In a gaming arena with black walls and lime green accents sit 46 high-end gaming PCs that have no input lag and can run at the highest graphic resolution. These glowing green beauties, Lenovo Legions, and the Monster-sponsored gaming chairs in front of them, support student gamers in their sport of choice.
But this facility and the varsity team that uses it isn’t at Algonquin – it’s at Durham College, just east of Toronto. It is Ontario’s first Esports arena and it opened in April 2019.
Although the gaming sport has been growing in popularity at universities and colleges across North America and many of them now have varsity teams, arenas and scholarships, Algonquin isn’t quite there yet.
But Martha Peak, athletics administrator for the SA, says that although the SA doesn’t have a varsity team yet, this doesn’t mean it won’t have one in the future.
“We are defiantly, at the SA, opened to different avenues,” she said.
Peak says she has heard about Esports more in the last year than ever before as it has been growing in popularity.
Although Peak is on board for a team, she believes that it would be more expensive than other sports. The SA also doesn’t really have the space for the gaming sport either, she says.
What would help is if the Esports team was built into a specific program. “Now I know it is something that maybe they are trying to develop academically to, so if there was a program that was run by the college that was more geared to that to, than that would help and they can recruit people in that,” said Peak.
Still, the SA would be open to options. “It doesn’t mean we can’t outfit a gymnasium or do that work in cooperation with the college,” said Peak.
For now, Peak explained, Esports has been directed to the Clubs and Communities and from there they grew a huge following.
According to Chris Boettcher, president of Algonquin College Esports, and Wil Warren, vice president, the college’s club has grown massively as they have adopted other gaming clubs into their own. The club has competed in tournaments and have been sponsored by Tespa, an Esports organization based within the offices of Blizzard Entertainment.
Much of the base work has been done for an Esports team as they have created their own agreements.
They worked out as to how their media is to be used, branded their own guidelines and implanted their own code of conduct.
Boettcher believes that since the club is so large with operations so high, the Student Association did not think anything like this could come out of the Clubs and Communities area. Boettcher said that no one can compete with the club, as they are the first ones to get sponsors.
“I believe we run at a higher level then the SA does and any other club,” said Boettcher.
Although the club does get sponsored, they do not have enough funds to send their team to tournaments that take place outside of the Ottawa area. This is where the SA would be a great help when it comes to making the team varsity. They said that receiving the support Thunder teams get would be a huge step forward.
Deijanelle Simon, president of the SA, explained that there are different types of criteria that must be met for the SA to accept varsity teams. The college does not donate to Thunder teams and varsity is already expensive as it is.
However, Warren, the club’s vice president, is critical not only of the slow communication with the SA, but suggests they may be inefficient with the management of their budget.
“I don’t think they know what they want to do with their own money before they get it,” said Warren. “These are all just guesses, I haven’t actually talked to anybody in the SA because they don’t talk to us.”
Sienna Benson, Clubs and Communities coordinator, is an advocate within the SA for a Thunder Esports team as she sees this as huge student interest.
Benson explained that the SA is here for students and if a video game sports team is what they want, than she believes that is something they can push forward with as well as having a space for them on campus.
“That would be amazing because I know other post-secondary institutions are looking to do that as well,” said Benson.
Benson said that some of the roadblocks for creating a team can come from a lack of understanding of what Esports is, as it is more of a generational type of sportsmanship.
Benson says that students and club members who want an Esports team, need to go into full detail about what is required from the SA.
“I think there is a need on campus, and I think students would be really passionate and excited about it and we as the Student Association should definitely talk about how we can push forward with that and see how we could make that happen,” said Benson.
Beatriz Sinoni Santos, early childhood education student, thinks that the club is absolutely “amazing.” When she joined in January, Santos didn’t imagine that Esports was a thing. She said that the club didn’t get much attention and recently they are gaining more traction now. Santos believes it is time for a Thunder team to make a debut at the college.
“I think we need one, everybody else already has one,” said Santos.