E-Sports Arena

Daniel O'Malley, Staff Writer

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Despite traditionalist opposition, the Juniata College e-sports team is entering its second year with high levels of administrative support. They will be provided with five scholarships of $2,500 each, which can be awarded to members based off of their skill level and knowledge of e-sports. An e-sports facility is finishing development in TNT, with 10 computers dedicated to e-sports and a film review area. A head coach, Alex Kuirtz, has been hired for the team.

Kurtz had said that despite the opposition, e-sports could be extremely beneficial to Juniata, and stressed the possibility of careers within the growing e-sports field. “I think the people who look down on e-sports right now are a little bit stuck in the mud. We are talking about an industry that is the sixth fastest growing industry in the world. The industry is over one billion dollars. This is not going away. There are not only opportunities for competition, but opportunities for the academic side as well.” He went on to mention that most e-sports franchises have jobs that are required in the corporate world, like social media, technology experts, PR and managers. Kurtz believes it is possible to make a career out of e-sports. “For someone who says they don’t want to do it because it’s video games, is overlooking what’s on the horizon. It’s there and it’s not going away.” Kurtz said that when he entered college, a person needed connections to even get a small job related to e-sports, but its popularity has grown in the last four years. “It’s risen so fast, there is literally not enough supply to keep up with the demand for all the jobs that these organizations are offering. For us not to explore would be a terrible decision going forward. This is going to bring a lot of great things to the university.”

Some former alumni had complained last fall when Juniata announced the new e-sports program on Facebook. A few alumni said resources should be spent on traditional athletic programs like wrestling, and that spending money on video games was a waste of resources.

Politics Professor Emil Nagengast said he was originally “100% against it”, but now supports it as an extracurricular club, but not as a varsity sport. He notes that older generations always look down on the new interests of young people, which he points out that is what his father did to him in regards to his interest in football. “I just don’t get it and I think it’s stupid,” says Nagengast, continuing that his conversation with former team captain Ambrose Lutwyche (who graduated last spring), softened his feelings towards e-sports after seeing how serious Ambrose was about it. Nagengast believes that e-sports is unhealthy and that making it a varsity sport is legitimizing it, comparing it to having a varsity drinking team. He says that “it takes an activity that in moderation, you are just letting off steam, but if you elevate it into an obsession, it will kill you”. Nagengast believes that money should be spent on study abroad scholarships instead.

Students have concerns about e-sports as well. Junior Alyosha Perez said that he is fine with e-sports as a team or extracurricular activity but Juniata should be spending money on other programs and services for students, like mental health services.

Junior Delaney Brown had similar complaints. She called it “a waste of money,” and felt that the school has bigger needs then e-sports. She said, “there’s better things they can spend money on. The inclusion is great, but we have shitty dorms, food issues, and building repairs.”

Kurtz says he understands where critics are coming from. “It’s a knee jerk reaction whenever you see a lot of money being spent in different places. When I was a student I did the same thing. Having been on the administration side, there are a lot of things behind the scenes that people don’t see. I think this is going to be a really good thing for this university in terms of students being happy and giving us something we can be proud of and even further students academic career and maybe land them a job later on. The amount of jobs that are going to be available in the next three years is incredible.”

Despite these complaints, the administration thinks e-sports can add revenue to the college. Dean of students Matthew Damschroder said “we had a working group in the fall of 2018 that developed a proposal that looked at e-sports and potential to contribute to revenue on our campus with recruitment of new students and we looked at benefit of e-sports and establishing it as a formal varsity level program versus demands and draws. We determined that it would be beneficial to move that program forward.”

Kurtz graduated from Susquehanna University last Spring and was previously the unofficial head coach of its e-sports club while he was a junior and coach of its e-sports club while he was a junior and senior, as well as doing an independent study on e-sports and developing a seven week two credit class on the rise of e-sports.

Kurtz began work at the end of May, which was the end of the recruiting cycle. Juniata had four seniors graduate last year. He said it’s the equivalent of “an offensive coordinator coming in for a D1 Football team and realizing that all 11 of his starters weren’t there.” Kurtz pointed to freshman Tim Mong as the best recruit.

Despite some setbacks, Kurtz believes this team has potential. “It all depends on how well they work together. You can have the highest ranked players in the game, but if you don’t communicate well or get along, the team is not going to succeed. From what I have heard from the players, I think we have a chance to be successful, at least in the Landmark Conference.”

The season begins in the Spring, with Conference playing beginning in late February, early March. The top four out of the six teams will go to the playoffs. The top 2 then qualify for the National College Play ins, which Juniata qualified for last year, where Juniata finished 3-4. In order for Juniata to proceed, it needed to finish in the top 2 in that field where they would have then gone on to the National Championship in California. Juniata will also play in the ECAC tournament on September 23rd, which will serve as a warm up for the season.

 

 

BEHIND THE STORY

  1. Why did we report on this?
    • Daniel reported on this because he is a sports writer and thought it would be interesting to report on the rise of e-sports at Juniata and the general student opinion on it.
  2. How did we get the information to report on this?
    • Daniel got information on this by contacting the e-sports coach Alex Kurtz, dean of students Matthew Damschroder, and by interviewing students.
  3. How can the reader get more information on the topic covered?
    • Readers may get in contact with Daniel (omalldj17@juniata.edu) with any further questions for Alex Kurtz about e-sports.
  4. Did we miss something?
    • Let us know! Contact Daniel (omalldj17@juniata.edu) with any further questions, comments, or concerns about this article, or to suggest further articles about this topic.