One of the most fascinating current trends in higher education is the rise of esports programs and competitive online gaming. The Division of Student Affairs at Illinois State University is pleased to announce a competitive esports program, launching fall 2020.
The esports program, under the leadership of Campus Recreation, will feature a competitive varsity team as well as several club teams under the umbrella of Redbird Esports. Additionally, any student who wishes to participate in gaming will be able to use the facility as casual gamers. Illinois State will be the first public institution in the state to offer esports at the varsity level.
To date, Illinois State has 12 competitive esports teams that play games such as League of Legends and Overwatch. Currently, the students are using the DIGGS (Digital Innovation, Graphics, and Gaming Studio) space in Julian Hall. In order to expand the esports program, plans are underway to transition to a larger space. The Bowling and Billiards Center (BBC) Activity Room has been identified as the future home for esports at Illinois State. While the facility will not be complete by the beginning of the fall 2020 semester, the varsity team will be fully in place.
Vice President for Student Affairs Levester “LJ” Johnson is excited about the possibilities the esports program will offer to students and the campus. “Beyond the tremendous recruitment potential that comes with programs like this, we are also thrilled about the opportunities to build meaningful connections with this niche population of students,” he said.
A common misconception about esports is that it only involves gaming. However, participants in esports programs also gain skills through their involvement, such as leadership, problem solving, and strategic thinking. Leadership development, in particular, is a primary focus and expectation in Campus Recreation. The department will serve esports students by not only celebrating their talent in gaming but also in their leadership.
The esports program will also create educational opportunities for students who may be considering careers in the gaming industry. Video game development, event management, and broadcasting are just a few of the activities that will be available to students.
“The program is intentional about fostering student success not only as it relates to the outcomes of the games, but also in the experiences created for students beyond graduation,” said Dawn Pote, executive director of Campus Recreation. “I’m excited about working with academic partners, such as Arts Technology, to build an amazing program that can serve our students both in and out of the classroom.”
Planning is underway and a construction timeline for the Activity Room is expected by December 1. Once the timeline is finalized, the campus will be notified of the date that the Activity Room will be permanently offline for scheduled events. Bowling leagues and classes will continue to be offered.