April 24, 2024

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Penn State gamers anticipate new esports lounge community, no longer using ‘garbage laptops’ | University Park Campus News

Penn State’s new esports lounge is nearing its final stages of completion — much to the anticipation of gamers on campus.

The new facility — to be located in the White Building — is specifically designed to accommodate esports but is available for students to just “drop in and play whenever they want,” Laura Hall, senior director of Campus Recreation at Penn State, said.

The esports lounge, which will include 53 computers and will be split into three sections, will also host intramural leagues, tournaments and student organizations that want to practice and compete in esports, according to Hall.

Flanking the rows of computers found in the center of the room, one end will feature lounge seating for console gaming, while the other will be walled off to minimize noise and serve as a competitive space, Hall said.

In addition to the planned hiring of an “esports expert” to manage the space, Hall said communication with students and student organizations is critical to ensuring the university will be “getting it right from the jump.”

Owen Ritchey, president of the Esports Club at Penn State, said the move to establish a dedicated facility for esports follows the precedent of other universities, such as Brown and Ohio State.

Penn State originally decided to just “build a gaming space with the leftover area tailored to stuff like esports,” Ritchey (junior-corporate innovation and entrepreneurship) said.

“But now, we have a separate room,” Ritchey said. “Now, we have a setup where they have it set up in a specific way to maximize the desk space for esports.”

Although the specifications for the gaming computers aren’t confirmed yet, Hall said the two of the “top gaming manufacturers” are suppliers being looked into for the lounge.

“There was a concern about how good the PCs [will be]… if they were going to really shell out the cash for the top graphics cards today,” Ritchey said. “And that’s not a concern anymore.”

Ritchey said he believes the opening of the lounge will be “everything” for the club’s members.

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Describing the Esports Club as a “skeleton” for people who are interested in gaming and esports, Ritchey said he thinks “a lot of people would really credit the club as a space where they can make friends they wouldn’t normally make.”

“Most of the people on the rosters are currently playing on garbage laptops in not the most ideal setup, but they do it anyway because they love the game,” Ritchey said. “With the new in-person space, students will be able to consistently host scrimmages, pickup games or even party games.”

Referring to the inclusion of exchange students in campus, Ritchey pointed out that “there isn’t really another club on campus that can do what [the Esports Club] can” because esports and gaming have the potential to “transcend the language and cultural barrier.”

“I’ve been on teams with Vietnamese and Indonesian students who wouldn’t normally get involved on campus but because, you know, their English isn’t too great,” Ritchey said. “But maybe [they join] because they’re really good at Overwatch, for example.”

Even though Ritchey said there may be a cultural gap between club members, the lounge will hopefully help to bridge that barrier.

“They come together [through playing] the same game,” Ritchey said. “I think that’s a really special thing our community has.”

However, the coronavirus pandemic has taken a significant toll on esports players’ motivation, according to Ritchey.

“You had a lot of players that just didn’t have the drive to play anymore,” Ritchey said. “They didn’t have the excitement to play on the highest level because they didn’t have the crowd with them.”

Ritchey said since a physical esports lounge will “[grab] the in-person crowd,” he hopes the drive to compete will return.

“You need to have that in-person space because a big part of esports is the community,” Ritchey said. “It’s really critical to get this off the ground.”






Esports Lounge




Connor Calderon, division head of Penn State Esports Club’s League of Legends team, said he hopes to use the lounge for hosting in-person tournaments.

“For people like me who have a huge desktop and their laptop can’t really play games, [the lounge] will let them come to the in-person event a lot more easily,” Calderson (senior-computer science) said.

Rather than simply interacting with other players through voice chat, Calderon said he believes the lounge will strengthen the bond between team members and improve their competition results.

Despite the competitive nature of esports, Calderon emphasized it’s “not the only focus of the club.”

“I think a lot of people would look at esports and think of it as being a very competitive place,” Calderon said. “We want it to be a place for anyone to come [and] enjoy whatever games they want to play.”

Calderon said he has no doubt the lounge will be a hotspot on campus for more casual gamers.

Esports is “a growing thing that a lot of the student population likes,” Calderon said. Even though the lounge is planned to house 53 computers, he said he is still “worried about it being overfilled.”

While the lounge was originally intended to open prior to this fall semester, the pandemic pushed back the timeline, and now, there will be a “soft opening in mid-summer,” according to Hall.

“We’re really excited to finally be able to support and serve the needs of our gaming community on campus,” Hall said. “We know it’s huge and growing.”

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