17:01 PM

Ohio State esports arena ready for play

The new Ohio State University esports arena is plugged in and powered up.

Rows of Alienware PCs and high-def monitors line tables in the newly renovated room on the second floor of Lincoln Tower. Playstation, Xbox and Switch controllers line the walls of the brightly lit room. The arena is one of the most visible developments in the university’s commitment to game studies and esports.

“We do have three different pillars, all launching simultaneously. From an academic perspective, a new curriculum is being developed. On the research side, there’s a lot of fascinating things being done from the human performance perspective and data analytics and then, Student Life is anchoring the co-curricular experience,” said Brandon Smith, director of esports in the Office of Student Life.

The arena includes about 80 gaming computers, consoles and virtual reality systems. There’s a room for competitive gaming with peer universities and a broadcast booth for students to refine their commentary on game play.

“This is, quite literally, the best that I’ve seen,” said Jimmy Bauer, a fourth-year computer science major.

Bauer also serves as the president of the Buckeye Gaming Collective student organization. At the arena opening, he and fellow gamer Christopher Robinson played Rocket League on one of the scores of PCs in the new arena. Both are excited to see Ohio State get behind gaming.

“I think it’s important because it’s a new space and a lot of younger kids in the generations are getting into it,” said Robinson, a fourth-year anthropology major. “It’s good for Ohio State to be one of the first schools to offer such an elaborate and in-depth program.”

The arena is just part of the university’s comprehensive esports program. An esports and game studies undergraduate major is in development with the support of faculty from five colleges. Curriculum will be based on tracks that include esports and game creation, esports management, and application of games in health and medicine.

The arena will be open to students who consider themselves casual gamers but it will also serve as the home for Buckeyes who want to compete against the best in the nation. The Office of Student Life will begin supporting a select number of esports teams in the coming months.

Arena operations are undergoing the last rounds of testing with further opening announcements expected by early October on esports.osu.edu.http://esports.osu.edu

“The size of the student organization continues to grow and grow. We’re finding that this is a way that students are actually connecting socially. It’s not just gaming for entertainment – this is a way they’re making new friends and finding ways to grow,” Smith said. “[And] we have a lot of students on our campus that are really good at what they do from a gaming and coaching perspective and they wanted an opportunity to wear team jerseys to represent Ohio State and compete against other schools.”

The esports and gaming program is a chance to score points and win trophies, but it also represents a chance to do leading-edge research. The university has established the Human Performance Collaborative, with one research area focusing on studying the convergence of the brain, body and behaviors of elite esports athletes.

“We have really two areas within the Human Performance Collaborative that we’re doing. One is on recovery: physiological, psychological and so on. The other one is on human-machine teaming,” said James Onate, faculty director for the Human Performance Collaborative. “Everything that we do with the esports community has a machine involved, so we're really looking at the human performance side of things relative to the esport research.”

Beyond the competition, curriculum or research, the arena is also a place to hang out and make new friends. The social side is not lost on Robinson.

“I’m just down to play any game really. The friendships are more important than anything else,” he said. “I’m excited to see where this goes.”

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