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Calling All Gamers

New Esports & Gaming Lounge provides competition and camaraderie for students

Students warming up for a Mario Kart tournament

(A group of students warm up for a Mario Kart tournament. Photo by Jeremy Wangler)

From The Ichabod - Spring 2023
By Lindsay Thompson

Jaelen Matthews’ favorite moments at work are when it gets loud. As a monitor for the Washburn University Esports & Gaming Lounge in the Living Learning Center, seeing a group of students in the joy of the moment is her cue the space is living up to its purpose.

“I love it when a group of friends is laughing at what just happened in the game and celebrating,” Matthews said. “I have fun because they’re having fun.”

Matthews, a junior in forensic biology, has been working in the lounge since it opened in the fall of 2022. The job provides the perfect opportunity to merge a hobby she loves and her duties as secretary of Washburn’s new Esports and Gaming Club. She coordinates gaming tournaments and twice-weekly practice sessions for students in the lounge.

Jaelen Matthews coordinates a Mario Kart tournament

(Junior Jaelen Matthews coordinates a Mario Kart tournament. Photo by Jeremy Wangler)

The idea for a lounge was first proposed by actuarial science student, Jesse Mort. Mort, who is club president, worked with the administration to survey student interest in the space. From there, the Student Recreation and Wellness Center partnered with Residential Living to bring the idea to fruition. Now every Washburn student has access to a comfortable lounge with 24 computers and multiple game consoles.

For the uninitiated who did not grow up with video games or never developed an interest, a space and events like these might be puzzling as video games can be perceived as a solo pursuit. But this could not be further from the truth. Like traditional sports, many of these games involve playing on a team against other players. And there are other parallels between esports and traditional sports.

“Practices are a big thing,” said Dan Wrenholt, assistant director of intramural and club sports, SRWC. “You can’t come in and pick up a game and be good at it right away, especially with most of them being five or six-person teams. Everyone has to be on the same page.”

Students in the Esports and Gaming Lounge

(Students can play at individual gaming stations or group stations in the new Esports & Gaming Lounge. Photo by Jeremy Wangler)

Matthews thinks gaming in the lounge also helps students develop skills for any profession. Team games require communication while practicing leadership in a simulated high-pressure environment.

It is also a pathway to a growing range of career opportunities. Jaycie Gluck, ba ’09, applied her mass media degree toward a career in esports, starting as a commentator and working her way to her current position as senior vice president at Wisdom Gaming.

Gluck had been a gamer since childhood. She discovered the career path when she attended her first esports tournament after college. She was particularly inspired by the broadcast talent. Gluck started creating her own videos, commentating on tournaments and streaming on Twitch. It was a perfect application of her mass media training.

“I was in the digital media track and did a lot of video creation and editing,” Gluck said. “I used that to help me start making YouTube content around the game. My education at Washburn has absolutely helped me.”

Jaycie Gluck presenting

(Jaycie Gluck, ba '09. Photo by Carlton Beener)

Gluck said the esports industry needs a variety of skilled professionals to support it.

“People usually think of playing, commentating and coaching,” she said. “But there are many needs beyond those; things like video editing, photography, broadcasting, graphic design, sales and business acumen.”

Washburn's gaming lounge isn’t just a resource for students focused on an esports career path. It is also a place where students on any career path can build friendships and community around a hobby they enjoy. It is something Wrenholt sees as especially important after the coronavirus pandemic.
“Lots of these students were living their lives online for several years,” he said. “It provides a way for students to get out and meet people with similar interests.”

It has given Matthews a chance to meet people outside her major and make friends with students she might not have met otherwise. She wants student to know they do not have to be a strong player to join in.

“I'll be the first one to tell you I'm not very good at Valorant, but it is my favorite game and I love it,” Matthews said. “The people I play with know that, and they do not care. It is a very welcoming room and community. You can find your people here.”

Students playing games in the esports lounge

(Students playing a video game in the Esports & Gaming Lounge. Photo by Jeremy Wangler)

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