With in-person activities limited because of the coronavirus pandemic, one way students have found to stay engaged with the campus community this semester is through esports, or competitive video gaming. And that isn’t the only benefit, as esports have opened the door for other students, as well.
“It allows us to also connect with a demographic of students that were not always engaged with on-campus activities,” said Mason J. Meiler, programming coordinator for Student Leadership and Engagement. “Consequently, it allows students to connect with each other on a platform they are comfortable with, which is gaming.”
Esports, short for “electronic sports,” is competitive video gaming on various gaming systems, such as Sony’s PlayStation, Microsoft’s Xbox, Nintendo’s Switch, and personal computers. It has grown into a billion-dollar industry since gaming’s explosion in popularity beginning in the 1990s, Meiler said, and has grown in popularity within higher education over the past decade. Buffalo State College esports, which is in its first semester, has grown rapidly since it began nearly three months ago.
“Buffalo State esports is having a great inaugural semester, with over 100 students registered,” Meiler said. “We will continue our efforts to build the program up by surveying participating students to see what they want included in the program in terms of what games to play and when to have tournaments.”
In addition to holding intramural tournaments throughout the semester, Buffalo State is also part of the SUNY Fall Esports League. The final intramural tournament of the semester will be held over Thanksgiving break, from November 27 through 29. Students can still register for the tournament, which will feature one-on-one competitions in Super Smash Bros and Madden NFL 21, and two-against-two competitions in Rocket League and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Gunfight.
While winners of the tournaments earn prizes and bragging rights, there’s more to it, Meiler said.
“Participating in esports provides valuable co-curricular experience,” he said, adding that students can also gain management, marketing, communications, and design skills through the leagues and tournaments. “We have students streaming their matches and others casting for others to see or watching matches and providing commentary as others watch live. Students have to connect with each other and work strategically during their matches.”
For the spring semester, Buffalo State will again participate in the SUNY Spring 2021 Esports League, as well as host intramural tournaments. Registration for the spring will start toward the end of January, Meiler said. Games for the spring haven’t been announced yet.
While esports provided a way for students to be engaged during the coronavirus pandemic, it isn’t going anywhere, Meiler said. It continues to grow in popularity at the high school and college levels, so continuing to build the program could draw potential students to Buffalo State and provide a nontraditional experience in a growing field.
“We will continue long after the coronavirus pandemic ends.”
Pictured: Gaming stations of seniors Preston Biocevich (top) and Ryan Goddard (inset)