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Esports Gaming Arena up and running at Durham College

Durham College’s varsity esports teams will be practicing and participating in tournaments in the new first-of-its-kind gaming facility. (Photo by Chris Jones)

By Chris Jones/The Oshawa Express

Karts are revving and keyboards are clicking in Durham College’s first-of-its-kind Esports Gaming Arena.

With the gaming arena officially open, the college hopes it will attract hardcore gamers and casual gamers alike to come together and share their passion.

The newly renovated room, formerly the bar known as E.P. Taylor’s, now has five 55” TVs for gamers to use, and a 110” projector for in-house tournament broadcasting.

Along with the these are Xbox One’s, Playstation 4’s, and a Nintendo Switch for gamers to use.

There is also 46 Legion by Lenovo gaming PCs with streaming capabilities so those who are interested can stream their play on Twitch, a live streaming service.

Twelve of these computers sit behind a glass partition, as they are reserved for the training of esports varsity players.

Sarah Wagg, esports arena manager at Durham College, told The Oshawa Express the esports arena has been planned out for two years.

“It’s been in the works…since we started throwing out the proposal to do this sort of arena,” Wagg explains. “From there a lot of planning, a lot of procedures, proposals, and then construction – they went to work right away.”

Wagg says some of the PC games available to students and alumni include big name games such as League of Legends, DOTA 2, Starcraft 2, Hearthstone, Heroes of the Storm, Overwatch, Call of Duty: Black Ops IV, World of Warcraft, Diablo 3, Red Alert, Left for Dead, Left for Dead 2, Fortnite, Apex, Team Fortress 2, and several others.

“Those are the more popular ones,” she explains. “If I go out of that scope they’re the less competitive, more storyline-based games.”

Right now at Durham College, varsity esports is making a name for itself, which is why Wagg notes the school is hoping their students play in the arena.

“There’s four purposes for the space, one of them being for the varsity esports teams at Durham College to be able to play their tournament games in here, and to do their practices in here, because this is for them like the gym is to our usual sports players.”

Wagg says it’s been very busy so far, and the students have been very excited about the space.

“It’s one of those things when they walk through the doorway their eyes light up, and their jaws drop. For them it’s a great experience where they can take their gameplay from an antisocial perspective to more of a social community aspect. They’re able to meet fellow gamers, talk about something that has been in the past negatively approached, so it’s a great way for them to feel a little more freedom and have a little more creativity,” she says.

Recently, Eric Dixon of the Durham College sports management program co-chaired an esports tournament to raise money for Autism Home Base Durham, a local charity which supports adults with autism and their family.

Dixon’s purpose for hosting the tournament was academic, as he explains students in the sports administration program have to use everything they’ve learned in their first three semesters to host a sporting event for the sport and event marketing course.

“Esports is a very unique aspect of sports,” explains Dixon. “It’s by far the fastest growing trend in sports, and being at Durham where we opened this brand new facility which no other college in Canada really even has. To get in at the ground floor for us, it’s an unbelievable opportunity to even experience that.”

Dixon told The Express the response from students to the tournament was a positive one, despite the fact there was a “very short turnaround window” from when they got their approval.