Esports: Reinventing the idea of sport

Members of NIU’s Esports club

Did you know that esports are among the fastest growing sports on college campuses, with more than 70 varsity and 200 club teams on U.S. college campuses as of March 2018? Esports – or professional video gaming – is also a multi-million dollar global business, with career opportunities in professional gaming, marketing and merchandising, event planning, broadcasting and more.

At the next STEM Café, a panel of experts from NIU will give an overview of esports and introduce the audience to specific aspects of esports related to business, communication, gender and the role of gaming on college campuses.

Conner Vagle, president of the NIU Esports Club, will introduce esports from the perspective of participants and businesses. Vagle is an esports competitor and a shoutcaster – or esports play-by-play announcer. He hopes to give the audience a basic introduction to esports that will be interesting to esports fans and newcomers alike.

“I hope people are surprised at just how expansive and substantive the esports community is,” he says, “especially outside the United States.”

Eric Hoffman, who is an NIU English instructor and a Guild Officer in the popular esports game World of Warcraft, will describe the pressures of high-stakes competitive gaming and the impact of different communication tools upon the social interactions of online gamers.

“I hope to demonstrate that success in high-stakes competitive gaming requires a very particular skill set and that gaming includes many of the same kinds of interpersonal issues we see in any competitive sporting environment,” Hoffman says. “However, the nature of the communication tools introduces new issues that have to be addressed.”

Claire Zvosec, Ph.D., NIU assistant professor of Sport Management, will talk about the role of esports on college campuses and how esports can be mutually beneficial to students and institutions.

“The popularity of esports will only continue to grow,” she says, “and it’s up to colleges and universities to determine how to best incorporate esports into campus offerings.”

At the NIU Esports Club Café and Conquer tournament, competitors play Rocket League.

Aline Click, Ph.D., director of the NIU Digital Convergence Lab and faculty advisor of the NIU Esports Club, will discuss her experience with the NIU Esports Club and the Esports Bootcamp for junior high and high school students that NIU introduced this past summer. She’ll focus on gender as one factor that influences esports experiences.

Click says, “One of the things we notice as we look at both esports and our video game design camps is the relative lack of female participants. Research shows almost fifty percent of gamers are female, so where are they in esports or the video game development industry?”

The STEM Café will take place on Thursday, Sept. 27, from 6:30-8:30 p.m. in the Founders Memorial Library Staff Lounge on the NIU DeKalb campus. The event is free and open to the public. Food and beverages will be available for purchase from Einstein’s Bagels in Founders Memorial Library.

NIU STEM Cafés are designed to increase public awareness of the critical role that STEM fields play in our everyday lives.

This event will be streamed live on Twitch.tv on the niu_esports channel.

Free parking is available after 5 p.m. in the NIU visitor parking lot and the NIU parking garage, both on Carroll Avenue, see the parking map for more details.

For more information, contact Judith Dymond, Ed.D., at jdymond@niu.edu or 815-753-4751.

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