eSports coming to OSU

Tyler Rippon Practicum Contributor

The Pac-12 Network is working with the OSU gaming club and other clubs from the conference to initiate gaming competitions in 2016-17

When one thinks of college athletics, video games are not usually the first thing to come to mind. Oregon State University and its Gaming Club are working with the PAC-12 Networks to change that. 

This past May, the PAC-12 Conference released a statement that they would be commencing eSports

competitions in 2016 and 2017 school year.

Competitive video games are referred to as “eSports,” and have been on a slow rise over the past few decades. They started with friendly competitions using a Local Area Network and have evolved to teams battling for millions of dollars while being watched by millions of spectators, both in person and online. As interest has continued to grow the stakes have gotten higher. 

According to Ryan Currier, vice president of Digital Products at Pac-12 Networks, the Pac-12’s interest in eSports originated from student involvement in the industry. 

“It honestly came from observing and engaging with what was going on on our campuses,” Currier said. “Seeing how many students were involved in gaming in general and eSports as it continued to grow in popularity, and seeing ties and correlations between the competitive aspects of eSports

and college athletics.”

The Pac-12 has been consulting with OSU Gaming Club President Thomas Mason.

“The meetings with the Pac-12 have been through a conference call,” Mason said. “They’ve been leading that, and it’s been with the Pac-12 and a representative from most if not all

of the schools.”

According to Mason, the meetings have focused on coming up with ideas and laying groundwork for the future.

“Student leaders and campus leaderships are plugged into and guiding our efforts, helping to take that to the

next level,” Currier said. 

The Pac-12 is planning on organizing and running events with local college gaming clubs and the Pac-12 Network as opposed to treating them like athletic events run by the

conference, said Currier. 

“In terms of leagues and competition, it will be a new thing,” Currier said. “We’re not going to just take a pre-existing competition, league, sponsor and stamp our name on it.”

Mason is excited about the opportunities the Pac-12 can bring to the club. 

“I’m looking forward to expanding what the club can currently do,” Mason said. “We have not done eSports for the most part. It’s just something we haven’t done, and I want to see how it goes. Also meeting and working with people from other schools will be nice.”

The Gaming Club has held LAN parties with as many as 200 to 300 attendees. Participants face off in games such as Dota 2, League of Legends and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. These events serve as the proving ground for OSU’s digital athletes.

“We want to do bigger events this year, but are still in the planning phase,” Mason said. 

Chris White is the Assistant Director of University Housing and Dining Services, head of Information Services, and the OSU Gaming Club’s advisor. He is optimistic about the Pac-12’s involvement with the club. 

“I’m excited to see more intercollegiate competition and communication with other schools,” White said. 

According to Mason, the athletics department is not directly involved with Pac-12 eSports, but has a growing interest in

the Gaming Club. 

“The club will be working closer with athletics as a result of the Pac-12 involvement,” White said. “We have a LAN tentatively scheduled for winter term, MLK weekend, in the Reser club level.”

Currier stated the Pac-12 wants to work not only to bring collegiate gaming to a wider audience, but also how it connects to the academic environment. 

“Something we’re eager to actively pursue that we think is unique for college is the tie-ins to the academic missions of our schools,” Currier said. “That includes degree programs in computer science and design, schools with gaming programs, the demographic tendencies that exist in gaming and eSports focused toward STEM, and helping with everything from recruiting to potential partnerships with companies who want

more STEM graduates.”

The Pac-12 has not released any announcements detailing a schedule of eSports events. Currier said to expect more

news this fall. 

“We have been in close communication with our schools, and as soon as that stuff gets established, we will certainly be rolling out that information,” Currier said.