daughter and the students he meets at DC. While streaming, he’ll often dispense advice and wisdom on a variety of topics, from relationships to jobhunting.

“The interesting thing about people on Twitch and students in class is that they can tell when you care,” he said. Whatever the size of his audience, he never takes them for granted.

“I know what 100 people look like in a room. I’ve taught that many. That’s a lot of people taking their time to hang out and chat. I’m getting a good vibe from them, and vice versa.”