The popularity of esports, or competitive video gaming, has been growing since the early 2000’s. Around 2010, game developers started actively designing toward a professional esports subculture. The National Association of Collegiate Esports (NACE) formed in 2016, and since then, has grown its ranks to include over 100 universities nationwide. The NACE boasts over 1,500 student athletes and $9 million dollars in scholarships to date. Could a competitive esports team be coming to Southern Oregon University soon? Associate Professor Precious Yamaguchi shares her insight on how esports might become a visible part of the campus culture at SOU.
Logan Moncrief: “What is your background in gaming?”
Precious Yamaguchi: “I am co-instructor (with Professor Warren Hedges) of the Video Games and Culture class here at SOU. I am also an Advisor for the SOU Video Gamers Coalition. I have also been involved with the NACE the last few years, and attended the NACE convention in Atlanta this year.”
Logan Moncrief: “What was that experience like, going to the NACE?”
Precious Yamaguchi: “Well, I was very impressed with the success of esports programs at Idaho State and the University of Windsor in Canada, and how they have already developed extensive programs focusing on practice areas, setups, and team health. I’m really interested in educating the university and the community about why people should be excited about esports. With sports like football and basketball, communities understand what they are. There are colleges and towns all over the country that are extremely excited about these sports. esports has the challenge of getting the community behind it, especially because of negative views that some people have about video games and gamers.”
Logan Moncrief: “What are some of the ideas you have about getting the SOU Community involved in an esports Program?”
Precious Yamaguchi: “Well, I like the idea of hosting a students versus professors tournament and getting local businesses involved in sponsorship of tournaments. There are many economic benefits of an esports program. It’s a growing field with lots of excitement behind it. I have attended the DOTA 2 competition the last 3 years, and during last year’s tournament, the prize pool reached $18 million. It could be profitable getting people to come to the university to compete in tournaments. Games like Madden, WOW, and Fortnite have a great deal of excitement around them. Another benefit of an esports program is costs. With traditional athletic programs, universities must make substantial investments in coaches and staff, facilities, and equipment. An esports program is much more affordable, as the only real needs are for an arena for practice, computers, and equipment. I think it would be easy to partner with businesses in the gaming industry as they offer opportunities for sponsorship (and free computers and equipment).”
Logan Moncrief: “How did the idea of bringing an esports program to SOU come about?
Precious Yamaguchi: “The idea to start looking into bringing esports to SOU was initiated by SOU President Linda Schott at the end of Spring and over the Summer this year. Linda reached out to me to look into it, by going to the NACE and talking with people who were already involved in esports programs at other universities.”
Logan Moncrief: “In what form would an esports program at SOU take? Are we talking about a team?”
Precious Yamaguchi: “A decision on that hasn’t been made yet. While Linda is interested in the possibility of developing an esports program at SOU, at this time it is unclear how that will look, either as part of the athletic program, student life, or as a course. The best way to get an esports program going would be to make it part of the Athletic department as there are systems already in place to start a team and have access to scholarship funds. Scouting for players would be low cost, because there would be very little need to travel. Looking for highly skilled players would be as simple as using free platforms like Twitch.”
While no concrete decisions have been made about an esports Program at SOU, Dr. Yamaguchi sounded very upbeat about the prospects. I hope to get a follow up interview in the near future, and provide my readers with new information. Check back here for all the details.