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Oregon Tech begins leveraging students’ gaming skills by launching eSports

Nov 03, 2017
Online video game participation continues to rise nationally and internationally and broadcast agencies and universities, now including Oregon Tech, are beginning to embrace the world of eSports

A new sports team is emerging for Oregon Tech, and it’s unlike any you’ve seen before. Nationally, eSports is making its way into the sports scene, with schools launching teams and earmarking scholarships for e-athletes engaged in this rising trend.

Online video game participation continues to rise nationally and internationally (South Korea has been on top of the trend for years) and broadcast agencies and universities, now including Oregon Tech, are beginning to embrace the world of eSports. At Oregon Tech, this new gaming community is an initiative of the retention office along with information technology services (ITS).

ESPN, which has eSports represented on their website menu board right alongside the NFL, NBA and MLB, reports that College esports is the next big thing in varsity athletics and is “growing in leaps and bounds. So much so, in fact, that the NCAA has taken up the topic.”

That is just one of the reasons why Oregon Tech created the program, managed by volunteer Andrew Coomes, information technology consultant for retention services, with help from Scotty Hayes, information technology consultant in ITS, and Population Health Management student Alisha Dura. Currently the Oregon Tech Gaming Society Club and eSports teams are supported by this initiative, which was created with the goal of establishing an official, supported eSports program within the university.

“ESports at the collegiate level provide a modern way for students to engage with their school and each other,” Coomes said. “The opportunities that eSports provide students continue to increase with scholarships and networking. It’s a cross-campus club unlike any other, which helps enforce our university community and bring in individuals with similar interests. One new student stated that Oregon Tech’s scholarship offerings led him to choose this university over 15 others – one of those scholarships was for making our varsity Overwatch team.”

The Oregon Tech Gaming Society holds events each month that include newbie nights, viewing parties, and LAN (local area network) parties, each one growing in participation as the club reaches out to students and the Klamath Falls community. A LAN party gathers players together to allow them to play multiplayer video games together, the most recent of which brought together over 150 players. The program also serves as a supporting community and talent pool for the eSports teams, of which there are four: Varsity Overwatch (top 14% in the division), Varsity League of Legends, JV Overwatch and JV League of Legends. All varsity team members earn scholarships, which are awarded fall, winter and spring terms; and eSports team members must meet the following academic requirements to maintain their spot on the team: 9 credit hours, 2.5 GPA and good academic standing. At this time, Oregon Tech’s teams have defeated multiple schools including Texas Tech, Indiana University and Grand Canyon University.

The opportunity eSports allows students to earn additional scholarships from outside of the university at tournaments helps highlight the value that companies are beginning to see in this forum. It is reported that the global eSports market generated revenues of $493 million in 2016 and is expected to make $696 million in 2017.

“In addition to providing a platform for careers in the video game industry, the skills developed by eSports-interested students are critical for success in the modern economy, including collaborative soft skills and technological competencies," said Coomes. "We see this initiative as building essential links to careers in software engineering, graphic design, animation, 3D and immersive world creation, and other media industries." All of which ties in closely with the hands-on technology focus Oregon Tech presents within its programs.

As eSports continues to develop at Oregon Tech, the Gaming Society welcomes students from any majors and any individual from the Klamath Falls community to participate in the next LAN party held Friday, November 10th to Saturday, November 11th. Goals for the future include extending the gaming invitation to other Oregon Tech campuses such as Portland-Metro and appropriately, Oregon Tech’s Online Education campus. More information can be found at www.facebook.com/OregonTechGamingSociety.

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