Video gaming becoming an emphasis at Canisius College

E-Sports lab introduced at Canisius College for competitive gamers

Mike Baggerman
October 29, 2018 - 3:00 am

Canisius College e-sports lab. October 26, 2018 (WBEN Photo/Mike Baggerman)


BUFFALO, N.Y. (WBEN) - Club sports at colleges tend to be in the realm of broomball, badminton, racquetball, and more that feature physical play in a fun, organized setting.

Canisius College, though, is taking a proactive approach because of one of the world's fastest growing industries: Competitive video gaming. The Jesuit college this month unveiled a new e-sports lab to supplement its e-sports competitive leagues.

E-sports are a billion dollar industry, with some professional teams earning millions of dollars by playing popular video games like League of Legends, Fortnite, FIFA, Rocket League, and others. Canisius College's program is nowhere near that level, though the program, which travels as part of its competitive gaming schedule to other schools who participate in the Eastern College Athletic Conference, is making strides. 

"I thought it was incredible and fun," Bri Harris, a senior studying psychology at Canisius, said. "The traveling was great and the people we played against were nice."

"I think the benefit is that you get to meet so many great people and you already know you have a common interest," Aaron Frick, a junior studying computer engineering, said. 

The e-sports lab, tucked in the basement of the Palisano Pavilion, features several computers dedicated entirely to video gaming. The lab even has its own dedicated server, just to help with the connection so that the gamers don't suffer a lag, or connection delay, in their gaming. 

Bri Harris and Aaron Frick play "League of Legends" at Canisius College esports lab. October 26, 2018 (WBEN Photo/Mike Baggerman)

"(E-sports) is founded on the idea that we want to know who is the best," Kiernan Ensor, the e-sports coordinator at Canisius, said. "Whether it's basketball or baseball, e-sports is just the same sort of thing. We can play the games and know where we compare to our friends and those around us...We compete against other schools on a weekly basis. We have standings, rankings, and we compete for championships."

The idea for an e-sports program began last winter and came to fruition in the spring. Ensor said many of the students in the program competed in Albany at the ECAC invitiation.

"For a long time, players on campus self organized and got themselves into tournaments to play on their own," Ensor added. "Really last year, Canisius sort of formalized and brought it to the forefront."

Ensor said that in the last couple of years, e-sports on college campus took off. Justin Rogers, the Director of Admissions at Canisius, also noted that the interest in e-sports soared in the last couple years.

"It's been a recent phenomenon," Rogers, who worked in higher education for the last 14 years, explained. "We've always tried to have good internet connection in the residence halls but it's never been at the level of interest that it has in the last year or two. Students are actively looking at it as part of their social experience in college."

Rogers said college athletics were once considered a distraction but have since become part of the college culture. He anticipates e-sports going through the same development.

"There are translatable majors that students can do here as part of this club," he said while explaining computer science and digital media students can benefit.

While critics will argue that video gaming is not a sport and that it will be a distraction to higher education, Ensor notes that they require all of their members to have a GPA of at least 2.0, though almost all the gamers are well-above that grade. 

"I understand where they're coming from because it's not a traditional athletic event," Ensor explained. "At the end of the day, the more crossovers there are, the more they'll see. We have basketball players, baseball players, and a lot of competitive players that play for Canisius...It takes communication. It takes teamwork. It takes shot-calling and leadership abilities. It takes putting the time and effort. It's a lot of effort to get good at a game."

Games that the students play include League of Legends, FIFA, Fortnite, Overwatch, and Hearthstone. More games will be added.  


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