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  • Alisa Koryagina

New club helps eSports find its place on PBA campus

Designated eSports area on PBA campus

Palm Beach Atlantic University started the new school year with exciting news for students who are passionate about gaming — the introduction of a new eSports club.

The esports club in development for over a year, was officially announced at the commencement of the Fall Semester in 2023. In a previous interview with The Beacon Today, Vice President of Student Development Bob Lutz said that the club was still in its early development stages but was slated for a Fall 2023 launch. Now that it is officially here, students can sign up for the upcoming at-home tournaments starting this week.

Jared Stewart, founder of Video Game Ministries (VGM), joined PBA as the head coach of esports this fall.

Growing up in the late 90s when video games expanded to include classics like Pac-Man and Super Mario, Stewart found it inevitable to not become involved in the industry. During his tenure as a local church pastor, he grappled with questions like “Am I playing too much?” and “Is this beneficial for me?”. Upon reflection, he concluded that gaming could offer substantial rewards when approached with the purpose of redemption. He sought opportunities to promote a Christian perspective on video games for organizations, churches, nonprofits and individuals.

While the primary goal of esports on campus is to be competitive, it also offers students an opportunity to utilize their leisure time when the Rinker Arena is available.

“We are looking to be more competitive, but we still are leveraging and utilizing video games to create Christian game changers,” said Stewart.

Unlike any traditional esports club, Stewart aims to make it more than just a competitive space.

“We want Christ-following game changers in the esports community,” Stewart said. “There's going to be so much more that will be built into esports.”

Rather than focusing solely on the competitive side of the club, it is Stewart’s goal to provide an opportunity for every interested student to find their place. According to Stewart, the main objective is to compete with other universities while also allowing on-campus gamers to practice their skills outside of competitions.

“I want PBA students who are esports inclined to have opportunities elsewhere because of their experience and time.”

Esports, both an unconventional sport and form of entertainment, is still not universally recognized as a sport, though it is. Many people stream esports events through platforms like Twitch, often free for the audience.

Stewart says that many at-home tournaments and future competitions will be streamed on Twitch, requiring a broadcasting team.

“I want to build a gaming community at PBA. Do you like sports broadcasting but you find yourself as a gamer? Do you want to be the John Madden or the Stephen A. Smith of the eSports world? Well, let's create that opportunity for you,” Stewart said.

In addition to broadcasting, the club is looking for an event planner, leadership structure and production manager. The club will give students the chance to stream and create content while having the ability to view multiple screens on one monitor and switch between cameras for Twitch.

While the gaming arena is fully set up and ready for use, internet access remains limited. Stewart has already filed a complaint to the head of the department of athletics. However, the decision remains unchanged.

“I’m going to get a hold of IT to see how quickly we can get one dedicated port,” he said.

According to the Head Department of Athletics, students cannot enjoy gaming sessions at the arena without the presence of the head coach, a decision that is bothersome for many students on campus. Seth Tinner, one of the first students to join the esports team, expressed his frustration.

“I find it stupid to limit students like that,” Tinner admits. “What if the coach’s schedule does not allow him to be there with us? What is the whole point of this club then if we can’t play?”

Recruitment has already begun, but the official competition will not start until the fall of 2024. According to Stewart, this gives the department time to assemble a skillful and dedicated team.

“I'm not going to field a team for Super Smash Brothers when we don't have the right players,” Stewart says. “In the meantime, we're preparing the foundation before we build the house on it.”

By Alisa Koryagina

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