GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP — Student gamers at Stockton University built PCs Wednesday afternoon at the Campus Center, tinkering with tiny parts on folding tables, while others looked on as if it were experimental surgery.

About 30 students of varying levels of technical expertise took part in the official introduction of the school’s newest club team: esports.

The team missed the Eastern College Athletic Conference’s esports league’s inaugural fall season. However, in the spring they will compete against schools around the country in “League of Legends,” “Overwatch” and “Fortnite” from a dedicated tech lab on campus.

Students on hand for Build Day said constructing a computer from scratch gives a gamer a level of familiarity with the machine that can be crucial in-game.

“When you know what is going into your computer you can tune in your in-game settings properly so you can get the most out of the hardware you have,” said Alex Rodriguez, a 21-year-old computer science major.

He was building the computer with Joe Murphy, a 21-year-old junior biology major. Murphy appreciated the institutional recognition of something they would be doing anyway.

“It’s like any other sports team,” Murphy said. As they worked, a projector showed a professional “Overwatch” match between teams from London and Philadelphia.

Demetrios Roubos, the university’s associate director for information security, said the decision to form the team felt like a natural next step.

“It was organic in the sense that we had a student body that was already doing it,” Roubos said, “and what we wanted to do was sort of provide a standardized facility where students can play and train, sort of collaborate together.”

Roubos said the students were given a budget for their builds Wednesday, and a club budget would be finalized for the upcoming season. They have jersey prototypes in the works and plan to travel to tournaments.

All of the schools in the league are in the Mid-Atlantic and New England. Other New Jersey schools competing include Drew University in Madison and St. Peter’s University in Jersey City. As of May of this year, Education Weekly said 475 colleges in the country have club teams. About 50 offered scholarships.

There will be about 60 students on the team at Stockton, broken into three groups based on game title, said Roubos. They will compete on 15 PCs.

The students will move their new computers into a once-underutilized tech lab. Scott Huston, the school’s chief information officer, said the administration wanted to give the gamers “a dedicated, 24/7 space.”

“The entire community has been really supportive of this effort,” Huston said. “And, I think, when looking at the numbers of growing esports, it’s become a really compelling argument to have an offering for the kids.”

Esports is a growing industry expected to be worth more than $1.23 billion by 2019, according to a report by Super Data research. More than 303 million people will watch competitive gaming in 2019, according to the report.

Professional gamer Cody Hart, 30, of Cape May Court House, plays in the official NBA2K league as a point guard for the Warriors. Some winners took home $200,000, he said.

Hart sees people warming up to the idea of competitive video games.

“A lot of people look at it as a waste of time until they really understand how rewarding this field can be for somebody who excels in a competitive scene of any type of video game,” Hart said. “Esports is just growing at a rapid rate.”

Atlantic City has been positioning itself as a future hub of professional gaming. Tech companies are investing millions, including Continent 8, a firm building a 6,000-square-foot data center needed to handle gigantic tournaments. The Casino Reinvestment Development Authority is working on bringing competitions to either Jim Whelan Boardwalk Hall or the Atlantic City Convention Center next year.

Bringing esports to a famed gaming hub like Atlantic City adds a layer of legitimacy to the sport in the public eye. And, at Stockton, Rodriguez said the opportunity to play games and represent his school does much the same thing.

“It’s nice to be able to have a group that identifies with the school that you can play for and say, ‘Yeah, I play for Stockton’s ‘League of Legends’ team,’” Rodriguez said.

Contact: 609-272-7260 @ACPressColtShaw

Staff Writer

I cover breaking news on the digital desk. I graduated from Temple University in Dec. 2017 and joined the Press in the fall of 2018. Previously, I freelanced, covering Pennsylvania state politics and criminal justice reform.

Load comments