This past summer, Fairfield University introduced an Esports team to their campus. Video games have been around for awhile now, but have only recently been used as a way to make money. With physical sports being put on hold due to COVID-19, the University resorted to virtual sports. On paper, this seems like a great solution for students amid social distancing, but should the University be encouraging this ‘sport’ long term?
The University’s Esports gaming lab is located in the Leslie C. Quick, Jr. Recreation Complex and will be used as a non-competitive social club for gamers. The University was able to pay for this huge expense by partnering with Future Tech Enterprises Inc., which is a company that endorses business solutions related to digital technology. They partnered with Fairfield University because they wanted to bring eGaming to universities, bringing attention to the activity. On the University’s end, they hope that this will not only attract more students to the University, but add another layer of engagement and competition to the recreational offerings.
This partnership resulted in the University being given Lenovo’s Legion brand gaming laptops, desktops, keyboards, monitors, headsets and accessories. The installation of this facility began prior to the COVID-19 shutdown in March and was completed in July. In addition, Fairfield University became a member of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Esports league, which will allow their gamers to compete in a regular season of online competition that will begin in October. Some schools with Esports leagues that Fairfield will be eligible to compete against are Canisius College, Marist College, Niagara University, Quinnipiac University, Saint Peter’s University and Siena College. The University is very excited for this endeavor and hopes it encourages bonding among the students.
Bob Venero, president and chief executive officer of Future Tech Enterprises Inc., stated, “Esports is a great way to drive student engagement and connections, as well as attract prospective students. It is also an industry that continues to grow and offer up new job opportunities for students in almost any discipline, including advertising, design, finance, marketing and technology. Future Tech works closely with many of the world’s leading gaming equipment manufacturers and is an IT partner-of-choice for leading universities and Fortune 500 companies in the aerospace, defense, energy, healthcare, manufacturing and retail sectors.”
Fairfield University’s heart is in the right place, but I believe that calling a video gaming team ‘Esports’ is an insult to the University’s successful sports teams. I have never been the biggest supporter of virtual reality, but I believe that it has no place in academic institutions. I understand that there may be certain monetary gains the school may receive, but it still does not belong here. As mentioned prior, this was not a cheap expense and in order to make it feasible the University had to partner with Future Tech Enterprises Inc., meaning that it was very costly. In my opinion, this money would have been better spent going toward educational and physical programs for students.
There is nothing wrong with playing video games as a leisurely activity, but once it becomes an official program, the University is recognizing that this is an acceptable way to spend a large sum of your time. The University should be encouraging students to go outside and better themselves academically and physically, not sit inside and stare at a computer screen. In no way, shape or form do video games compare to the amount of discipline and skill it takes to be successful in football, basketball, soccer or baseball. Those are real sports that take talent and hard work. I understand that there is potential money to be made out of video games, but it should not be treated as an area that the University spends their time and resources on.
According to Healthy Gamer, there are also several negative health effects that are synonymous with online gaming. The first issue that it presents is that it gives users a false sense of motivation. A function in the human brain known as the triumph circuit makes us feel good when we overcome a challenge. In evolutionary biology there’s a strong feeling humans get when they explore the unknown, find something valuable or overcome a problem. Video games capitalize on this by providing the same kind of feelings, but in a virtual environment. It makes the gamer feel as if they have overcome a problem or achieved something, which is why there is an attraction towards online gaming. The gamer starts to gain motivation for achieving things in their virtual reality and starts to lose motivation for achievement in their real life, which is extremely unhealthy because it lends these individuals to become unproductive and unmotivated in their real lives.
Another negative effect is becoming disconnected from society and relationships. Relationships need work to grow and prosper, just like anything else in life. But, when a person spends most of their time playing video games, there is almost no time left in the day to talk to friends and family. There is nothing wrong with gaming recreationally with friends and family to encourage bonding, but these gamers take it to an unhealthy level. They set aside time each day to game and sometimes even schedule their lives around it.
A retort to this opinion about disconnection is that gamers play multiplayer games and connect with people online, so there is a level of human interaction. This retort is completely false and has no substance, because talking to someone through video games is nowhere near as beneficial as face-to-face contact. They are not trying to get to know the person on a relational level, the interaction revolves around the terms of the video game. This conversation is not intimate and leaves no room for relational growth. As human beings we need human interaction to survive, so maintaining relationships is extremely important. Online gaming has tried to mimic this in virtual reality games, but it is nowhere near as satisfying as the real thing.
Fairfield University should not be supporting this because, overall, it does not aid in the intellectual development of its students.