By MADISON TURNER
As a result of the ongoing pandemic, UMW was unfortunately forced to cancel all winter sports competitions for their student athletes on campus. Due to the unique nature of eSports which allow for it to thrive in the midst of a pandemic, universities with eSports teams are able to take advantage of remote competitive gaming, if they have made it a part of their sports programs.
“Some of the best gaming colleges include Maryville, Robert Morris, Ashland, and Harrisburg University,” said the National Association of Collegiate eSports (NACE). In their organization, there are currently 175 collegiate varsity gaming programs across the nation. The number of these programs and the value of the eSports market is expected to rapidly increase over the next few years. Studies show that by 2023, global eSports market revenue is expected to reach 1.6 billion dollars.
The cancellation of Mary Washington’s sports competitions has left a number of student athletes with no challenges to look forward to, as many of the sports programs are expected to abruptly end due to the cancellation of all competitions. After the sudden cancellation of sports events in March of 2020, members of the UMW community remained hopeful that sports would be able to return. However, yet another semester of sports competitions has been cancelled to maintain the safety and health of the community.
These cancellations resulted in many students being away from their sports and out of practice. This time away from competing has caused concern for some athletes, as they feel they will no longer perform at their best once the sports seasons are able to resume. Some of these athletes are disappointed because they will be graduating without ever having the chance to compete again for the school.
While traditional sports teams are currently unable to compete, universities that have eSports teams were able to quickly adapt to the challenges that presented themselves with the COVID pandemic. Throughout the pandemic, eSports competitions have been able to remain relevant, and still operate in safe manners. As online games are able to be played completely remotely, the only thing a team needs in order to play and practice together are their computers and internet connections. This means that they can practice and compete from home. Because of this, abiding by COVID guidelines during team practices and competitions is entirely feasible, because close contact is unlikely to be a requirement.
I feel that the eSports scene is similar to traditional sports in many ways. It provides a sense of community and a way for students to identify with a university’s team as traditional sports often do. As eSports competitions can be streamed online, students can attend games to spectate in a way that is safer than attending traditional university sports games. This creates a safer environment for not only the players, but fans of the players as well.
With an ongoing pandemic, many traditional college experiences for students have been altered, or cancelled all together. With the absence of college sporting events, parties, and get togethers, much of the fun associated with being a college student has been stripped away from UMW students. With restrictions on gatherings, online communities have become a new way for students to engage with each other safely over the internet.
Due to the cancellation of many activities and clubs on campus, UMW students are in need of ways to connect with one another during this pandemic. While the eSports scene grew rapidly before COVID spread across our country, the practicality of it in the world’s current situation has made it grow even faster. As other universities are adapting to these changes by expanding their sports programs, I believe it is time for Mary Washington to enter into the world of eSports as well.