The much-anticipated esports arena in the Student Centre at Durham College (DC) was originally slated to be ready in December, but it’s still AFK (the gamers acronym for ‘away from keyboard’.)
And although it hasn’t heard the echoing sound of mechanical keyboard clicking and roaring victory screams as of yet, it should be ready within weeks.
The gaming component to the arena will be “soft launching” sometime by the end of March but the lounge area is currently open for student use. The delay is due, in part, to a reconfiguration of the space.
Once complete, Durham is aiming to the be hub of varsity gaming among post-secondary institutions in Canada, according to Michael Cameron, DC’s academic liaison of esports for the arena.
“There are two components to the arena, the student lounge area for spectating games and the arena itself,” said Cameron. “The construction for the arena is still carrying on but the lounge area is open.”
What makes this arena different from others in the college esports scene is that this one offers academic learning.
Last semester, students in the Marketing program used the arena as a topic for a twitter assignment and the Sports Management program has incorporated the arena into learning by planning fund-raising gaming tournaments, according to Cameron.
Cameron also acknowledged upcoming opportunities for experiential learning by noting the arena will have a broadcast booth for live coverage of tournaments.
The booth will have buttons known as “switchers” to move between all gaming machines and cameras that capture either the audience in the lounge or the arena during play.
“It [the esports arena] is an interesting opportunity for Durham College,” said second-year DC video production student Lulian Macsim, 18, who attended a recent ‘We Got Games!’ event in The Pit.
All the gaming computers in the arena will be on a shared network with webcams that will allow the broadcasters to capture the emotion of the gamers during major events in the tournament.
“I think the varsity games will be interesting to watch, I’m a casual gamer but I sometimes like to follow esports,” added UOIT third-year computer science student Robert Marshall, 22.
Awareness of the construction of a gaming arena at DC has been growing rapidly around campus and across Durham Region as it comes closer to the launch, generating excitement among students, according to Cameron.
“I knew the arena was coming and I’m interested in the idea,” said Marshall.
The arena will have numerous high-end gaming PCs for use by students and the Durham Lords varsity team. The arena will also offer six multi-console TVs to accommodate gamers who aren’t PC players.
The TVs will allow use of Xbox One, Playstation 4 and Nintendo Switches which can be brought from home or rented at the arena itself.