Competitive Gaming Starts on Campus

By Jackie Steinman ’20

Herald Contributor

The new E-Sports Gaming House opened on Pulteney Street with its ribbon-cutting ceremony just a few weeks ago. E-Sports refers to video gaming competitions in which individuals or teams can play against one another at the amateur, collegiate, or professional level. Overwatch and League of Legends are two games that have their own professional leagues and have led the pack in popularity in the United States. States and even countries have their own teams that compete on the international stage.

The E-Sports program at HWS was pioneered by several residents of the Levels gaming theme house ­­­­— located right next door.  The director of E-Sports, Aaron Donahue — with whom the writer has a personal relationship — worked closely alongside Dante Herrera and Jamie Kaewwanna, co-presidents of E-Scape, the casual gaming club that was started last year, to build E-Sports from scratch. The board helped to get the necessary funding and build the beautiful and complex computers they have now. Donahue, Kaewanna, and Herrera all worked with Rob Flowers to apply for funding to buy all the necessary parts to build the six high-capacity computers necessary for an advanced gaming team. Dante Herrera became the resident technician as he personally designed and constructed the computers. Brad Markowski was also instrumental in the creation of the new group and is preparing for his new position as an E-Sports Analyst for SMITE and League of Legends. Being an E-Sports analyst includes understanding and manipulating the overall strategy for each game, the individual positions and responsibilities of each player, and how team dynamics affect game play.

E-Sports and E-Scape have built a fruitful, intertwined partnership to develop HWS into a modern and progressive collegiate community. These groups have two separate goals but people who are interested in gaming often participate in both. E-Scape is focused on casual gaming and bringing students together on campus, while E-Sports was created for gaming at the collegiate level in a few specific areas such as Multiplayer Online Battle Arena. The focus of E-Sports teams is on League of Legends, Overwatch, and CS-GO but there is room for growth as interest increases in the program from students, faculty, and staff.

E-Sports is growing rapidly throughout the world and HWS is looking to compete with teams around the country later this semester. Many other colleges and universities around the country have gaming teams, including Dartmouth, Boston College, Illinois State University, Keuka College, and the University of California-Irvine. Even major sports outlets such as ESPN have begun to report on E-Sports competitions, as they draw hundreds of thousands of viewers and readers. Donahue attended Worlds Semi-Finals in 2016 and was inspired by how “excited [people are] to invest time and be part of it all. I want to bring that aspect of the competition to HWS.”

Donahue has high hopes for the program and wants to “start recruiting students to play at HWS and to build a better and stronger team each semester.” Now that the arduous process of setting the foundation is over, the team can begin tryouts and practices. The research that these students did on each computer part as well as running league tryouts and building the computers by hand shows that their dedication and hard work over the last several months has paid off. Donahue also thanked Rob Flowers and Professor Newby for their extensive support. And as the gamers say: GLHF (good luck, have fun!)

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