Esports Society president Chris Hannon aims to introduce scholarships for top video game players at the University of New Brunswick.
Recently revitalized last year, the esports Society has existed at UNB for about five years. The society expanded to introduce more teams, and more games, making the society much more active than in previous years. Esports is a type of competitive video game playing, which usually involves multiplayer team games.
Hannon said it can be difficult to attract new members, as not all casual video game players are interested in becoming competitive and many on campus are not aware of the society. He does note, however, that after the reopening last year the group is experiencing an influx of members.
“Last year was kind of a reopening. We became a lot more involved and did a lot more,” Hannon said.
esports Society team member Noah Coleman found the society last year after having played video games casually throughout his life. He said the group is a defining aspect of his university experience.
“Being a part of this community introduced me to many new people that share a lot of interests with me,” Coleman said. “If I had never tried out for that team my university experience would have been completely different.”
However, Coleman said there is a slightly negative perception of esports at UNB.
“I think people do take the Esports Society as a joke unless they are a part of it. It is understandable that people would see the society this way, but the community grows each year,” he said.
Hannon said the road to dispelling these misconceptions involves continuing the group’s growth, becoming more legitimate and ranking well in competition. He said many high-level players who planned to join the UNB society (and who would have increased the club’s success) were instead picked up by universities offering scholarships for the talent. Schools like the University of Toronto, Western University and the University of British Columbia attract major players that consequently help schools gain notoriety in the league.
He said it’s a challenge to build competitive teams when there is more incentive for top players to play elsewhere.
Although university administration takes esports seriously, and it is more accepted as an event than in the past, it is still becoming established.
“This is new for the east coast,” Hannon said.
He said introducing esports scholarships to UNB could make it the definitive competitive school this side of Ontario. Hannon’s goal before he graduates is to convince UNB to implement these scholarships in the next three years.
According to Kelsey Pye, communications officer at UNB, there exists a small number of scholarships offered by UNB that stipulate participation in a particular club or society in their conditions. She mentioned the possibility of extending this beyond what is currently included, all the while prioritizing academic performance.
“The Undergraduate Awards Office at UNB is open to awarding [scholarships] to students in clubs and societies on campus,” Pye said.
Hannon said the key to achieving his goal will be demonstrating the possibilities available through esports.
“Really it is going to be about trying to gain footing within the teams,” he said. “The tough thing is to get better placings.”
Over the next year, esports Society teams will continue to attend competitions and attempt to climb the rankings. One society team reached fourth place at a recent competition in Halifax.
“I’m very happy about how things are going right now. It's a matter of showing the university that this isn't a joke, and we are serious,” Hannon said.