Electronic sports (eSports) are a mega-popular pastime, and games like League of Legends, Battle Royale and PUBG are invading your recommended YouTube page. In case you didn’t know, eSports is a multiplayer video game that is played competitively to an audience, and an industry of over $ 1 billion is growing – and fast. Newzoo expects eSports viewers to grow 9.2% to 920.3 million by 2024, and streamers such as Ninja and Shroud will help attract an audience.
The University of Cincinnati (UC) eSports Club is aware of these rapid trends, but, according to club president Mickey Kumar, “we are just a group of people who love to play games and watch people play games.”
This “group of people” includes the Discord community with more than 2,000 members, 800 of whom are UC-tested students. When Kumar, a student of Fine Arts and Art History at DAAP, first joined UC Esports Discord in 2017, it had only about 25 members.
Discord, a platform for instant messaging and digital distribution, has a hub of diverse communities in UC, and UC Esports is the largest.
The community is not only large but also generous. The club conducted charity live broadcasts on Twitch, which began during the start of the COVID-19 pandemic to attract members. In December 2020, the club held a 24-hour Christmas live broadcast and was able to raise more than $ 1,000 for Cincinnati Children’s Hospital.
Shortly before this live broadcast, the local non-profit organization A Kid Again, which supports children with life-threatening conditions, turned to the club for help. They wanted UC Esports to hold an “adventure” that A Kid Again defines as a child’s time away from the hospital, giving them the opportunity to forget about the disease. The club agreed and held a Minecraft adventure.
Experiencing the success of the Christmas live broadcast, and waiting for a request from A Kid Again, the eSports club knew what they wanted to do next.
“We were so impressed with how well our community worked with the Christmas charity live broadcast that we wanted to raise money for A Kid Again,” Kumar said.
On Valentine’s Day weekend in 2021, at an event called “Spread the Love,” the UC eSports club raised more than $ 3,000 for A Kid Again. Their next charity live broadcast is scheduled for the spring break of 2022 from March 18 to 20, and will be joined by schools including OSU, Miami and NKU.
As president, Kumar is the face of the club, holding meetings and working closely with the administration. She has been president since November 2019 after first joining the executive board as an officer in the spring of 2018.
“I feel that people have started to respect me, at least compared to my first year,” Kumar said. “I admit that most of our members are men, but this year we have a very diverse set of officers.” Women currently hold four of the seven seats on the UC Esports Club executive board.
E-sports offers students a place where they can play video games, both casually and in competitions. The group holds events from time to time and meets every two weeks on Fridays from 6 to 9 p.m.
Members do not necessarily need to attend meetings that are more secular than games. Over the years, Kumar has learned that people prefer to play on their PCs at home rather than bring laptops to a meeting.
The UC Esports Club will get its own space at the end of the spring semester of 2022 at the 1819 Innovation Center. It will be called the Esports Innovation Lab. For Kumar, this dream came true.
“For as long as I can remember as an officer, I have always fought for an eSports place,” Kumar said. “I think UC has realized that other Ohio universities are starting to do e-sports, and it’s time to do it yourself. The UC Esports community has definitely ignited a spark [for the lab] and we were very strong in that. “
Kumar, who is graduating this spring, feels bitter about opening the lab when she leaves UC, but she is proud of her work. “I feel like all the work was worth it at the moment,” she said. “This is my main work.”