Butler University recently unveiled stunning plans for an esports space in the Atherton Student Union as well as a first-floor area in the adjacent parking garage to make it even larger. The gaming center will be a multi-purpose place for both the esports team to practice and play and for other students to use.
The initiative is part of an overall movement, called Butler Beyond, to make the university more technologically advanced. The campaign has raised more than $176 million that it says will empower students to excel through Butler Beyond’s innovative ideas, community partnerships and expanded scholarships and resources. It needs about $75 million more to reach its goal.
Part of the plan includes that new esports center, a 7,500-square-foot space, which will feature 16 gaming computers, additional consoles and an area for training that could include be utilized for youth STEM programs and sports camps. According to the school, there will also be a broadcast area for podcasts and live events. The initial esports space will be ready in late November, with the complete build-out targeted for the fall of 2020.
“While competitive and recreational esports is a key driver of this new space, our vision is larger,” Melissa Beckwith, Butler’s vice president for strategy and innovation, said in the university’s announcement. “Our goal is to create a space that will ultimately support curricular innovation, serve the K-12 community, and align with two of the city’s economic engines—sports and technology. Integrating these efforts is the key to creating maximum impact for our students, faculty, and broader community.”
Butler already has an esports team that is part of the Big East Conference and TESPA. Students compete in both Rocket League and League of Legends. Its players are strong gamers, but all have ambitions beyond esports; a few of the majors of those students include Pharmacy, Biology, Finance and Digital Media Production.
One of the visionaries behind expanding the garage area was faculty member James McGrath, Professor of Religion and Classics. In his blog and in an interview with the university’s publications, McGrath offered a few progressive thoughts on gaming and academics:
“There is real educational value in the mixing of gaming and learning because, I remember at one point in my life, learning was fun,” McGrath said. “People like to game. Faculty are starting to recognize the value of these types of things as part of culture and things we can harness for good in terms of learning outcomes. The fact that institutions such as our own are being more aware that people need to be well-rounded and that involves different things, even gaming, is a huge step toward true innovation.”
Another faculty member, James Goldsmith, Associate Professor of English, told Butler’s publications: “These kids grow up playing video games much more than watching movies, so it is vital that we teach them to think about this medium critically with the same attention we ask of them when reading Shakespeare,” he says. “If they are playing these games, and if they will one day produce these games, we must encourage them to think more deeply about the relationship between story, game, and what players want out of a game.”
New Mexico Hosting Esports Conference
Industry leaders and students are converging on the Isleta Resort and Casino for the New Mexico Technology in Education (NMTIE) Conference today through Friday, where esports will be featured.
“We will be working with NMTIE to showcase esports in an educational capacity,” says Bernardo Gallegos, University of New Mexico Esports staff advisor. “This is a way to educate and raise awareness of our esports program, and possibly recruit future Lobos who can compete and also help grow the program.”
The show features sessions, exhibits and exhibitors. But it also will be highlighted by three days of esports competitions, as UNM faces off against New Mexico Tech, New Mexico State University and Santa Fe Community College. High school students from Rio Rancho High School and Early College Academy also will be in action.
This week’s shout-outs
CAROLINA MILANESI, CREATIVE STRATEGIES, INC.: “Simply equating eSports to gaming, like equating First Lego Robotics to just coding, would miss the number of skills this discipline, yes I said it, it is a discipline, requires. Many of these games are team-based and require: communication, writing for multiple purposes, and for different media formats, reading comprehensive information and directions, listening skills. I would bet these are the skills any recruiter is looking for in both a leader or a team player.”
GREG ADLER, esports director, on the launch of competitive esports at The University of Texas-Dallas: “UTD is a self-proclaimed ‘nerdy’ school. Some of our biggest majors are computer science, video game design So esports is a perfect fit.”
TAMMY ELMORE, in a Los Angeles Times story about her son Blaze, who has forged a pro career while being a high school student. “At first I told him, ‘No, absolutely not. I’ve got work and you’ve got school. But he was just so persistent. I finally gave in.”
Across the keyboard …
CELTICS, BECKER COLLEGE TEAM UP ON ESPORTS NIGHT: Becker College’s Vaughn Calhoun, director of business and esports management, is taking part in a panel discussion before tonight’s Boston Celtics-Milwaukee Bucks game at TD Garden. This is the first time the Celtics have held such an event, dubbed ‘Esports Night,’ which will focus on education opportunities, healthy gaming habits and becoming a pro player. Calhoun will speak about the school’s esports management program and how it complements the gaming culture at Becker, which also has a nationally acclaimed game-design program. The Celtics have an NBA2K team (Celtics Crossover Gaming) that began its third season last week.
CARVING OUT A SPACE IN THE ADIRONDACKS: Stewart’s Shops, a convenience store chain in the Northeast, donated $100,000 to Paul Smith’s College in upstate New York for a new on-campus esports training and competition space that will include spectator seating. Stewart’s has been a big donor to the Lake Placid, NY, college in the past, but this is the largest single offering it has made. Paul Smith’s is a member of the ECAC that competes in a variety of games and will host an esports tournament as part the 2020 Empire State Winter Games, the Olympic-sytle statewide competition for amateur athletes, including K-12 students.
Interested in esports? Keep up with LRP’s Academic Esports Conference. The event is October 19-21 at the Hilton Chicago. LRP has opened up a call for speakers on the site for those interested in submitting proposals.
Chris Burt is LRP’s Editor for Esports for University Business and the Chair for the Academic Esports Conference and Expo.