Ohio State will officially enter the esports industry this fall, focusing on three legs: research, competition and the student experience. With more than 80 PC and console stations, the esports arena in Lincoln Tower will help facilitate this by giving opportunities to students when it comes to all three facets of focus. 

Almost a year after its initial announcement, the esports arena is expected to be open as early as next week, barring setbacks.

“Here in Student Life, what we have is the facility that provides recreational and social opportunities for students as well as the competitive nature,” Brandon Smith, esports director, said. “We’ve had students ask for years about wearing the team colors. They want to wear the university jersey, they want to represent Ohio State against other schools, and that’s part of what we’re doing at this facility as well.”

Ohio State Esports is currently looking for competitive teams in “League of Legends,” “Hearthstone,” “Overwatch” and “Rocket League.”

The arena has a room dedicated to collegiate esports athletes, so players can practice against each other, and a sliding window that opens up for fans to watch them play during live matches. For those looking to work in broadcasting, live production or social media, the arena also has a separate room for that purpose. 

“If students are interested in the production or social media, as well as competitive gameplay, we wanted to make sure they had something that they could do in this facility,” Smith said. 

The large amount of space available in the arena will allow for future adjustments, Smith said. Depending on demand, additional games can be installed on the PCs and consoles, while more virtual reality stations could also be added, Smith said. Additionally, as sponsorships grow, so will the possibilities for adding more to the arena, he said.

“A space like this with all the PCs already set up and everything are going to make running anything you really want to do a lot easier to do and in person,” Kenneth Kresina, community manager for the Buckeye Gaming Collective, said.  “In-person has a little bit more of an advantage than online because you actually get to meet people.”

Kresina said when it comes to community, it’s not just about the facility, but about forming teams, planning future projects and building a broader sense of community within the video game community at Ohio State.

Jimmy Onate, faculty director of the esports Human Performance Collaborative, said the arena is a “new playground” for observing student life.

“That’s the whole goal, why we’re here at a land-grant institution is to research and educate and provide outreach opportunities, but all of them come down to the bottom line of, ‘How do we help people achieve their goals?’” Onate said.

The arena itself is currently undergoing stress testing to see how it can handle large amounts of players using the facility at once. However, it is expected to be open to the public as early as next week for students looking to pass the time, play with friends and experience community in Ohio State’s newest gaming environment.