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Esports Arena in Center for Virtual Learning Seen as Recruiting Asset, Opportunity to Feature Successful Club Program

PhotoThe Esports program at Ferris State University would see a significant upgrade in facilities and production capabilities, thanks to accommodations planned in the Center for Virtual Learning, a $29.5 million facility set for construction near the Ferris Library for Information, Technology and Education. Ferris has had an Esports program for nearly four years.

Along with collaborative academic learning opportunities that will result from Ferris State University’s future Center for Virtual Learning, an area dedicated to greater enjoyment of and production capabilities for the Ferris Esports program is an eagerly expected facet of this coming campus facility.

Esports Coordinator Jonathon Eaton said the program is in its fourth year. It began with participants competing in the online battle arena video game League of Legends, competing in a broader range of contests for the last three years.

“Our area in the Center for Virtual Learning will be a bonafide arena, where competitors are on stage, with cameras on their faces as they play via computer,” Eaton said. “The action would be displayed behind the competitors, and spectators would be welcome to watch this take place on-site, as space allows.”

Eaton said the Esports program currently does not have the technical capability to gather and present replays of their competition. The Center for Virtual Learning’s design provides an opportunity to improve its presentation and production capabilities.

“What this design provides will be fantastic, a true student recruitment piece and a very valuable way to gather and present our competitors,” Eaton said. “The plans for our arena include having an announcers’ studio situated nearby, where broadcast talent will describe and react to the action. There will also be a replay suite, with a director and other technicians, who can pull clips from the contest to include in the broadcast.”

The Esports program is proud of its position regionally, having scored among the top 16 colleges and universities nationally in the multiplayer video game Overwatch in the fall of 2020. In recent years, Ferris has also hosted the Michigan Bandwidth Bowl during the fall and spring semesters, with the fourth event planned for this fall.

“Some fantastic collegiate gaming facilities are already in existence,” Eaton said. “Many colleges and universities have retrofitted classrooms to serve as their gaming venues. Once we are competing in the CVL, we will advance our production capabilities, which I believe will put us at the head of the pack.”

Eaton said before COVID-19, the Esports streamed its game action from the West Building, on the northeast corner of Ferris’ Big Rapids campus.

“I would put the quality of our productions up against any to be found at another Michigan college or university, though it involved a relatively basic level of operation,” Eaton said. “While we await this new facility, our competitors will participate remotely, which will continue until the new facilities are complete. Some of our team members have been gaming at Ferris for three years but have only come together a handful of times, despite having spent up to 15 hours a week developing their strategies and talents. Our new arena will allow them to grow as a team side by side, both in practice and competition.”

The $29.5 million Center for Virtual Learning will house the Information Security and Intelligence program and the Digital Animation and Game Design curriculum. Also, it will host Digital Media Software Engineering instruction and offices for the School of Education and be home to Esports gaming and facilities.

“Whenever we can set up in the CVL, we will happily move our operations to this new home,” Eaton said. “There is great anticipation about what our arena will mean to the program while serving as an attention-getter and difference-maker in some students’ enrollment decisions.”