Until recently, Whitman College has not had an organized esports scene, but new developments indicate that tides are changing and competitive gaming may finally find a home on campus.
Over the past several years, organized competitive video gaming, otherwise known as esports, has established its presence on university campuses around the world. This growth can be attributed, in part, to both an increase in student interest in competitive gaming and the recognition of the benefits that come from a college growing their esports scenes.
Despite its growing popularity, esports has yet to find a home at Whitman. Kyler Dunn ’20 unsuccessfully attempted to found an esports club during his Whitman career. Now he works for the professional esports organization Gen.G.
A large part of Dunn’s job is in growing esports on a university level. His experiences with universities across the country, and at Whitman, have led him to believe that the right conditions exist at Whitman for esports to thrive.
“What needs to happen, is there needs to be a club with students who are passionate about [esports],” Dunn said. “There are students out there who feel passionate about this stuff; they just need a space to feel welcomed.”
Jasper Kim ’23 attributes the absence of an esports club on campus to a lack of communication and cohesion in the gaming community.
“Gamers at Whitman are pretty isolated; it’s pretty hard to find other people that game if you’re not in the same class or if you’re not close friends,” Kim said.
Despite the roadblocks, Kim and two friends are attempting to found a competitive gaming club focused on Rocket League, a popular arcade-style soccer and vehicular combat game. They hope to grow the club to support an array of competitive esports teams in different games.
“It would be really hard to [initially] start a competitive esports club and try to manage everything at once — we don’t know what games are going to be popular enough for people to join the club for,” Kim said. “We want to try to grow into that slowly.”
Regardless of whether they decide to stick solely with Rocket League or not, they have support from within Whitman’s administration. Juli Dunn, the Senior Associate Dean of Students, sees an opportunity in esports for the college to draw interested students together and create community.
“I do think there is potential for there to be a place [for esports on campus],” Dunn said. “I’m currently a person who oversees clubs and organizations, so it certainly would have a home here.”
The development of a college-sponsored esports team was mentioned as a possibility in a draft of the administration’s Financial Sustainability Review. This administrative support, in addition to commitment from student leaders like Kim, and student interest, might be enough to make the dream of a Whitman esports club into a reality in the near future.