Club opens arena for social gaming

By Taher Zeitoun

DeKALB — The largest NIU athletic club has opened an arena filled with updated video gaming equipment to promote both competitive and casual video gaming among students.

Esports describes the world of competitive, organized gaming, a growing phenomenon across the world.

Aline Click, faculty advisor for the eSports Club, said the club is a recognized NIU Sport Club with more than 75 members — the largest on campus.

The club promotes community among students through video gaming, she said.

She said years ago, video gaming was looked at as an isolating activity without socialization.

“With multiplayer online gaming, this perception has changed, leaving only a select few maintaining a negative view,” Click said. “In the eSports Club arena, students are coming together, playing as a team, making new friendships and developing leadership growth.”

Click said at first she assumed esports only consisted of sports games. After learning more, she said the club offers almost every type of competitive gaming, such as “Super Smash Bros.,” “Overwatch” and “World of Warcraft.”

“A lot of colleges across the nation are creating esports clubs and providing scholarships for the club members,” Click said. “NIU is starting to take notice of this by creating the arena this year and the cafés in Naperville and Hoffman Estates in early March.”

Click said the esports arena on campus is open to all students and community members, while NIU Naperville and NIU Hoffman Estates offer esports cafés, which are open to the public at an hourly fee.

The club memberships consist of three tiers, each containing its own set of perks: Tier one is free and allows general access to the lounge. Tiers two and three allow members to join a competitive team and receive a blue membership card, which provides access to the lounge 24/7.

Click said the cost to join tier two and three is $20 and the money goes toward fundraising for the club. She said the difference between joining tier two and three is receiving a t-shirt or a sweater.

Click said the club meets every other Friday from 6 to 9 p.m. to discuss club affairs and plan events. She said these LAN meetings are an opportune time for interested members to join.

She also said students interested can join through Huskie Link, giving them instant access to the arena after office hours.

Tony Conde, co-vice president of the eSports Club and sophomore mechanical engineering major, said his role is to assist President Conner Vagle and promote esports in a way relatable to most people.

Conde said the addition of the arena provides students with a spot to unwind and meet people. Creating a space specifically for the club encouraged him to put more effort into promotion and development for the organization.

“For a while, we [were] always at different venues like Stevenson and the Holmes Student Center,” Conde said. “Having a dedicated space for us shows our club is respected, and real money is being invested in this club.”

Conde said Dell made donations to the club by providing high-quality computer equipment for the arena. He said these donations give students with a low incomes an opportunity to enjoy gaming with the equipment they might not be able to afford on their own.

Ricardo Alonzo, sophomore computer science major and tier two club member, said the equipment donated by Dell allows students to experience video gaming from a different perspective. Most students don’t get a chance to play on high-quality equipment, he said, and it makes the gameplay much smoother and more enjoyable.

Alonzo said being a member of the club gives him the opportunity to experience a more diverse community within the university.

“People should get more involved in NIU Esports because it allows people a chance to be more involved within their university and meet new people in the process,” Alonzo said.

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