University of New Haven students with a passion for esports and gaming say there is no place they would rather be on a Friday night than gathered together, taking on gamers from universities around the country. Before long, they’ll all be competing in one of the premiere esports training and competition spaces in the country.
January 30, 2020
It’s Friday night, and a first-floor lecture space in Buckman Hall is packed.
There’s a bank of flat screen monitors in the back and 15 people are crowded around one, playing Super Smash Brothers Ultimate, practicing, talking strategy. The League of Legends team soon arrives and, after an hour or so of casual play, they’ll start practicing around 9 p.m.
"G!"students call out as Giancarlo Consiglio ’22, president of the Esports Club, steps up to a podium and handles a bit of club business – upcoming competitions, the new esports team shirts, and the Snowdown Showdown, a huge tournament that took place in the Beckerman Recreation Center at the end of the fall semester.
It’s lively and it’s loud. They are forensic science, mechanical engineering, English, music industry, criminal justice, business, and graphic design majors, pulling out laptops and playing Overwatch, Fortnite, and a whole bunch of other games. Some play for the Esports Club’s three competitive teams, while others play in scrimmages or are there simply for the fun. They are part of one of the largest club sports on campus.
"We’re a real community," Consiglio says. "I think our club bridges the gaps among people. All different types of people from different backgrounds come together to play. It’s such a great social setting for everybody."
It was one of the things that drew Emily Heller ‘22, a forensic science major. At one of the open houses she attended, she stopped by the Esports Club table.
"We’re a real community. I think our club bridges the gaps among people. All different types of people from different backgrounds come together to play. It’s such a great social setting for everybody."Giancarlo Consiglio ’22
"They were so friendly and told me they were looking for new people to get involved," says Heller, who plays three club sports – rugby, women’s ice hockey, and esports. "The club gives me a chance to play video games with fellow gamers, and it’s expanded my horizons. It led me to a whole group of friends I would otherwise never have met. There’s no place I’d rather be on a Friday night.”
‘A booming industry’
It is a club on the cusp of something quite incredible, say Consiglio and Ryan Hagen, the University’s director of campus recreation.
"Right now, the students lug their computers, monitors, and consoles over to Buckman Hall," Hagen says. But next year the club will have a new home that, he says, will be one the premiere esports training and competition spaces in the country.
The University recently announced it was launching a comprehensive a comprehensive academic curriculum in esports management that will be the first of its kind to be part of a business curriculum accredited by AACSB International, an accreditation that places the University’s College of Business among the top five percent of business schools worldwide.
A highlight of the program is the development of a 1,300-square-foot esports training and competition center in the University's $35 million Bergami Center for Science, Technology, and Innovation – which will open in early 2020.
"It will be a space that not only is appealing visually but logistically and operationally," Hagen says. "It will be hard wired, and we’ll focus on the lighting, on the placement of screens and desk space. We’ll ensure the specifications of the computers exceed the optimal performance requirements for our competitive gamers."
Hagen envisions a bustling space where students practice and play at all hours. The interest, he says, is off the charts. He says the club’s current 200 members just scratches the surface of the interest in gaming among University of New Haven students.
"In the world of collegiate recreation this is a whole other level of student engagement like I’ve never seen in the 15 years I’ve worked in the field," he says. "Having space in the Bergami Center will be perfect because the field is innovative and exciting. It’s a booming industry, and many of our students – and prospective students – will want to work in esports."
"We’re so hyped," adds Christian Nnonyelu ’22 of the Bergami Center.
The vice president of the Esports Club and a computer science major, Nnonyelu plays for the club’s League of Legends and Overwatch teams. "We need a dedicated space for players and, in the competitive esports scene, you need everyone on the team playing on a high-end computer."
"Having space in the Bergami Center will be perfect because the field is innovative and exciting. It’s a booming industry, and many of our students – and prospective students will want to work in esports."Ryan Hagen
‘One of the best times to get involved with esports’
For now, they hone their craft in Buckman Hall, in residence halls all over campus, and in off-campus housing. "Like any athletic team, our teams have practice where we work on strategies," Nnonyelu says. "We have students designated as team managers, and they look at the video playback after tournaments and go over it with us, like watching film in football."
Jon Smith ’22, a mechanical engineering major, manages the League of Legends team.
"I work with teams from colleges around the United States, setting up scrimmages and practices with other people," he says. "Getting connected to people from universities around the country is great."
He says his involvement in esports has helped him further develop communication, organizational, collaborative, and coaching skills that he’ll use when he becomes an engineer.
"It’s fun getting to work with people, seeing their skills improve throughout the year," he says.
Ryan Bell ’23, a genetics and biotechnology major, says that while academics are his focus, and he’s often swamped with work, he always manages to carve out time for the club and the Overwatch team.
"It’s really exciting to compete, and I’ve made a lot of good friends," he says. "I love it."
"This is one of the best times to get involved in esports," adds Julian Thomas '22, a marine biology major and a member of the Super Smash Bros. team. "Literally every week something big happens in esports and something new comes out. For the University to be starting these academic programs and be in on the ground floor at this moment is really big."