Weekly Feature



2018-03-07 / Local News

Daemen establishes competitive gaming team

by ETHAN POWERS Clarence Editor


Students play a computer game while Joe LaPorta, director of information technology support at Daemen College, coaches them in The Oddy Lounge, located in Daemen’s Wick Student Center. 
Photo by Jim SmerecakPurchase color photos at www.BeeNews.com Students play a computer game while Joe LaPorta, director of information technology support at Daemen College, coaches them in The Oddy Lounge, located in Daemen’s Wick Student Center. Photo by Jim SmerecakPurchase color photos at www.BeeNews.com It’s the fastest growing sport you’ve never heard of.

The meteoric rise of “eSports”— the abbreviation for electronic sports — has vastly changed the landscape of an industry that was once viewed as little more than a hobby by its supporters and as a time-wasting activity by its critics.

That narrative has changed dramatically in the last five years as video games, played professionally on a highly competitive level, have skyrocketed in popularity.

According to Business Insider, the eSports market made nearly $700 million in revenue in 2017. Streaming services such as YouTube and Twitch, which broadcast competitive games to millions worldwide, have allowed individual gamers to flourish in their reach. In December, Twitch had more than 500,000 unique users streaming events.

The competitive gaming movement has now found its way to Western New York, where Daemen College recently announced the formation of an eSports team as part of the institution’s Game Club, making Daemen the first private institution in the Buffalo region to join the world of competitive collegiate gaming.

“This is a big movement,” said Greg Nayor, vice president for student affairs and dean of students for Daemen. “More and more colleges are coming on board, and we saw this as an opportunity to meet our students where they’re at and to provide a niche for them.”

The college’s interest in gaming was piqued, says Nayor, when Gary Olson, president of the college and a member of the NCAA’s Board of Governors, attended a board meeting last August.

Board members held talks defining eSports, its increasing presence on college campuses, and how its emergence could change the traditional model of collegiate sports. Roughly 50 collegiate eSports programs now exist, with a national governing body known as the National Association of Collegiate eSports.

As the NCAA currently has no affiliation with eSports, nor does it hold any jurisdiction over its college programs, Olson returned to Daemen with a plan to initiate eSports in Western New York, at which time he involved Nayor in talks of starting a new program.

“I partnered with our information technology people who have a big interest in it,” Nayor said. “We pulled together students and began organizing. We have a good crew of students already participating, and we’re actively recruiting for prospective students next year.”

The Daemen Game Club, organized last fall and consisting of about 15 students, hold practices every Friday at 7:30 p.m. in the Wick Campus Center’s Oddy Lounge, which has been transformed into a gamer haven.

In partnership with the Division of Information Technology, Daemen opened an “eSports Lab” within the lounge, which was outfitted in January with repurposed computers and other equipment from the college’s existing technology supplies.

Ergonomic gaming chairs, mice, keyboards and headsets were funded by student activities fees to aid in the growth of the team.

The team will compete this fall in the East Coast Conference, an association of small schools that compete against one another in a variety of sports. Other ECC institutions that have committed to play next fall include LIU Post, Mercy College, Molloy College, NYIT and St. Thomas Aquinas College. Participating teams will play a round-robin schedule over the course of the fall semester with the top four moving to the ECC eSports Championship.

“People hear ‘video games,’ and they think it’s a waste of time, but there’s a lot of teamwork built into it,” said Nayor. “There’s strategy, there’s critical thinking, so it is more sophisticated than people think.”

Jay Clarke, a junior in Daemen’s illustration program and a member of the school’s new eSports team, never envisioned becoming as enthralled as is he now with the competitive gaming scene, though he often dabbled in it.

He began competing in tournaments for fighting games such as Killer Instinct and Super Smash Bros.

Gradually, he migrated to the genre of games known as “multi-player online battle arena” and specifically to the computer game “League of Legends,” which is what the Daemen eSports team will play competitively this fall.

Return to top