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How College Campuses are Shaping the Future of Esports

16
Dec

How College Campuses are Shaping the Future of Esports

Monday, December 16, 2019

College and university campuses across the country have begun to embrace Esports into  mainstream college life. As more and more students become interested in professional gaming, suddenly it has a place among team sports like baseball or football. Colleges are eager to offer a place where that interest can flourish and possibly turn into a career. Keep reading to find out:

  • How schools are investing in the Esports industry
  • What colleges are doing to promote Esports on campus
  • The benefits for student gamers interested in going pro
An empty collegiate esports arena awaiting players and spectators before a tournament
Full Sail University’s Fortress ESports Arena, courtesy Full Sail University’s website


Adapting to the Competitive Gaming Industry

Esports is heavily reliant on electronics that evolve, something colleges delving into the industry need to be aware of. Technology is constantly improving, and gamers are always going to prefer to play on the brightest screens and most advanced software or gear. Old and outdated equipment would prevent a player from performing at their best, just as worn shoes would slow down a runner.

Keeping up with the competition’s upgrades would also come into play. If opponents are constantly faster and more prepared because of their gear, players are going to feel as if they are always one step behind them. Say team A is using keyboards that just released a month before while team B is dealing with keyboards from four years ago. Chances are team B’s reaction times would be slowed down by the worn down keys. Even if both teams used the same tech during a competition, team B wouldn’t have had the practice with the newer keyboards, and their timing may be thrown off by the sudden change in key speed. It’s important to stay modern in an industry that focuses on such shifting equipment. Colleges will need to upgrade or get left behind.

Stay ahead of the tech curve translates to one thing for rising gamers and their campuses: Money.

Colleges must invest accordingly if they want Esports to thrive on campus. This has given rise to Esports ‘arenas’, spaces on school grounds outfitted with the latest gaming PCs, headphones, gamer chairs, and the like--all available for use by the varsity team members. These facilities are being set up to like a gym for Esports. Some even go bigger and include bleachers for fans to watch the action live when matches take place. None of this, of course, is cheap. Ashland University in Ohio completed construction of an arena in 2018 that cost just under ninety thousand dollars, while Full Sail University in Florida houses the largest campus arena in the country with millions invested in it. This doesn’t even include the cost of upgrading the technology every so often.

Investing doesn’t just stop at equipment. Campuses are also adding full-time Esports coaches to their faculty to help their players train. They act as a mentor for the games as well as aiding students in their classes, making them a valuable asset to any team. Some offer general knowledge in the industry, while other(more expensive) coaches are seasoned in one specific game.

Players themselves are beginning to land thousands of dollars in Esports scholarships for their skills. Colleges around the country are actively searching for experienced gamers to play for them, and are willing to lay down the funds necessary. Indeed, opportunities are popping up at high school college fairs everywhere right with the other sports teams. Prospective hopefuls could see a hefty chunk of their tuition covered if they’re able to earn it.

Serious money from colleges is going towards the Esports industry. It’s clear they see a bright future in competitive gaming as a sport.

Point Park University’s Super Smash Bros. Tournament, courtesy Sparkt.com


Esports is More Than Another Club

While interest in Esports may be high, are colleges doing enough to get students involved and devoted? It takes more than just competitive gaming or a colorful ad in a dorm hallway to draw in players and spectators alike. Some people may be interested but think ‘There's no way I’m good enough to be on the team’. One of the ways Campuses are combating this is with open tryout tournaments.

Open tryout tournaments are usually open to anyone and everyone that wants to play--no pro skills required. This way even casual players can join in the fun to see who has what it takes to be on an officIal Esports team. Maybe the skeptics will find that they are better at the game then they think they are.

One such tournament was held at Pennsylvania’s Point Park University during 2018 with the goal of drumming up excitement for Esports emerging on campus. Anyone could sign up, with free food and drinks provided as an extra incentive.  About one hundred members of the student body gathered for a night of friendly competition in Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo’s Wii U console. At the end of the competition, the top sixteen players who had outlasted the rest were invited to a final tournament to decide who has the skills for a future school sponsored Esports team. Several similar open tournaments were held for different games in later months.

These tournaments not only find the Esports competitors of the future, but also a starting audience for the young up-and comers. Drawing students in by gearing some events towards everyone and not just serious gamers will appeal to a much wider crowd. Some of the gamers who were knocked out early may come to other events anyway to be part of the excitement, and bring their friends with them.

The audience grows even larger when tournaments are streamed to the internet. Live streaming is common in Esports and can help varsity competitions reach an audience even beyond school grounds. When watching a tournament is as easy as clicking a link, even the laziest or furthest away fans can catch the action as it happens. As another benefit, even bigger third-party Esports organizations or promoters are able to spectate the players. Maybe they’ll even find their next big star in the making.

It seems that colleges are treating Esports at the same level as athletic sports, and in the process gaining the same amount of attention.  

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