Waikato Uni opens Esports arena
It's the fastest growing sport in the world, so it makes sense for the tertiary sector to take notice of Esports. The University of Waikato has gone a step further, claiming it is making New Zealand history by launching the first university-based esports facility, the OMEN Esports Arena.
Waikato University Director of Student Services Mike Calvert says the OMEN Esports Arena fits with the university's direction of providing opportunities in a sport that has the highest potential to grow revenues globally.
"Esports is a global phenomenon and is one of the fastest growing industries," says Calvert. "With more than a million participants in New Zealand, and more than 300 million participants worldwide, it makes sense from a strategic perspective to move into this space," he says.
Calvert cites the PwC's 2018 Sports Survey report, which shows that Esports is the fastest growing sport by revenue globally.
A great example is the Fortnite World Cup tournament in New York last month where New Zealand players CoverH and Twizz (also known as Chris Hunt and Sam Pearson) came last in the 'duos' section but still managed to earn US$50,000.
Waikato University's new facility is sponsored by OMEN, which has naming rights, with equipment also supplied by PB Tech. The arena is described in the announcement as: "Retrofitted with high-end gaming computers, gaming chairs and a big screen TV for game streaming and console gaming, the esports arena serves as a dedicated space for on-campus gaming enthusiasts."
"We want to be able to give our students, who are likely to be engaging in esports anyway, an opportunity to be part of this in a socially inclusive environment where they can participate with like-minded people and, eventually, segue into future opportunities in esports," Calvert says.
On a more, well, academic note, Calvert notes that the University is also looking at ways to link esports with its research programmes. "It's also an opportunity to link academic research and esports together, which is something we're developing at the moment," he says.
The University of Waikato is also offering a school-leaver scholarship for students who excel in esports. The 2degrees Esports Scholarship for School-Leavers awards $5000 to students who demonstrate excellence in esports, exhibit leadership experience or potential, and who carry values in health and wellbeing.
As with many areas in tech, Calvert is keen to challenge stereotypes about the behaviour and outlook of those involved in Esports.
"People are still of the opinion that gamers are the nerds in the corner who have no social skills, doing something that won't take you anywhere in life. But this initiative is a step towards showing people that esports can lead to many opportunities in a billion dollar industry."
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