Esports gaming center opens Monday

Esports center
The DePaul eSports Gaming Center opens to the university community April 23 after being home to the BIG EAST eSports Invitational for two weekends in early April. (DePaul University/Katie Donovan)
After months of planning and a trial run with the recent BIG EAST eSports Invitational, the new DePaul eSports Gaming Center will officially open to the university community following a 2 p.m. ribbon-cutting ceremony April 23. Located in the concourse level of the DePaul Center on the Loop campus, the gaming center will provide a location for all DePaul gamers to meet, play games and compete together between classes, in the evening or on Saturdays.

"The DePaul eSports Gaming Center is designed to host all eSports competitors among our students, faculty and staff," says Bob McCormick, vice president for information services. "Since eSports advances a player's critical thinking, teamwork and communications skills as well as providing fun entertainment, we designed this center for novice gamers as well as experts. We welcome all in the DePaul community to visit."

eSports, or competitive video gaming, has exploded in the last five years, resulting in an industry that's heading towards the billion-dollar mark and sees an estimated 165 million people around the world watching at least once a month according to a Newzoo global eSports market report.

Around the country, more than 70 universities field varsity teams, with DePaul's Loop neighbor, Robert Morris University Illinois, fielding the first varsity program in the country in 2014. While any future growth of DePaul eSports will depend largely on the feedback and ideas of students, the gaming center will help bring together a big, but often overlooked, base of students on campus, explains Esteban Perez, a senior accounting major, Chicago native and president of DePaul's Rocket League team that competed in the BIG EAST eSports Invitational.

"The gaming center excites me because of how much legitimacy it will bring to collegiate eSports throughout the campus and the city," Perez says. "This center will absolutely increase awareness and interest for eSports and will also incentivize other colleges and universities to adopt this phenomenon that's decades in the making. Just during the closed testing of the center with our Rocket League and League of Legends teams, we have seen incredible interest and demand from fellow students to become part of the program, whether it's joining a current team, starting a team for another popular competitive game, or assisting in the operations of the facility."

The gaming center had a nice test run the past two weekends with the inaugural BIG EAST eSports Invitational. DePaul's League of Legends and Rocket League teams were impressive, as they each started the tournament 6-0 before losing in a pair of heartbreakers in the finals to claim runner-up honors.

"The tournament was the most fulfilling experience I've had at DePaul so far, and I already know this is going to make being part of this community worth it for many more people in the future," Perez says. "Really, I'm just sad I'm going to be graduating right as this gaming center opens."

Featuring 13 gaming computers, a variety of consoles, and specialty chairs, the center also has a special sign on the wall that reminds all that enter of DePaul's commitment to a welcoming and respectful gaming environment. Before online matches, competitive gamers often salute their opposition with "GLHF," which means, "Good luck. Have fun." With a goal of establishing DePaul as the leader in eSports inclusion, signage in the new center will greet each participant with "Good Luck. Have Fun. Be Vincentian."

"The Office of Student Involvement will be able to specifically contribute to developing community by assisting students as they plan events and programs in the spaces," says director Courtney James. "We have two turnkey events - a Gamers Gathering and a Food Fight. These events are designed to make it easy for student organizations to come together as they compete in different games.

"One of DePaul's hopes was to create a new and exciting space for students to connect at the Loop campus. By locating the eSports Gaming Center in the DePaul Center, students across a variety of majors can connect through different gaming opportunities," James adds.

Opening Week Events
April 23 - Vintage Video Game Day: 1-5 p.m.
April 23 - Ribbon-Cutting Ceremony: 2 p.m.
April 24 - Rocket League Game: 5-9 p.m.
April 25 - Overwatch Game: 1-5 p.m.
April 25 - Legacy Games: 5-9 p.m.
April 26 - FIFA: 1-5 p.m.
April 26 - Faculty/Staff Afternoon Break: 3-4 p.m.
April 26 - League of Legends Game: 5-9 p.m.