The University of Michigan’s Central Student Government unanimously passed a non-binding resolution Aug. 21 for a facility on campus to be dedicated to esports and recreational gaming.
The resolution suggests the facility be a designated place for esports teams to practice, have current versions of gaming consoles and host esports competitions. It was proposed that funding for this esports arena should come from University of Michigan alumni Robert Kotick’s $4 million dollar donation to fund U-M’s esports minor.
Ann Arbor Esports currently has over 600 members, with 100 participating in competitions. The members, who range from recreational level gamers to professional level players, are responsible for providing their own equipment.
Jessica Zhu, Esports vice president and Engineering junior, said the lack of a gaming facility leads to challenges for students who are unable to bring their gaming consoles to campus. She said many people miss out on opportunities to play video games due to socioeconomic standing or access to a gaming setup.
“We have a student here who is in tier two Overwatch, and he doesn’t play for us because there’s no set up for him to play on,” Zhu said. “He’s from Korea, he’s not going to bring a setup all the way from Korea. So because of that, we ended up losing (out) on that kind of talent on our teams.”
Members of the club said they believe that esports are being overlooked by the University and that they do not provide esports the necessary facilities as other club and intramural sports.
Jarek Schmanski, LSA sophomore and LSA Student Government representative, said the University should be providing equal access and attention to esports as it does the other club sports.
“If we’re the leaders and the best, we really should be providing the best quality equipment,” Schmanski said.
The club has members that compete for the school, as well as those who only play recreationally.
The esports industry is growing rapidly and students feel that the University is behind other universities, such as The Ohio State University and U-M Flint, which both have esports arenas. Esports programs have seen exponential growth since the implementation of these facilities.
U-M Flint virtually launched their esports program in Fall 2020 and had 18 competing members in their first year of operation, despite the lack of in-person meetings, according to U-M Flint esports coordinator Jason Gooding.
Gooding said since U-M Flint opened to in-person instruction, the club membership has grown exponentially to include 37 registered students.
The main contrast between Gooding’s experience founding the esports facility and the efforts of students on the Ann Arbor campus is the approval process, which differs between the two. Gooding said he had a relatively easy experience gaining approval for this project on the Flint campus.
“They’ve requested it, they’ve gone through the correct channels and got student government involved,” Gooding said. “(Ann Arbor students) brought this up multiple times and no one is taking them seriously. I feel bad for (the) students, and that (they’re) not being considered.”
Zhu said the main focus of the club’s efforts is to give their members more than what the club is currently able to provide.
“We’re just trying to get anything we can get,” Zhu said. “Because that’s how desperate we are to support our competitive team members. Because right now, even though they put in at least six hours a week practicing and competing, we offer them nothing to compete, they don’t get free jerseys, they don’t get scholarships, they don’t even get a facility to play in. So at that point, we want something to be able to support our players at all.”
Cybbi Barton, assistant director for esports and intramural programming chair, said she sees the resolution as a step in the right direction toward building the esports facility.
“What is important for myself and our department is to establish a foundation of what this program is going to be (and) what this program is going to have for the next 100 years,” Barton said.
Daily News Contributor Jessica Gurvitz can be reached at email@example.com.