OMEN and College Esports Descend Upon Des MoinesTopics:Tradeshows + Events
Across the globe, esports is exploding in popularity like never before. Whereas competitive gaming used to be primarily online play, today live tournaments played in arenas capable of seating thousands are being streamed by millions. With this unprecedented growth comes not only excitement and a variety of challenges, but also emulation and adaptation. A wide variety of college sports - from basketball to golf - provide their athletes with the facilities and training to take their game to the professional level. With this in mind, colleges are now beginning to see the value in creating similar programs for their electronic athletes and forming organizations such as the NACE (National Association of Collegiate Esports).
One school that has taken the initiative with college esports is Grand View University (GVU) of Des Moines, Iowa. This past weekend OMEN by HP was proud to sponsor and provide registration gift giveaways and tournament door prizes for the Global Esports Classic and Clinic - which was played entirely at GVU campus on our cutting edge desktops and displays. This twelve-team League of Legends tournament featured three pools for seeding and featured a variety of school such as CU Boulder, Indiana Tech and of course Grand View University. It was an extremely hard fought and exciting contest that culminated with AZIO Esports defeating Columbia College to take home the championship.
While this intense competition was a driving force behind attracting teams, athletic directors and representatives from around North America, it was not the only reason they were there. The Clinic part of the weekend focused entirely educating attendees, which also included a representative of the NCAA. The Clinic’s opening topic was a study on the evolution of competitive esports by Kurt Melcher, the Executive Director of Esports for Intersport. During his talk, he broke down game publishers, specific games, leagues that are forming, and the companies and organizations that are sponsoring these different leagues and games.
Dedicated session topics also included:
- How to start a university (high school) esports program
- The benefits of joining an association
- The esports athlete – stages of development
- Principles of play in competitive esports
- Developing a productive practice
- Recruiting the esports athlete
For many in attendance, the Clinic served as a learning experience. Keeping an open mind, they considered whether or not esports should have a future at their schools and, if so, how to make it happen. Currently, about 35 of the represented universities are in the decision making process or have already committed to starting a program in the fall of 2018.
As it was put by one attendee, “esports doesn’t really have a Mike Krzyzewski or any long established names in the college scene. For a lot of people here, this is like learning about a sport you’ve never played in your life. Imagine trying to learn football for the first time!”
This prevailing spirit of anticipation for the undertaking ahead was captured well by Joshua Pann, HP’s Product Manager for Education, who said, “seeing so many people committed to building a quality program makes me excited for the future of esports. We're going to see an explosion of opportunities for students to pursue their passions in a structured environment while receiving an education. The OMEN brand is proud to empower these students to compete at the highest level with quality dependable gear. That schools like Grand View continue to raise awareness for collegiate esports is incredibly exciting.”
Jay Prescott, Vice President of Student Affairs as well as the Esports Director at Grand View University, spoke to this further when stating, “HP has been a great sponsor right out of the gate. Their OMEN gaming stations are excellent equipment and priced in a way that is affordable for a beginning varsity program that is shooting to compete at a top-tier level. They also understand how vital education is to this entire process. Without teaching and learning taking place amongst all roles within esports, the quality of the programs will not keep up with the pace of growth. Their willingness to collaborate with Grand View on the first Global Esports Classic and Clinic allowed us to invite university and high school athletic directors from across the country to come to our campus and learn from the pioneers and leaders in the collegiate esports world. We look forward to a long and rewarding collaboration that extends the learning and growth of all those involved in the exploding university competitive esports culture.”
What about the students though? Without players, esports doesn’t happen, so we sat down with a few of Grand View’s top players - Jon “Fuki” Quach and Jun “Jun” Chang - to get their feedback on some questions.
HP: How has your experience been with Grand View University on the esports side of things and did you go here specifically because of their growing esports program?
Jon: For the most part my experience with Grand View University has been good on the esports side. Even though we are lacking in some areas, the staff has made a good effort to try and help fix whatever problems we have in whatever way they can. I did come specifically for the esports program and was specifically chosen to lead it, help it expand, and be successful.
