Game On! Concordia Launches Esports Program

Concordia will be offering competitive, varsity-level gaming.

Gaming has been a passion for senior Noah Hanson and James Jehlik, associate director of Academic and User Technology Services, for as long as they can remember.

“I love gaming because it gives me a way to compete on an even playing field even with my physical limitations due to my wheelchair,” Hanson said. “Plus, video games are just plain fun to play with other people who also enjoy them.”

However, not all memories have been good.

“We know what it’s like to have a hobby that was not always accepted by people,” Jehlik said. “But that image is changing for the better.”

Competitive gaming has grown to become a billion-dollar industry, with tournaments filling stadiums around the world and millions more watching online.

Concordia College is now getting in on the action. The college has announced it will be offering esports as a varsity option for students. It will be joining the National Association of Collegiate Esports (NACE), the largest association of varsity esports programs in North America. With a NACE membership, Concordia will be able to broadcast games for fans on the streaming service Twitch.

“We said if we’re going to do it, let’s do it right,” said Dr. Lisa Sethre-Hofstad, vice president for Student Development and Campus Life. “The equipment is going to be high-end. The coach will be a paid employee. We’re not tiptoeing into this. There’s a lot of enthusiasm and anticipation.”

Initial discussions to bring esports to campus were put on hold due to COVID-19. Program development is now moving forward. Equipment, including the 18 gaming computers, has been ordered, and remodeling of the basement of Park Region will begin this summer. The next big step is hiring a coach.  

The first games will be League of Legends and Rocket League. League of Legends is a strategy game where two teams compete to destroy the others’ base. Rocket League has race cars playing soccer in a domed arena.

Competition is expected to begin in January 2023. Gaming space is planned to be completed and available for student use at the start of the Fall 2022 semester.

Student Government Association has supported this program and voted to jumpstart the funding by allocating Special Projects and Initiatives Fund (SPIF) money for the equipment and renovation of Park Region.

Jehlik and Hanson say they are excited that a new group of students is going to be embraced and supported.

“Esports brings the ideas of teamwork, training, community, confidence, and school spirit to a group of people previously unreached by traditional sporting activities,” Hanson said.

For non-players still interested in esports, there will be the possibility to be included as announcers, camera operators, chat moderators, and other technical roles to help support the team.

Even as details continue to be finalized, the college is already looking into the ability to host large tournaments in the future.

“Yes, I’d love to see our teams win, but the real victory for me would be to just see the program take root and expand for the wants and needs of the students involved,” Hanson said.