Veteran TU sports journalist Hannah Robbins and Sports Editor Brennen Gray report on the newest edition to TU’s student services: a brand new gaming lounge.
TU has built its very own esports lounge in what used to be known as the Fish Bowl, a little-used all purpose room in the Pat Case dining center. Renovations lasted through a good part of Fall Semester 2019, and the lounge opened in late January. The room has 26 gaming computers, a library of board games and various consoles open for student use.
Dr. Mel France, associate vice president of campus services, gave the background info for why TU decided on such a big upgrade for the unused space.
“The popularity of esports is rapidly growing; 90 percent of teens report playing esports,” said France.
While esports is a relatively broad term, it would be impossible to argue against the exponential growth in gaming has seen as an industry.
France also said that “hundreds of universities across the country are making investments in this emerging market, which is expected to reach $1.79 billion in global revenue by 2022.”
There is of course the question of whether or not the space is being used, and it seems that popularity is not a place in which the lounge is lacking.
France reported that “in a two week period there were over 625 swipes to access this space to practice their sport.”
Another advantage to the lounge is that it can function as a meeting place for clubs and organizations. Tabletop games have exploded in popularity the last couple years, and the recent release of “Super Smash Bros. Ultimate” has furthered the need for a reserved space for community gaming.
According to France, the esports lounge is “now home to the SMASH club who host a weekly event and to LANBrew who [hosted] their first event Feb. 7.”
Of course, the lounge itself has much bigger implications that a new place to hangout, TU now has esports teams as well that can use the space for honing their skills. This venture could prove advantageous for TU if the school hopes to bring home a national trophy in a sporting event in the near future.
TU’s “current varsity teams are: ‘League of Legends,’ ‘Rainbow Six,’ ‘Beat Saber,’ ‘Overwatch,’ ‘Magic: The Gathering,’ ‘CS:GO’ [‘Counter-Strike: Global Offensive’] and ‘Call of Duty,’” said Dr. France.
The esports season is just starting out for these teams, but Tulsa is holding their own with some room to grow. The Collegian spoke with Matthew Owens, captain of Tulsa’s League of Legends team, which is currently 2-1 after a loss against UT Arlington on Saturday. Owens believes the team has a “high chance of making the south conference playoffs,” and so far the team seems to rise to the occasion. Having a space to practice and dedicated resources has helped the team, and Owens believes that having a dedicated esports lounge “motivated [my teammates] to do well in the College League of Legends,” and has led to “more dedication” from the team.
On the other hand, this space is not as helpful for some of the rest of the teams on campus. The Collegian spoke with Morgan Dunn, one of the broadcasters for the Twitch channel, who volunteers his voice to commentate on many of the games Tulsa has played in. This gives Dunn a unique perspective on the teams since he has not only seen their matches up close and personal, but interacted with the teams before and after matches.
While some teams compete from different locations, such as the Counter-Strike: Global Offensive team led by Caleb Gardner, the Call of Duty team “is constantly practicing” and competes in the esports lounge, which allows them to discuss their matches with the broadcasters once the games are completed. While the team is together, they aren’t all on the same wavelength. The team is still “working out some kinks,” and hopefully bringing in people from other organizations, including “Socks” from Praxis, a team Tulsa lost against in January, will give the team the edge they need to cool down and work cohesively to improve their 1-3 record.
Hopefully these student-lead teams will continue to improve as their seasons go on, and the campus can tune in on Twitch to see their games live. At any rate, the esports lounge is a popular, much asked for addition to campus that seems to be doing a good job of enriching student life, regardless of how the new esports teams fare in competition.
Dr. France also mentioned that much of the renovations were done “in house using [the] physical plant to save on costs,” and that “several tables and chairs are repurposed from other spaces, especially in the teams room.” The thrifty spending reportedly saved the university a lot of money. The largest cost was purchasing the 26 gaming computers. Dr. France believes housing spent “around $3,000 for each gaming computer setup.”
She also cited that there was “minimal construction” needed considering the space is technically being used much as it was designed, although it was repainted and recarpeted to complete the look. In fact, many of the TV’s were already in the lounge, they were just moved around. Even the old cell phone charging stations were repurposed as USB charging stations. In addition to the 26 computers, the only other large cost reported was replacing the overhead light fixtures, which cost “around $20,000.”
The new facility is open noon to midnight every day of the week, and so far it has met with very positive reception from the students.
The Collegian also arranged an interview with Caleb Gardner, TU’s “CS:GO” captain.
1. Why do we have esports teams and an esports lounge?
Caleb: A student survey discovered that this was one of the most demanded student services as yet unseen on TU’s campus, so Housing & Dining prioritized the esports program here at TU for rapid development. Similarly, many students wanted to play esports under the TU banner, which is combining well with the lounge and new capabilities derived from it.
2. Can you tell me about the lounge? How good are the computers, do you know the total cost of the lounge?
Caleb: The lounge is a really thoughtfully designed space. It resides in what used to be the Fishbowl, and the studio/office are in the old card services offices just next door. I like spending time in both spaces; equal attention is given to comfort, video gaming and more traditional board gaming. The studio is well set up to stream our matches and is well equipped just like our team office, where the different teams can come to practice and play their matches together. Every computer in the lounge or the office is extremely powerful, with some of the best hardware and monitors to give our students the most pleasure in casual gaming and our teammates the most competitive edge in matches.
3. Are esports NCAA regulated? how is it different than an athletic team?
Caleb: Our TU esports program is now officially under the school’s umbrella, but we are not under any athletic banner such as the NCAA. Our official teams all play in certain leagues, for example the “CS:GO” team and the “League of Legends” team both under the Collegiate Starleague (CSL). All the different leagues have their own rules and regulations. The main difference, I would imagine, is more time is spent practicing the actual game in esports than might happen in traditional sports. That is to say, traditional sports involve a lot of physical conditioning that while very useful to the highest level esports athletes, is not an essential part of amateur esports training. However, there are certain similarities like having film days or strategizing sessions.
4. How does one join an esports team?
Caleb: Housing & Dining has put out an online form anyone can fill out to demonstrate their interest! All of the games we offer are listed there, including roles in broadcasting and streaming and behind the scenes.
5. Do you host tournaments open for viewing?
Caleb: Our Twitch channel is twitch.tv/tulsaesports, where we stream all of our official matches that we can! We also have a calendar of events that will sometimes include in-house competitions between students.