Cornell to launch competitive esports program

The multiplayer video gaming competition that’s sweeping the nation is now coming to Cornell College: esports.

Earlier this fall, President Jonathan Brand asked a task force of students, faculty, staff, and alumni to research the opportunity. After several months of study and discussion, including a campus forum, the task force recommended that Cornell sponsor a program with competition beginning in Fall 2019.

According to the National Association of Collegiate Esports (NACE), Cornell will become one of about 100 institutions in the country with an esports team. The organization says in 2016, only seven colleges and universities had varsity esports programs.

“We’re responding to a major new movement in the country,” said Vice President for Student Affairs John Harp. “We want to be able to offer an esports opportunity to our current and future students in an environment that will naturally incorporate the values of learning and community-building. Additionally, students who participate will enhance their individual and teamwork abilities, and communication, organization, and planning skills–all of which are skills they’ll also use later in life, in the workplace.”

The task force recommended that Cornell’s esports program begin with one of the most popular intercollegiate games, Overwatch. Professor of Theatre Scott Olinger, who was also on the task force, said Overwatch has a player base on campus and has won numerous awards for its creative, team-based gameplay. Olinger is excited about the educational opportunities esports could bring to campus in the future.

“The gaming world has many links to the educational world; most games are now cinematic, interactive experiences that employ designers, writers, voice actors, coders, engineers, and a variety of other professionals,” Olinger said. “Entering the world of esports opens up possibilities to link our educational programs to this growing industry.”

A nationwide search for a head coach will begin this week. Over the summer, Shaw Lounge in the Thomas Commons will be transformed into the new esports arena with specialized equipment that Cornellians will use to participate in nationwide esports competitions.

“The arena and esports community is going to be a place that’s all-inclusive for both active players and those who have never played an esports game in their life,” said Cheyenne Brockett ’21, a member of the esports task force. “Many new college students are searching for places that have an esports program, so this will be great for creating interest in our school. As someone who has an interest in both gaming and making friends who enjoy similar games that I do, I’m extremely excited.”

The esports team will be recognized as a college-sponsored sport and will have daily practices that involve strategizing, team-building activities, and scrimmaging. Members of the esports team will dedicate about the same number of hours to their sport as traditional student-athletes. The team will have academic requirements for continued participation, a weekly physical regimen, and a community service commitment.

If you are a high school student interested in learning more about the esports program at Cornell College, contact your admissions counselor for more information.