Electronic sports (eSports) is a global phenomenon with over 550 million players competing daily in a variety of online games. Collegiate eSports is currently experiencing a similar growth. The National Association of Collegiate eSports (NACe) offers membership to over 170 colleges and universities with their own eSports leagues.
Ottawa University (OU) in Kansas, U.S., is pioneering a new era of collegiate eSports. It all started with an old, unused school theater built in 1906. After realizing the potential of the theater, Ottawa University converted it into a cutting-edge, multi-used gaming arena powered by a reliable network and a Wi-Fi connection for players and fans to enjoy the best gaming experience. It became a win for student engagement.
When Ottawa University converted a 117-year-old theater into an e-Sports tournament-ready arena that fulfills the needs of a lecture hall and classroom during the day, not only the institution helped more students look to pursue their passion for gaming but increased student engagement in other areas. “It’s critical to have the right technology powering multi-use spaces to engage students in any setting on campus, which is what we set out to do here at Ottawa University,” said Adam Caylor, CTO at Ottawa University, self-proclaimed gamer, and who led the theater’s transformation toward a next-level gaming experience. First, he needed to get the space connected.
Powered by an advanced Cisco Meraki network cloud-managed platform, Ottawa University outfitted the space with optimized wired and wireless experiences in order to enable rapid network response, delivering ultra-fast network speeds. Ottawa University saved 20 hours on installations with the plug-and-play nature and can have 200 devices connected simultaneously at peak hours.
Caylor decided to connect the theater using Meraki MR access points and MS switches. The space needed to support 100 people at a time including both student athletes and spectators.The high-capacity of Meraki MR access points ensured the best possible Wi-Fi and gaming experience for fans to engage with their favorite athletes as well as for students using the arena as a classroom during the day.
The Meraki Dashboard provides Caylor and his IT team with immediate 24/7 visibility into the health of the access points, switches, and the whole network allowing them to monitor competitions and practices from anywhere, anytime. He thinks of the Dashboard as an ‘integral part of the team.” “The Dashboard makes sure everything is working,” he says.
The Ottawa University is set to host larger competitions as the eSports league continues to expand. This is possible with the intelligent, AI-powered Meraki Health service which provides a new level of insight and supercharges the performance of the eSports network, helping OU to provide the best gaming experience.
“Deploying Meraki MR access points and switches in our over 100-year-old auditorium gives our students a place to engage with their favorite games, student-athletes, and fellow fans when it is used as a gaming arena, and provides an amazing learning experience when used as a classroom,” said Caylor.
The future of collegiate eSports looks bright. Colleges prioritizing the building of eSport communities and dedicated facilities may find out that it can pay off in student recruitment efforts as well, not just in student engagement. In addition, injured student athletes on scholarships not being able to play in physical sports can turn to the eSports community as an alternative.