Esports ‘kick-off’ at Baldwin Wallace

In an increasingly digital age, electronic sports, or “Esports,” have risen rapidly in popularity. Players compete online individually, or on teams in different video games ranging from first person shooter to racing, while millions of fans watch. The Esports industry is becoming more prevalent as a legitimate form of sport entertainment, and many Universities across the nation have started their own Esports programs. Baldwin Wallace is not far behind.

Led by Charles Campisi, the chair of the Sports Management department, faculty members across all different concentrations have teamed up to bring Esports to campus. The program will be a part of the university to start, more than a club, but not quite the same as a varsity sport.

To gauge student interest, the 8-person faculty team polled students asking if they would want to compete on an Esports team, and which games they were most interested in. This poll revealed many students were interested in gaming, and many were willing to step into leadership roles as in program management or as game coaches.

From the poll, faculty determined which game titles students were most interested in competing in. Super Smash Bros, Rocket League, Overwatch, NBA 2k, League of Legends, Fortnight, and FIFA all had over 100 student responses. Of those titles, four were selected for students to compete in this Spring. “We chose an option that makes it easy for us to get into competitions right away,” said Campisi.

Students involved with the Esports program could expect to spend a few hours once a week training for competitions starting in March. “We don’t want this to take away from their class time” said Daniel Joslin, an admissions counselor working with Campisi.

Joslin explained that students need no prior experience in any game to practice and compete with the team, but may need their own equipment such as a computer or headset. Campisi hopes that in the future the program will be able to secure equipment such as computers for computer based competition, gaming chairs, headsets, controllers, keyboards, and monitors. “Hopefully by fall we’ll have a space to provide operational assistance,” said Campisi.

Due to COVID-19 many sports have had to make major adjustments to their practices and competitions, but the nature of Esports allows competition to happen online, without any travel required. Teams from BW can compete against other schools in Ohio, other states, or even other countries. “That’s part of the beauty of it-that interconnectivity,” said Campisi, “you can engage with folks all over the world.”

Esports isn’t only about playing video games. Students can learn important social skills such as teamwork, creative problem solving, and leadership. That’s what interested Jennifer Mackin, an adjunct professor at BW, about the project. Mackin looks to use her background in leadership training to guide students in developing real world skills through Esports. “It’s about personal self-esteem and working hard to achieve valuable life experience,” said Mackin, “besides having fun, it has conceptual thinking skills, and truly critical strategic skills.”

She is also focused on the aspects of inclusivity in Esports. While Esports may seem male-dominated, Mackin explained that the accessibility of Esports helps to maintain great diversity across the industry and the faculty involved want to be sure that all BW students feel safe and accepted in the Esports program. To be on a team, students will need to adhere to a code of conduct outlining what behavior is acceptable, “We want to value the inclusivity” said Mackin.

The Esports program will have a ‘soft launch’ in the spring and interested students can contact Charles Campisi (ccampisi@bw.edu) to learn more about the program and how to join the team.