We express our deepest respect for the opinion piece entitled “Fairfield’s Esports Lab is a Complete Waste of Resources.” We thank you for bringing Esports to the forefront and bringing attention to it. However, this is not the first time we have had to debunk some myths and stereotypes about gaming. We feel it is unfair to provide such a strong opinion without proper knowledge of the subject matter, and for this reason, we would like to provide our take on some of the claims made.
Firstly, we would like to address the point that competitive video games do not require skill and effort. Even though Esports does not involve physical work, as most sports do, participating in Esports does involve discipline and immense skills, but they take a different form. Players need motivation and mental fortitude to stay on task and have structured practice times. Similar to athletes, Esports players take time out of their busy schedules to practice, learn more about the game and create new strategies to improve. Some players are gifted enough that the learning of skills comes naturally to them. These behaviors and routines mirror what it takes to be a regular athlete. Chess players do not undergo strenuous activities and probably go through similar mental exercises as Esports players do. Regardless of the lack of immense physical activity, chess is considered a sport by the International Olympic Committee (“Olympic”, 2020). Like chess, many video games, even those that seem simple at first, have a heavy emphasis on strategic and tactical elements, on top of the precision required to quickly, efficiently and accurately perform complex inputs. Competitive players play video games like “League of Legends,” “Overwatch” and other similar titles because it requires dexterity, an accumulation of skills, intellect and proper decision-making, all while under pressure. By playing strategically and skillfully, players, along with their teams, achieve victory over others, just like conventional sports.
The next point we would like to address is that Fairfield University simply wants the Esports program to earn money. This claim is partly true, but Fairfield students, including alumni, have lobbied for this facility for several years. Because of their hard work and recommendations from advisors, they were able to have this space. Other top Ivy League schools such as Brown, Harvard and Yale have started Esports programs because of its lucrativeness (“Twin Galaxies”). Esports has provided many financial opportunities for students and schools (Sood, 2015). Fairfield is not only keeping up with the market, but they are providing students opportunities to succeed and further their dreams and passions in Esports. In our case, we wanted a space for gamers to do what we like to do – compete on a larger scale and have fun with friends. When members of the University’s gaming community lobbied for a space to play, it was not solely to make the University money, but to fulfill a substantial student interest. The University’s enthusiasm for granting this request does not necessarily reflect the views of the students who asked for it. Fairfield is taking advantage of an opportunity to push students towards a way for the University to make money from student interests, as private universities are prioritized to do. Also, the Esports investment is long term in comparison to athletic sports. The University only pays one large sum for high-tech equipment that lasts for years and rarely [pays] for any travel. Claiming that Esports has no place in the University excludes students who are genuinely interested in this field. As a Jesuit institution, the exclusion of views and interests, even for video games, goes against our beliefs.
Furthermore, the statement that gamers are not able to create relationships through online multiplayer games is an unfair assumption. Many people have made friends and formed strong bonds with people they play with because of the amount of time they spend together. Over the past couple of years, a strong community of students has formed that share their interests in playing both competitive and casual games online and in-person (before the current situation, of course). The formation of these types of relationships eventually leads to more concrete conversations and interactions outside of the gaming space. More specifically, Esports players have to meet and interact with each other extensively, often in person, which forms bonds similar to that of a regular sports team. Esports players and casual players meet new people from different social circles since they no longer have social constraints keeping them from meeting people from other backgrounds. Furthermore, video games promote inclusivity, not only from a social, but from a physical standpoint. Many video games have assistive programs for people with disabilities, allowing them to play when some sports might not be able to accommodate [them]. In this time of quarantining and isolation, several people, including Fairfield University students, have relied on gaming as an activity to do together since they cannot physically interact with each other. In other words, gaming can be where they first form a relationship and can also be what strengthens it. In most games, players do activities, complete objectives and do things they cannot [physically] do, together. We have a strong community that fosters these relationships and often convene in our Discord channel (https://discord.gg/8GGwg2Q). Every Friday, we explore other game genres to cater to a wide variety of interests.
Finally, while it is true that gaming can cause some health problems, it is important to highlight that these health implications occur in people who are severely addicted to video games. The Mirror’s opinion piece portrays the average online gamer as someone who is deeply addicted to the reward loop of online gaming and spends all their time playing games, shirking actual relationships and suffering in their personal and professional life as a result. Statistically speaking, the number of people who have this debilitating addiction is exceedingly small (Molde, 2016). Making this claim is an example of availability heuristic—a bias that people rely on to think of the most recent or immediate example when making a decision or evaluating an idea. Most people who play online are normal, functioning people with a popular hobby. Exercise and sports provide challenges and reward players neurologically for overcoming those challenges, just like video games. Admittedly, video games are intentionally as rewarding as possible relative to the effort you put in, while sports naturally became more rewarding because that made them more fun to play. However, exercising in and of itself is not seen negatively, even though spending too much time exercising can cause strain injuries and increases the risk of other injuries. Gaming, as with anything, should be done in moderation. Health problems can result from Esports just as overexertion with physical sports can lead to injuries.
Although it is an opinion piece, there was no mention of any statements from Esports players or any student who actively uses the facility and would have loved to share their thoughts and how having this space is impacting them. For students who have wanted this, it is not a waste of resources. The gaming lab is a sign of hard work since we have lobbied for about two or more years. Several campuses have these facilities, and it has drawn many players in the country to not only compete for the school, but for them to have an opportunity to have a college education just like regular college athletes do. Similar to an athletic field where players practice and play their games, our Esports players and casual gamers would also like to have the same opportunity with the new Esports facility. Since the Esports players are equally representing Fairfield University in tournaments without any monetary support and scholarships, the least the University could do was provide them with the means to continue doing so.
To reiterate, we thank The Mirror for bringing attention to e-gaming. The purpose of this letter is to clear up some misconceptions and stereotypes about gamers that are unfair and could cause people to discriminate against them. We extend our invitation to the author of this piece and for readers to join us on Fridays and get to know our community. We hope that we have been able to provide a different perspective on the e-gaming facility and to clarify some of the points from the piece.
On behalf of the gaming community,
Fairfield Gaming Staff
Tal Nizan, Cognitive Neuroscience ‘21
Justin Demas, Film, Television & Media ‘21
Eryiel Joyce Mascardo, Psychology ‘21
Ashley Milone, Computer Science ‘23
William Keegan, Biochemistry ’23
Theo Laflamme, Undecided ‘24
Olympic. (2020). https://www.olympic.org/recognised-federations
Wittek, C. T., Finserås, T. R., Pallesen, S., Mentzoni, R. A., Hanss, D., Griffiths, M. D., &
Molde, H. (2016). Prevalence and Predictors of Video Game Addiction: A Study Based on a National Representative Sample of Gamers. International journal of mental health and addiction, 14(5), 672–686. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11469-015-9592-8