Written by Contributing Intern Matthew Carrico

The world of collegiate esports is showing no signs of slowing down with many colleges introducing their own esports programs. So collegiate esports programs are starting up in many ways such as student-run clubs, establishing varsity teams or constructing dedicated facilities. There are various ways colleges try to make their first impressions in the esports field. Enter the University of New Orleans. They come to the field with a unique take on starting up: an esports café.

Who is it for?

Due to the growing popularity of gaming and esports, the opening of the esports café was the University of New Orleans’ first step into the space. Situated in the campus’ Recreation and Fitness Center, the new facility welcomes recreational and competitive gamers. The café features a variety of PCs for gaming and Playstation 5 and Xbox Series X for console gamers. Current and future students expressed interest in playing games and the athletic staff at UNO are taking notice.

As for when we reached out for comments on the new facility, Steven Stroud, Deputy Athletic Director at UNO, provided a wealth of information as he oversees the esports program directly. According to Stroud, the concept for the esports café comes from the Vice President of Athletics and Recreation at UNO. “When our Vice President of Athletics and Recreation, Tim Duncan, arrived on campus in mid-2019, he found a number of different entities on campus who had an interest in esports – student affairs, the library, information technology, the student gaming club and more,” according to Stroud. Prior to Duncan arriving on campus, there already existed a growing interest in esports by a large number of parties.

Stroud also stated that with this growing interest in the student population, Duncan was tasked with bringing these groups together and planning what comes next for the University of New Orleans. This “what’s next” idea ultimately came in the form of the esports café. “The resulting esports café, the future esports Head Coach and the commitment of our Recreation Department to launch intramurals and club sports all point towards a university that is listening to our students to ensure they enjoy their college experience,” said Stroud regarding the importance of the café and for esports moving forward.

What does the future hold?

Future plans for esports at UNO are currently underway. So the café is offering options for competitive gamers with titles like League of Legends, Rocket League and NBA 2K. Some of the future plans include recruitment for varsity teams, club sports, and potential scholarship opportunities. This experience can lead to potential careers in the gaming/esports industry.

“We intend to launch club teams in early 2022 and, if all goes as planned, we intend to field varsity teams starting in Fall 2022,” according to Stroud in regards to future competitive teams. It is currently unknown whether or not UNO will join the National Association of Collegiate Esports (NACE).

The purpose of the esports café is to create a vibrant community of gamers composed of students, faculty and staff. According to Stroud, the program is gathering feedback from students in order to improve it going forward. This includes hosting potential tournaments and serving as a recognized gaming destination. As per what Tim Duncan says in the official announcement, staff at UNO were aware of the interest in gaming. Even in the competitive field. The program will be offering different levels of competition to suit the needs of its students.

When can I go?

The esports café at the University of New Orleans is open Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. So students and employees were offered a free trial period of the facility through October 15. Users of the facility can bring their own headphones. Or they can purchase them from the front desk of the Recreation and Fitness Center. Additionally, gamers will be asked to fill out a survey about their experience so their feedback can improve the program. If you are an aspiring gamer who is considering going to UNO, then their new facility will not disappoint.

Feature Photo Courtesy of Deputy Athletic Director at UNO, Steven Stroud.