An open house at the Middletown campus invited people to experience the college’s new esports arena.
“Esports is becoming a more relevant component of learning,” said Angela Schroeder, student recreation and wellness specialist at Laurel Ridge. “It can be an extracurricular activity, but it can also be a curricular activity where students can learn transferable skills like teamwork, business and marketing strategies and information technology.”
In a 2020 article, Harvard International Review defined esports as “video games that are played in a highly organized competitive environment. These games can range from popular, team-oriented multiplayer online battle arenas (MOBAs), to single player first person shooters, to survival battle royales, to virtual reconstructions of physical sports.”
A billion-dollar industry that shows no sign of slowing down, esports has quickly become a part of life on college campuses across the country, including Winchester’s own Shenandoah University (SU) which, according to its website, is home of the nation’s first academic esports program.
Career opportunities in esports include coaching, tournament management, becoming a professional player and more. Cameron Tucker, an SU student intern who coaches Valorant and Rocket League esports teams at Laurel Ridge, said that essentially any career a person could have in traditional sports can be transferred to a career in esports.
Laurel Ridge has a partnership with SU where students who receive associate of business degrees can transfer seamlessly into SU’s esports program.
Schroeder said introducing this arena to Laurel Ridge is exciting because it allows students who might not otherwise get the chance to learn about the field.
Laurel Ridge’s esports arena is equipped with 12 gaming PCs and three Nintendo Switches. There’s also a separate room where students can stream if they’re interested in giving that a try.
Nolan Herndon, another SU intern at Laurel Ridge’s esports arena, agreed, adding that he thinks higher education institutions need to offer esports to attract students.
Thomas Anfang, a second-year engineering student at Laurel Ridge who helped with putting together the new arena through his work study in the Office of Student Life and Engagement, said he’s looking forward to seeing how Laurel Ridge’s esports program grows.
Aside from future career options and the potential to enter a fast-growing industry, Anfang said he views Laurel Ridge’s new arena as a space where students can build strong friendships and find a sense of validation and community.
The esports arena is a big step is Laurel Ridge’s process of developing a competitive esports program, the Lions ESports Org. The Middletown campus currently has Rocket League, Valorant and League of Legends teams, though students are invited to reach out if they want to start a new team.
For more information on esports at Laurel Ridge, visit https://laurelridge.edu/student-life/esports-and-intramurals/.