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The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

Esports initiative fills void amid sports cancellations

Allison Grenier ’21 tests out the new esports lab equipment. PHOTO COURTESY OF MELISSA KELLY PHOTOGRAPHY

In a school year that has already seen the postponement of fall sports, esports has offered a different outlet for SJU Athletics.

Luke Laperriere ’21, member of the esports club team, said esports arrived at an ideal time when other sports and recreation activities are canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“Esports is a thing regardless of circumstances like COVID-19,” Laperriere said. “You don’t need to be close to everyone you’re playing with. It really gives people an opportunity to be active and engaged in a community even if you’re not necessarily present at St. Joe’s.” 

Esports are multiplayer video games which are played competitively to be viewed by spectators. Leagues or tournaments for esports are often based around specific video games such as League of Legends or Street Fighter, which are both popular in the esports community. Esports competitions take place all around the world, and can be played remotely, bringing in the greatest gamers from every corner of the globe. 

SJU Athletics helped to oversee the creation of the new esports club team and their  state-of-the-art esports lab in Merion Hall, which features 24 high-end gaming stations, a coaching station, sound paneling and ergonomic chairs, as well as the development of a new esports marketing course, according to Director of Athletics Jill Bodensteiner, J.D. 

“We intend to keep it as a club sport but there are tons of opportunities within leagues and conferences to join and compete against others and we really want that to be student driven,” Bodensteiner said. “We don’t want to create academic courses or clubs that don’t meet the students’ needs so we have really appreciated the input of student leadership so far.”

For Bodensteiner, the development of the esports program comes from three central ideas regarding esports and the future of the industry.

“First of all it’s fun,” Bodensteiner said.  “Number two, gaming has been demonstrated to develop skills like critical thinking, decision making, teamwork. People see it as an individual sport and it’s really not. Third, hopefully [esports offers] preparation and access to some careers in Philadelphia, which is a super hot area for esports and the gaming industry.” 

Last year, Comcast Spectacor announced the plan to build a $50 million esports and entertainment arena adjacent to XFinity Live! in South Philadelphia. It will be the largest newly constructed, dedicated esports arena in the  Western Hemisphere.

For Laperriere, St. Joe’s joining the forefront of the esports and gaming industry made a difference in his college experience.

“As a student and a member of the team, it’s really cool being on the cutting edge of what’s happening with esports,” Laperriere said. “In the past I haven’t been able to be involved with esports on a level I would have liked. But now that there’s the school support for it I can pursue it in a way that has more substance behind it.”

Bodensteiner said SJU Athletics hopes to build the esports program in the future.  

“I would say that we’ll see both growth in the academic offerings and growth in how the club team competes at the intercollegiate level,” Bodensteiner said. “We’ll take some time to see what would be the best experience for our students, and I do believe the [university] will decide which additional courses to add into the mix.”

The esports club team is looking to compete in tournaments and leagues based around three main video games, Smash Brothers, League of Legends and Overwatch. Pat Troise ’21, an esports club team member, said he is excited about the continued development of esports at St. Joe’s. 

“The future of esports is looking really great,” Troise said. “At this school it’s very inclusive. I get to sit down with all five of my teammates and discuss the game we’re playing.”

Laperriere said the esports lab is a perfect place for video game lovers. 

“Every person who loves video games dreams of having a room full of really nice computers where they can just go and play with their friends,” Laperriere said. “The esports lab has enough technology and computers and can be used for years to come.” 

Overall, the creation of the esports program helped create a sanctuary for gamers looking to get involved in competitive gaming.

“Now that we have the esports lab it just feels really great to have a spot to play with the team, review games and really take a deeper look into how to improve the team,” Troise said.


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