Article Written by Daniel Aikins. Photo Courtesy of Chase Neukam.
On the 3rd of April, St Cloud State opened its long gestating esports arena to the public, complete with gaming themed snacks, representation from every up and coming gaming club on campus, and a presentation that gave us a glimpse into what SCSU’s future in esports will look like.
When asked about his ambitions regarding the new gaming space, newly appointed SCSU Esports director Chase Neukam stated “We are thrilled to open our new esports arena in the Atwood Memorial Center basement to the campus population here at St. Cloud State. This collaboration space will be a cornerstone of our commitment to growing the campus community, competitive initiatives, and career opportunities. We invite students in to utilize the arena by reserving space through emailing firstname.lastname@example.org”.
After signing into the event, attendees could interact with booths set up for the various gaming clubs currently offered on campus, dine on various gaming themed snacks (Star power up cupcakes, Minecraft creeper Rice Krispie treats, etc), and watch as our Rocket League team breaks in the arena’s new PCs with an exhibition match.
At 3 pm, a presentation began with remarks from SCSU President Robbyn Wacker highlighting the school’s three main focuses regarding the future of SCSU Esports: Community, Competition, and Careers. This was followed by SCSU Esports director Chase Neukam and several other important figures in SCSU’s Esports efforts going through how each focus factors into the school’s overall plans for Esports in the future.
Firstly, in terms of community, the school plans on offering events that will help St Cloud’s gaming community young and old connect with their new initiative. This ranges from events happening in the next few weeks such as the return of the popular “Best Buy After Dark” event on April 28th to more long term planned out events such as hosting a Super Smash Bros. Midwest Regional event on campus this July. This initiative will also include summer camps starting this year to get the community more involved in the gaming space.
Secondly, in terms of competition, the school bolstered its current gaming clubs (Super Smash Bros, Valorant, Overwatch, League of Legends, Rocket League, etc.) and delved into plans to expand some of those clubs and give them full-fledged varsity teams. The biggest of these plans involve a new initiative called “The Academy”, a competitive training ground set to take place in early august for Rocket League and Super Smash Bros. in the fall. This event will ultimately decide who gets to be on those varsity teams, with scholarship opportunities being offered to those who make the cut. There are also more varsity teams in the planning stages for Spring 2024, with rosters being picked out from The Academy. All these teams will also receive financial support from SCSU.
Finally, in terms of careers, SCSU is planning on offering two new Esports minors for the new school year, one for Esports management, the other for Mass Communication. The school is also offering opportunities for experiential learning, with the Esports team actively looking for students to join a social media content team in the works as well as positions at UTVS for producing and casting Esports content.
The presentation concluded with SCSU Esports Director Chase Neukam reiterating the groups’ ultimate goal: to create a space of inclusivity for all students. He ended the presentation by saying to all future students looking to get into Esports on campus: “There is a place for you at SCSU”.
When asked about his hopes for the future of Esports on campus, Esports manager Brian Welch stated: “My hope for the Esports Community is to help grow it into a self-sustaining hub of social gaming, where students from all walks of life feel included and enthusiastic about the world of video games.”.
Learn more about getting involved with Esports on campus at the Atwood Esports Lounge or follow SCSU Esports on Facebook, Twitch, Twitter, Instagram, and Discord.