Esports on Campus: Challenges, Considerations, and Opportunities

Esports on Campus: Challenges, Considerations, and Opportunities

Brent A. Marsh, Thomas L. Andre, Samantha L. Payton
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 26
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-2410-7.ch016
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This chapter includes an overview of collegiate esports, which represents a relatively new competitive and involvement opportunity on campus, but which has its origins as far back as 1972. The authors begin with a timeline of video games and their evolution, transitioning to the advent of esports as a varsity activity on college and university campuses. The balance of the chapter deals with student considerations for an esports program in light of a wellness model (i.e., emotional, environmental, financial, intellectual, occupational, physical, social, and spiritual), followed by institutional considerations such as mission, student eligibility, academic supports, finances, and legal issues. The chapter concludes with future considerations related to governance of esports, opportunities for academic program synergies, and research opportunities.
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The advent of video game competition dates back earlier than some might imagine. While Scholz (2019) would place the origins of video games at the 1940 New York World's Fair Westinghouse with a demonstration of a game entitled Nim, other authors commonly cite 1972 as the advent of competitive gaming. According to Li (2016), two dozen Stanford University students assembled in that institution's Artificial Intelligence Laboratory on October 19, 1972 to “do battle among the stars” (p. 1). Specifically, these students “piloted ships through a speck-filled void, shooting missiles and dancing against gravity in one of the world's first video games, Spacewar” (p. 1). Fittingly, the contest was held on a college campus, the game was developed by students (viz., at Massachusetts Institute of Technology), and the first-place prize was a one-year subscription to Rolling Stone magazine. Spacewar was being played on a 1,200-pound Programmed Data Processor-1 computer, the type of equipment that was then revolutionary and typically available on a research-intensive university campus. Nearly half a century has passed since those Stanford students competed in Spacewar, and while technology has advanced markedly over the years, it seems that a competitive spirit was infused in video gaming from the beginning.

By the late 1970s and early 1980s, video game systems became much more accessible and widely available on the market. The Atari 2600 was released in 1977, and while other systems predated it, the Atari brand was most widely known and included popular titles like Asteroids, Combat, Frogger, Pac-Man, and Space Invaders, to name a few. According to Li (2016) and Scholz (2019), Atari hosted a Space Invaders Championship in 1980 with thousands of people competing and spectating. The mid-1980s witnessed the next generation console, the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), which quickly beat out the Atari for market share and included early popular games such as Duck Hunt and Super Mario Bros. Competitive arenas emerged around NES games in the 1990s, such as the Nintendo World Championships “where kids showed off their Super Mario skills” (Li, 2016, p. 2). As the Internet became increasingly accessible in households and on college campuses, computer-based games, which were played online both individually and in communities, grew in popularity.

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