This is an opportunity. We don’t know if it’s a good opportunity or a bad opportunity, but it’s here.Gary Burke, BCC trustee
Collegiate video gaming may be coming to Barton Community College in the future. At their October study session on Tuesday, college trustees learned what Esports are and why they may be added to the lists of Barton sports in the future.
Vice President Elaine Simmons and BCC Multimedia Specialist Curtis Rose presented their research. Simmons said she visited her daughter at the University of Columbia at Missouri in 2018 and learned that Mizzou has had an esports team a number of years.
That was the beginning of Barton’s research, which included visiting other schools, reading material on the subject and attending webinars. A committee was formed that included Rose, who is a gamer himself.
“Like any sport, esports is a competition,” Rose said. Competition based around video games has existed as long as video games but began expanding in popularity in the late 2000s. The first college video game competition was hosted by Stanford University in 1972; students played a game called Spacewar! and the tournament prize was a year’s subscription to Rolling Stone magazine.
Today, esports viewership – online and at venues such as ESPN sports network – rivals traditional sports, Rose said. The League of Legends World Championship in 2018 had 100 million unique viewers vs. Super Bowl LII’s 98 million and it is estimated that there were 201 million “frequent/enthusiast” viewers and an additional 235 “occasional” viewers in 2019.
And the prizes are bigger. In professional competition, 16-year-old Kyle Gersdorf won $3 million after becoming the Fortnight Electronic World Champion.
Commonly played esports games include
• Multi-player online battle arenas (MOBAs) – League of Legends, DOTA 2
• First-person shooters – Overwatch, CS, GO, R6: Siege
• Fighting – Super Smash Bros.
• Digital collectible card games – Hearthstone
• Battle royales – Fortnite, Apex Legends
• Real Time Strategy – Starcraft
At the collegiate level, 115 universities and colleges offered esports scholarships last year. It’s a way to capture the attention of Generation Z, who are now 6-23 years old, Simmons said. “This is something they’re interested in.”
It’s already happening on campus, Simmons added. Unofficial games are being played in college dorms and by high school students after school. A school-run program is a way to engage students and attain the “Three Rs: Recruitment, Retention and Revenue,” she said.
Student-run events account for about half of all collegiate esports, Rose said. But they have evolved in the past few years to events run by sponsors or governing bodies. There is a National Association of Collegiate Esports (NACE) and the NJCAA is planning leagues in the future.
While a professional gamer such as Gersdorf may devote 14 or more hours a day to gaming, no one would come to Barton just “play video games,” Rose said.
“If they are coming to our college, we’re going to make sure they are going to classes,” he said. “Most schools require them to be in the gym once a week.” They would also need to maintain their grades. “They’re not coming to the college to play video games; they’re coming for an education.”
It is not clear if an esports program at Barton would be under the Athletic Department; the details would need to be worked out. But the college would need to pay game fees and hire a coach.
Simmons said she met the esports coach at Kansas Wesleyan who talked about recruiting team members. It’s a lot like recruiting for any sport, she said. The coach is looking for certain skills and strengths to find the right mix. Some games require eye-hand coordination while others require strategy. Group games all require teamwork.
Other Kansas community colleges either have esports or are considering it, she said. “I think there’s a lot of variety in what the schools are doing.”
Expect a proposal before year's end
Barton President Dr. Carl Heilman admitted that the idea of esports is unusual. “It does not fit the traditional model of athletics,” he said. And, he told trustees, “the up-front costs may give you some sticker shock,” although upkeep isn’t that much.
Athletic Director Trevor Rolfs commented, “I don’t know anything about video games.” But he agrees that it may help with those “Three Rs,” just as swimming, bowling and wrestling have helped Barton recruit new students. “I’m not 100% sold it must be housed in athletics,” he said.
The next step will be for the administration to come up with a budget, a model for how it would work, and a proposal for the trustees to consider. Heilman said they could expect to see that “in a month or two.”
Trustee Gary Burke commented, “This is an opportunity. We don’t know if it’s a good opportunity or a bad opportunity, but it’s here.”
The board also heard a report from Barton President Dr. Carl Heilman on agreements he has signed in the past month:
• Affiliated Site Agreement with Sterling College for the athletic training program
• Emergency Medical Service agreement with Cheyenne County Hospital, St. Francis
• Ft. Riley Technical Education & Military Outreach agreements with the National Partnership for Environmental Technical Education (NPETE) for HazMat disaster response training and for hazardous waste worker training
• Medical Laboratory Technician agreement with Kershaw Health, Camden, S.C.
• Concurrent Enrollment Program agreements with Unified School District 112 Central Plains, USD 112 Wilson, USD 327 Ellsworth, USD 355 Ellinwood, USD 395 La Crosse, USD 401 Chase, USD 403 Otis-Bison, USD 405 Lyons, USD 407 Russell, USD 428 Great Bend, USD 431 Hoisington, USD 495 Larned, USD 496, Pawnee Heights
at a glance
Here’s a quick look at Tuesday’s Barton Community College Board of Trustees study session:
• Vice President of Administration presented the September financial statement.
• The board heard a presentation on Esports.
• The board heard a report on the Active Living Classroom and then watched an Active Learning Classroom demonstration.