The world of esports is a fast-growing industry that draws interest from younger, tech-savvy generations. Esports are defined as multi-player video games played in competitive tournaments, especially by professional gamers. Ohio University plans on changing the lack of video game presence within the university by opening a new esports facility.
Jeff Kuhn, OU’s esports director, said that this new addition holds great importance.
"Videogames are one of the dominant media pastimes of people under the age of 30 and are a $150 billion-a-year industry, yet have typically had little presence in higher education," Kuhn said in an email. "Also, the number of universities offering esports has grown from just one in 2014 to over 350 today. In large part, this is due to a growing number of high schoolers who are factoring esports into their choice of university, so we see the esports facility as a recruitment platform for high school students who are exploring which university to attend."
Other significant media, such as books, music, movies and theater have dedicated physical spaces on campus. Therefore, the goal of the esports facility is to give the same space to students interested in the topic, or students pursuing a certificate through OU’s new esports certificate program.
Located in the basement of Scripps Hall, the esports center will reside in room 001. The opening date has yet to be decided.
"Our hope is to open the space in late October; however, the global computer chip shortage has been a problem when ordering our computers for the space," Kuhn said in an email. "As a result, it may not be until spring semester that we are able to open."
The esports center consists of two sections. The first section is a 30-seat community gaming arena, open for anyone to play a wide selection of video games. This section will have two console gaming areas. The second section is a varsity gaming area filled with 12 computers for Bobcat esports teams competing in the Mid-American Conference's new Esports Collegiate Conference.
The facility will also be a hub for the Bobcat Esports student club that came into existence in 2016, thanks to OU alumni who saw a lack of esports opportunities for students.
Pat Daley, current president of Bobcat Esports, describes the club as "the umbrella gaming and esports club on campus."
"We serve casual and competitive gamers alike and offer a welcoming and friendly space for anyone interested in games, regardless of their experience," Daley said in an email. "We have teams that compete at the highest level, folks that want to be competitive right where they are, and folks who just want to goof off in their favorite games and not take anything too seriously."
The most popular esports clubs are Rocket League, League of Legends, Overwatch, Valorant, Super Smash Brothers and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive.
Daley is most excited to see all the hard work that has gone into the facility come to life.
"I know personally so many people that have worked so hard to see a space like this become a reality on campus at OU," Daley said in an email. "So just seeing a space like this existing in the first place is the culmination of years of hard work, and I couldn't be prouder of the people that have supported us and helped us get here. I am also incredibly excited about our broadcasting space, where we have a team of students dedicated to streaming and broadcasting our events and tournaments from right in the facility on our Twitch channel."
All students are welcome to play casually in the facility or try out for one of the Bobcat Esports varsity teams. Students can also get involved in the many working parts of broadcasting, whether behind-the-scenes production, announcing or pitching their ideas.
Bobcat Esports mainly uses the application Discord. Discord is a popular application within the gaming world, and its users can select to join certain club sections.
Interested students can participate at the link discord.gg/ohioesports. If students would like more information or have questions, they can email firstname.lastname@example.org.