Jun: I specifically went to Grand View University because of the upcoming esports program that they wanted to do. However, I also wanted to finish my degree and graduate. The experience of being able to play on the esports team and get an education has been a life changer.
HP: Assuming universities and colleges across the nation now had esports programs covering a variety of games, what would be the most important factors toward choosing where you'd go to school?
Jon: The most important factors would be the offer they would be willing to give me scholarship and program wise, as well as current roster.
Jun: The very first factor I would look into would be how the environment on the team is. I would rather be on a lower skilled team that can work from mistakes and learn to improve than a team that solely wants to win and forget the team aspect of the game. The other factors mainly include how established the school is with their esports program, how much the people in the program care about esports as a whole, and the direction they are looking to push toward.
HP: How would you feel about certain esports games consolidating into leagues at the professional level and eventually having a draft for college players?
Jon: Ah, well I think it would be good if collegiate players could be drafted into something like the LCS. I don't see it happening very often though. The best players would rather play in LCS over college if they are able to. It would take college esports becoming a true place of growth to reach the professional level for this to ever happen though.
Jun: I actually think having a separate league for college players would be great. I’ve always been a fan of the draft system making its way towards esports because the draft allows more options to become a pro. Having a league would provide huge exposure for the college scene.
HP: Unlike physical sports, gamers have the ability to practice their craft 12-16+ hours a day should they so desire. How do you feel the studies and classroom requirements of college will impact gamers who are trying to go the collegiate route?
Jon: I feel that it’s more difficult on a mental health standpoint than anything. As for me and some of the other players on my team, we are super invested in our League career and our team. If things go badly with the team, then we are likely to not be as successful in our classes. Workload wise I don't see there being a big issue, however, that may just be because our school is well adjusted to athletics. I don't think the college scene is currently competitive enough to warrant the amount of practice time that would interfere with classes.
Jun: I believe that gamers will be frustrated at first because they have never needed to be disciplined for playing. I think most of the college guidelines are pretty fair and it’s up to the gamer to balance work and play. When gamers get over the initial hump of going to classes and doing homework then they can perfect their craft whenever they want to. I strongly disagree that gamers should be treated differently because of how much time they can put into a game for multiple hours non-stop.
HP: Following up on that last question, would you say that schools having top notch programs, coaching, and competition would entice people to take the school route to have a structured method of gaining a path to the pros over gunning for it out of high school?
Jon: I think that it would definitely entice more players to go to school. However, I don't think this will be the case for a long time. There are so few good coaches in the current professional scene that I don't see the college scene grabbing them anytime soon. I picked college because it was a better life decision and I wouldn't have to give up league. If there are good programs I think more people would do it for that reason.
Jun: I would want people to take the college route over coming out of high school and playing as a pro. I believe that many pros in esports right now are very immature and if they were to go through college for at least a year like college basketball, then they would be more ready to be a professional and we would not see 17-18 year olds wasting some of their professional careers because of impulsiveness.
HP: Finally, what do you think a company like HP should do to best help furthering esports, both from the college athlete side of things and overall?
Jon: HP should try to be as involved as possible in whatever they can esports wise. A good suggestion would be for HP to host tournaments. It would expand their influence on the esports scene as well as esports outreach in the mainstream world. It would be a win-win for both parties. I think doing such a thing would also help the competitiveness of current esports players and help college scouts, as live tournaments are really great experiences for current and aspiring competitive gamers. Another thing would be to help as many teams get high end equipment as possible. The OMENs we have now are really good and I know other players from other schools liked it when they played on them. If more equipment goes out, more teams get to play.
Jun: One thing that companies could do is to create more tournaments for college players to get accustomed to live events. Another idea is to generate more awareness about esports so that it is not a taboo profession anymore.
The Global Esports Classic and Clinic at Grand View University has proven to be an instrumental motivator and affirmation of HP’s quest to help college esports progress, both now and into the future. We thank Jay Prescott and the rest of GVU for hosting such a great event. We were proud to be a part of it. Also, another shout out to Jon and Jun for taking part in our Q&A. Expect more news from us regarding this journey into college esports moving forward!