Durham’s esports: Let the games begin!

Sean Gamble, a player for Durham Lords Esports Overwatch team, who has been playing since last Christmas. Photo credit: Dakota Evans

“Gamers rise up” is a meme currently circling social media.

Durham College (DC) adopted that philosophy several months ago, but its main gaming venue is still in the ‘rising’ phase.

At the start of the fall semester DC announced it would be entering the booming esports era, putting together varsity teams to enter gaming competitions against other colleges.

While the teams are in place and in some instances, competing, their much-anticipated gaming venue in the former home of E.P. Taylor’s pub in the Student Centre isn’t ready for keyboard clicking yet.

The facility has had audio and video issues and other technical problems, needed wall reinforcements and an improved layout to include more accessible options, according to Michael Cameron, arena organizer. Although DC officials had initially hoped to have the venue ready by December, no opening date has been set.

“We had to modify the floor plan because we have access requirements, being able to get wheelchairs up there [on the arena playing floor], a couple of stations have to have standing desks, things like that, because we are an inclusive and academic institution,” said Cameron.

The arena will be the second largest gaming location of its kind in North America with 60 high-end gaming computers, according to DC officials.

However, the varsity teams are currently playing their matches from their PCs or laptops at home, according to DC officials.

The varsity teams are about halfway through their first season.

“[Playing on the esports team] is like playing any other sport, you get to get into the team mentality,” said Sean Gamble, a player for the Overwatch team. “And it gives people the opportunity to show them(selves) to the school and represent the school in a different way then just as a student.”

DC is operating seven teams playing seven different games this season.

“Our only teams who have played an in-person match is our Super Smash Bros. team, who faced off against Humber College in Toronto, as well as the League of Legends team who has faced a team in person,” said Bill Ai, DC’s general manager of esports.

Durham College's banner for the upcoming Esports Arena inside the Student Centre. Photo credit: Dakota Evans

Ken Babcock, director of athletics at DC, said the school had representatives at conventions in California and Toronto recently to promote the new arena and varsity teams.

According to Babcock, the arena has had a whirlwind start of positive feedback, full of excitement from gamers who have decided to come to DC to play.

Once completed, DC’s esports arena will offer casual gaming for everyone.

Students can get food and drinks from the new marketplace adjacent to the esports venue, hang out with friends and pay an inexpensive hourly fee to use the various gaming platforms, according to Babcock.