Our View: Gaming program at Mount Union scores success

·2 min read
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Add to the storied history of Mount Union sports a new contender – esports.

The esports program isn’t really all that new on the campus, having started in Fall 2019. This season's athletes made an impressive showing, however, with 13 participants earning All-Conference honors in the Great Lakes Esports Conference last fall.

According to the university’s website, Mount Union was the first school in Stark County with an esports program that offered scholarships. Varsity-level teams consist of League of Legends, Overwatch, Rocket League, Super Smash Bros.: Ultimate, and Valorant.

Esports athletes and coaches are likely far past feeling it necessary to defend the validity of their sport compared to other programs of longer standing. Nevertheless, some readers may be skeptical of esports compared to basketball, football, baseball and the like.

Neelay Bhatt, writing in the February 2021 issue of Parks and Recreation magazine, traces competitive esports back to a 1972 event at Stanford University, where students competed at the game Space War to win a 12-month subscription to Rolling Stone. Since then, the sport has grown considerably.

Bhatt notes the growth in esports viewership on various streaming platforms (some of it attributed to coronavirus taking away live audiences for the competitions) and increased investments by large corporate donors such as Coca-Cola and Adidas.

An Education Week article from May 2018 cited many purported benefits to esports that are similar to those given in defense of other sports. Among them were communication, teamwork and strategizing. For high school participants, esports may be the first place they have been praised by adults for their gaming skills. That validation can help to build self-esteem.

The drawbacks to esports include a sometimes toxic gaming culture and an exposure to violence through some of the games. But toxicity exists in other sports too, as headlines frequently remind us. And violence, although often referred to as physical contact on the field of play, is also part of many, even most, traditional sports.

All of which is to say that egaming is here to stay, and it is a welcome broadening of athletic offerings at high schools and colleges in general and at the University of Mount Union in particular.

Anything that helps to attract bright, inquisitive students to this part of northeast Ohio and the greater Alliance area is a plus. Honing skills essential to careers and life has long been part of the university’s vision, and esports does this.

Mount Union’s team, under Derek Spinell, head coach and director of esports, is stacking up well against other teams and schools. We wish the program continued growth and success.

This article originally appeared on The Alliance Review: Our View: Gaming program at Mount Union scores success

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