To “e” or not to “e”: the esports controversy

Christopher Dacanay
Sports Editor

Anyone who has been paying any sort of attention to his or her student email at Franciscan University of Steubenville has most likely seen several notices regarding a hypothetical esports league on campus.

For anyone unfamiliar with esports, the term stands for “electronic sports.” It is a relatively new trend concerned with the competitive playing of video games with tournaments, organization-funded teams and the like.

The concept of competitive video gaming is as old as video games themselves, but the realm of international esports is still largely uncharted. Skeptics worldwide still refuse to acknowledge playing video games as a sport.

Certainly, the opinions regarding esports are just as varied at Franciscan as anywhere else. Some students or faculty may welcome the addition of campus-funded esports programs; others may decry the thought, casting doubt on video games’ potential for cultural contribution.

I have fallen into the more critical sect of petitioners for this issue. Regarding my article, I am not here to condemn esports as a whole or to berate those who enjoy it. I simply wish to provide my position on the matter, tempered with arguments from both sides.

A common critique I have heard from the anti-esports crowd is as follows: “Why should we waste money on an esports program when there are plenty of other academic departments or university projects that are more worthwhile and could use the money?”

This was my immediate reaction upon seeing the esports email in my inbox. Memories of the university’s technology and internet issues arose in my head. How can the university invest in esports when internet connectivity issues are still abundant?

In my eyes, the university should invest in fixing its BaronNet issues before pouring money into a program that would require constant, flawless connection. Also, the university’s existing computers should be upgraded before new ones arrive.

The university might find that regular students will utilize the esports computers for schoolwork due to their higher specifications.

However, flagged-out areas behind the J.C. Williams Center suggest an imminent internet overhaul. The dream of consistent, usable internet (and an esports-worthy setup) may not be so far-fetched.

Other sources have claimed that the United States government is funding esports programs across the nation with grants. These grants are specifically intended for the formation of esports programs, and the funds are therefore non-transferable.

I reached out to the university faculty to verify the truth of this, but they did not respond in time for this publication period.

If it is true that the university can receive funding specifically meant for an esports program, then the choice is a no-brainer. Were the funds transferable, some may argue that there are better uses.

As I type out this article, I am currently seated in the digital audio lab, one such location that would benefit from increased funding. Another is room seven on Egan’s ground floor, which is notorious for its unreliable personal computers.

I would personally like to see the communication arts department receive more funding. As a journalism concentration student, I must confess to my partiality.

On a separate note, I would like to address the character of esports as a whole and what its introduction on campus would add to student life.

Alongside news headlines describing the feats of esports gamers and new developments in the field, there are also more disheartening articles. Esports competitors are often found in connection with racist comments, sexual misbehavior and other unsavory habits.

This reality might turn individuals away from esports, but I believe it should have the opposite effect. Depending on the game, esports is not inherently evil. It is a medium for communication, and like any other medium, it can be used for evangelization.

The esports community is desperately in need of gamers who are ready and willing to uphold moral standards and unabashedly promote the Catholic faith. There are millions of individuals online who must have the gospel preached to them by members of their own esports community.

In this light, one may say it is Franciscan University’s duty to create its own esports program and train the gamer-evangelists of the future.

By the time this article is published, the esports survey will have expired, so my thoughts on the esports controversy will not be of much practical use by then. I hope that my reflections have at least helped people to think further about the issue.

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