Dickinson State University is getting a new mini athletics department - for esports.
Players of esports at the varsity level are divided into teams based on the online game they play competitively. The school will have at least four teams - Fortnite, Apex Legends, Rainbow Six Siege and Rocket League. The size of the teams are determined by the game and typically range from one to six players.
Josh Nichols is the esports coordinator for DSU. He chose the teams based on the number of students who were interested in each game, as determined by a survey and recruitment form on the recently created bluehawkesports.com website.
"I also sent out some cold leads across the country, high school esport tournaments and things like that, so we have over 100 people who have filled out the recruit me form so far," Nichols said.
Requirements to be on the teams are not set in stone, as the National Association of Collegiate Esports, the governing body of the sport, is still working on its guidelines.
"If we get a lot of people, we might have more of a competitive recruitment process where we'll have them actually try out ... if we don't have that, then it'll be a little bit more casual," Nichols said.
DSU will institute an academic requirement, however, like it does with its traditional sports.
DSU's esports varsity teams will compete with other colleges statewide and nationwide and will host their players on Twitch, a streaming site for gamers. They don't have a broadcasting studio, but all of the computers have a webcam and there are two portable green screens available for their use.
"Also, we'll probably have our players stream on their own accounts and link those from the website, so if you have a favorite player or you want to look at their perspective, you could join their specific channel," Nichols said.
For those wishing to watch their competitions, the teams might host viewing parties in the Blue Hawk Hub in the basement of the student center.
Nichols said the addition of esports will be good for recruitment and retention as well as addressing the stigma of online gaming.
"Some people, I think, have a stigma about esports ... well, it's only computer science majors ... It's only people who are unfit. It's a boys' club. ... I have quite a few females that are interested in playing. I have National Guard members that are more fit than I could ever hope to be. We have a football player that's coming in this fall that also wants to play esports," Nichols said.
DSU's original plans were to start off the 2019-20 school year with an esports club, measure interest and potentially progress to varsity level. When Nichols started as esports coordinator in February, more concrete plans started to form.
"Right now, I think it's going to be more of a pilot varsity team where we can kind of work out some of the bugs and see what works and what doesn't," he said.
Now, the university will offer varsity esports teams, gaming club and an area for casual play. While the varsity team is PC gaming online, the club will allow members to play console and tabletop games.