Students who want to connect with friends during quarantine may have turned to video games, with gaming consumption up as much as 45% in the United States under stay-at-home orders.
The Millersville University (MU) Campus Recreation department joined that trend, offering eSports as an intramural for the first time in April.
ESports is short for electronic games, or video games. The department offered eSport intramurals for Millersville students, faculty and staff for Rocket League, FIFA, NBA 2K, Madden and Super Smash Bros. Those offerings will continue this fall.
Cross-platform play is available, meaning that users with a PlayStation can compete or team up with users who own an Xbox. Leagues featuring the 2019 and 2020 versions of Madden and NBA 2K were available, but participants needed to already own the game.
The campus recreation department initially planned to roll out eSport intramurals for the first time in the fall of 2020. With the outbreak of COVID-19 shutting down campus, the department moved up the start date to provide the Millersville community with a way to connect during an isolated social period.
Rolling out eSport intramurals ahead of schedule was challenging but rewarding, according to Allison Yarrow, department coordinator.
“I didn’t understand the world of eSports until recently,” she said. “The entire thing is a learning curve.”
Esports have grown in popularity at the recreational and professional level the past few years. Campus recreation leaders have discussed their strategies at National Intramural & Recreation Sports Association conferences.
Club de’Ville, located in the Student Memorial Center served as a testing ground before students left campus. It is equipped with an entertainment stage, a video projection system, television, gaming consoles and provides computers with wireless internet access. The department was able to learn more about internet connection and lag, and translate what they learned into an intramural program.
Most important for Yarrow is the feedback from users. She says the department wrote rules and designed programs from scratch, but there was no way to know what needed to improve, until the users let her know. The FIFA league, currently underway with 12 users, has had more positives than negatives.
“The feedback from the participants has been really positive. They’ve been a big help,” Yarrow said. “They know that we really rolled this out to see what would happen and they have been both patient and supportive.”
Millersville has found that other schools are joining the eSports trend, too. On April 22, Millersville joined a tournament with intramural teams from Bucknell and West Chester universities in the West BuckVille Tournament geared toward 2 vs. 2 Rocket League games. Games can be viewed on the department’s Twitch account, @MUcampusrec.
Millersville’s Campus Rec waived fees to join the league. Those who wish to participate can sign up at IMLeagues.com. From there, they can choose what skill division they wish to participate in. Players can also sign up as free agents if they wish to join a team.