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Esports to offer new academic opportunities at Ohio U

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Ohio University’s recently announced gaming facility is expected to provide new research opportunities for graduate students and faculty and open up opportunities for students involved in facets of the gaming industry.

The facility — a space the Ohio U Board of Trustees approved with a budget of $650,000 — is planned to be located on the ground level of Scripps Hall and include 50 gaming computers and a handful of console gaming systems. 

The space will include a competition room for esports events, a social gaming area, an office space and a broadcast booth for esports commentators.

“We had suggested (the broadcast booth) when they were coming up with the idea of the esports arena,” said Robert Stewart, director of the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism.

The esports facility could provide an opportunity for journalists to cover a relatively new industry, he said. In recent years, media companies such as The Score, ESPN and The Washington Post created sections to cover esports and the gaming industry.

“We’ve had students for quite a long time who wanted to write about video games and they’ve been able to get jobs in that industry,” Stewart said. 

He speculated that many student-produced podcasts will jump to cover esports, citing the large number of podcasts already recorded in the Schoonover Center’s podcast studio.

In addition to new media covering esports, Jeffrey Kuhn, the project’s coordinator, hopes that other university departments get involved with the new facility. 

“Music, movies, books and television are the major media literacies. They have classes, programs and departments. Games don’t have that, and that’s what this space will be,” Kuhn said.

Scripps Hall is home to the GRID Lab — a facility dedicated to virtual reality research and development — but there is no major space dedicated to traditional gaming and esports. Ohio U also has both an undergraduate and graduate degree program for students interested in digital and video game animation.

Kuhn added that this new facility will provide a space for faculty to conduct research on esports and to allow students to display the games they have created 

Researchers, for example, could monitor players’ heart rates, Kuhn said. He noted that in Starcraft, a multiplayer strategy game, professional players can take up to 600 actions per minute.

Additionally, the space will augment and enhance existing esports groups on campus, according to Kristofer Meyeres, founder of the Bobcat Esports club. Many of the club’s members are struggling to compete due to the high cost of gaming equipment — a hinderance the facility could help alleviate, he said. Gaming computers can cost upward of $1,000.

Meyeres said the facility could change the dynamic between club members. He hopes affording players the opportunity to train side by side with other members of the club will allow them to form strong bonds.

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