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New ArtU Esports Program Offers On-Campus Game Room & Competitions

Enthusiastic students are taking advantage of new gaming opportunities thanks to new space and events

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Academy of Art University students taking part in the new ArtU Esports program. Photo by Bob Toy.


Sometimes, a new program aligns so seamlessly with the curriculum and student interests that it’s hard to believe it wasn’t always there. That appears to be the case for the new ArtU Esports program, a collaboration between the Schools of Game Development and Communications & Media Technologies that debuted this fall to immediate and enthusiastic student response.

ArtU Esports garners unqualified support from the faculty at both schools, too. “For us as a game department, it’s critical for our students to be playing games. You can’t make them without playing them. You have to be able to look at a game and evaluate how the artwork looks, how it’s designed, how it’s played,” said David Goodwine, director of the School of Game Development.

Steve Kotton, associate director of the School of Communications & Media Technologies, sees it as an entry point to an emerging industry. “Esports broadcasting and webcasting has a huge worldwide audience. It is a natural fit for COM students to learn about this latest trend and get experience in this new media genre,” he said. 

The multifaceted program offers various levels of participation and appeals to students across a range of disciplines. Any Academy student can play mobile, PC-based and console-based games in room 707 at 180 New Montgomery, which the School of Game Development recently converted into a part-time game room. It’s open daily after 3 p.m. and all day on weekends.

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Academy of Art University students taking part in the new ArtU Esports program. Photo by Bob Toy.

“We collaborate with a lot of different departments: music, animation, communications, advertising. All these people are working on games, and now they’re able to play together, which wasn’t happening before,” Goodwine said. 

“Gaming is a social thing,” said Game Club President Bryan Cisneros. “Even if you don’t want to play, you can hang out and watch other people play. It’s nice just to get away from school for a bit.”

The space does not lack for atmosphere. “The game room itself is fantastic looking. It’s got all these lights and machines. It’s like a big gaming party,” said Dane Muller, a game development graduate student and captain of the Academy’s collegiate Hearthstone team. 

Another aspect of the program is tournament play at both the intramural and intercollegiate levels. “The collegiate team plays against other universities and colleges across North America. It’s very competitive. The intramural tournaments are more for fun, for students to play with and against their fellow students,” said Technology Coordinator Michael Witzel, who handles many of the program’s logistical and administrative tasks.

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School of Communications & Media Technologies students filming students participating in the Esports program for a broadcast. Photo by Bob Toy.

So far, ArtU Esports has held intramural tournaments for Overwatch, Hearthstone, Paragon, League of Legends and Super Smash Bros. Students can take part in person or online. The first intramural event featured back-to-back Overwatch and Hearthstone tournaments. “There were so many people there you could barely move,” Muller said. 

Intramural tournament play is streamed via the ArtU Esports Twitch channel (twitch.tv/artu_esports), with communications and media technologies students handling production duties. “The tournaments provide students with the opportunity to enhance the skills they learn in the classroom: creating, producing and directing live media programs,” said Kotton. “Our students will be the best prepared candidates for the jobs that will be created in this new exploding field.” 

Top finishers from the early intramural tournaments were invited to represent the Academy in Tespa’s intercollegiate league. Overwatch and Hearthstone collegiate teams competed this fall, and a League of Legends team will soon join them. Teams compete for prizes and scholarship money. And just like any sport, it requires a substantial time commitment. Players study strategies, practice and watch professional gamers.  

ArtU Esports continues to refine its offerings based on student feedback. The program’s immediate goal is to increase student participation, both in game play and in helping to run tournaments. Potential future projects include developing an esports class that incorporates multimedia production and expanding into a larger game room with higher production value.


For more information about ArtU Esports, visit facebook.com/artuesports.