E-sports

Esports Evolved – Northern News

Summary

How the “next big thing” became even bigger—and better—at ONU

In the fall of 2019, Ohio Northern University introduced esports as the newest addition to the athletic department. At the time it was the newest, fastest-growing trend to hit the collegiate athletics scene, and now, more than three years later, it still is. In fact, it’s only getting bigger.

At first glance, the numbers alone tell the story of ONU Esports’ growth: 10 games, 80 varsity and junior varsity players, a gaming club with nearly 300 members, and approximately 40 student workers h…….

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How the “next big thing” became even bigger—and better—at ONU

In the fall of 2019, Ohio Northern University introduced esports as the newest addition to the athletic department. At the time it was the newest, fastest-growing trend to hit the collegiate athletics scene, and now, more than three years later, it still is. In fact, it’s only getting bigger.

At first glance, the numbers alone tell the story of ONU Esports’ growth: 10 games, 80 varsity and junior varsity players, a gaming club with nearly 300 members, and approximately 40 student workers helping everything run smoothly. All of these figures are massive increases in just three years’ time. ONU Esports Director Troy Chiefari was hired in 2018 as the esports head coach and tasked with recruiting three new students each year. Today he oversees one of the largest extracurricular entities on campus with 60 recruits this fall alone.

“We grew a lot in year two,” says Chiefari. “Fortunately, we had the capacity to grow in terms of our facilities, but we’ve had to temper that trajectory in year three just because it is possible to grow too big, too quickly. We haven’t done that, but we very easily could. The demand is there for sure.”

ONU Esports’ growth stems from adding games. In its inaugural year, ONU competed in just the two most popular games of that year—League of Legends and Overwatch. Chiefari ended up with a varsity and a junior varsity roster for each game, for a total of 22 players, which was his goal for that first year. Both teams performed well right out of the gate, finishing first in the Great Lakes Esports Conference and with notable wins over Ohio State University, the University of Akron and Kent State University.

With a season under his belt, Chiefari set his sights on recruiting for the following season. As a former professional player and coach, he understood what it would take to get students to come play at ONU. Sure, it helped that the University had invested into a renovation of Taft Memorial Hall that turned it into a state-of-the-art esports facility, but the thing about esports athletes is that their “sport” isn’t video games; it’s their video game. To grow the program, ONU would need to grow the number of games it offered.

Today, ONU Esports competes in League of Legends, Overwatch, Apex Legends, Fortnite, Hearthstone, Teamfight Tactics, Valorant, Rocket League, Counterstrike GO, and Rainbow Six Siege—fielding a first- and second-string team in each for a total of about 80 players. (Not all games are five players.) Chiefari limits each player to only one game, since he feels that taking up another game requires too much time for a full-time college student. When he talks about the demand for games, consider this: He could probably recruit another 60 students immediately if ONU Esports expanded their game offerings to include sports titles such as Madden and NBA 2K, the incredibly popular first-person shooter …….

Source: https://www.onu.edu/news/esports-evolved