Rogers State University this fall will launch competitive video gaming, known as esports or electronic sports, as an organized university activity, making RSU the first university in Oklahoma to offer esports as an official activity.
Esports are massively popular worldwide especially among high school and college-aged students, where they compete in games such as “League of Legends,” “Overwatch,” “Hearthstone,” “Rocket League,” and others. During esports competitions, individuals and teams compete in online games that can also be broadcast in large venues, sometimes drawing tens of thousands of spectators.
At the college level outside Oklahoma, schools have been organizing college teams to compete against other college teams and the general public within the virtual game environment. Some student organizations have been established at other Oklahoma schools, but RSU is the first college to offer esports as an official activity.
RSU officials said esports is a natural fit and will be a recruiting tool for the university, which has nationally recognized technology programs and a unique bachelor’s degree option in game development. While those technology degrees are a logical fit for many in the electronic gaming community, RSU’s esports programs would be open to RSU-enrolled students from all academic disciplines.
Among the general public, esports has a relatively low profile but is wildly popular worldwide and quickly gaining traction in the United States. As an example of its worldwide popularity, the official League of Legends YouTube channel has more than 2.6 million subscribers, with its 2017 world championship drawing nearly 33 million viewers worldwide. Schools outside Oklahoma that have added esports programs dramatically increasing participation rates in a short amount of time.
RSU has started upgrading an auditorium in Herrington Hall, home of its technology programs, into an esports competition room complete with tiered seating so games may watched by the room’s spectators. University officials plan on working with outside groups to utilize the facility for gaming tournaments or other activities that tie in with esports or its technology programs.
A task force of RSU faculty, staff and students are working together to organize the esports launch, including getting on-campus or community volunteers to help organize and manage RSU’s esports, while creating an organizational structure that allows esports to be successful and grow. Officials are working closely with a newly created student group, Consoles and PCs, which is focused on the campus gaming community.