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Bringing eSports to campus

By Dave Flaherty/The Oshawa Express

Durham College is about to take gaming to a whole other level.

Construction will begin shortly on the school’s eSports Gaming Arena.

The arena will be located in the student centre at the Oshawa campus, part of a larger renovation of the former E.P. Taylor’s pub.

It is the first part of a four-phase plan that will see the creation of an eSports club, varsity team, and integration of eSports into current and future curriculum.

Marianne Marando, executive dean of DC’s School of Business, IT and Management, says professor Michael Cameron approached the school with the idea.

“We saw an opportunity to participate, including varsity sports initiatives and student engagement. It’s a huge market, and we want to be leaders,” Marando says.

According to studies, the eSports industry netted $1.5 billion in 2017, an increase from $900 million in 2016.

The arena will house 30 computers for use by eSports club members and 20 high-end computers in a separate, glassed-off area of the room for varsity gamers to train. Additional tables and seating allow for spectators as well as a lounge area with screens that will stream the games.

It is set to open sometime this fall, with the club and varsity team to follow.

Many colleges and universities in Canada and the U.S. have competitive varsity eSports teams along the lines of other sports.

“We hope to draw students to Durham College based on the opportunity,” Marando says.

Director of athletics and recreation Ken Babcock believes it is the right time to get on board.

“Today’s younger generation are already extremely connected to video games and as technology continues to advance and future generations became more versed with the digital world, eSports will only continue to grow,” he says. “I think it is already on its way to becoming as popular as traditional sports…we look forward to welcoming students to the college while being able to offer them a chance to compete on DC’s varsity eSports team.”

Integration of eSports into the college’s curriculum will be on an ongoing basis.

“The primary tie-in will be into our sports management program as eSports is one of the fastest-growing sports,” Marando explains. “Our video broadcasting students will be tied into it through live broadcasts of the events, and our marketing students will help with the social media. Those are the three current programs that I see fit most.”

Marando says there is substantial student excitement surrounding the project.

“The feedback has been tremendous. They really see it as a place to relax, and I think students will receive it very favourably,” she says.