The logo for the Esports Column. - Graphics Editor / Jana Jackstis

The evolution of competitive gaming is a constantly shifting force that has been in production since the 1980s, when Atari held the first major video game tournament. This tournament by Atari was called “The Space Invaders Championship” and it legitimized esports by bringing in over 10,000 entrants.

Since then, the interest in competitive gaming has risen to great heights. Rowan University is all-in on the idea of esports and the university has assembled a team that specializes in playing video games competitively. 

A team usually has a leader or multiple leaders that are heavily involved in “getting the train rolling” to make sure everything is running smooth. Jason Pene, who is the president of the esports team at Rowan University, is one of those leaders. Pene spoke about the origins of the esports team and his role within it.

“The esports team had its origins with the gaming club when people just wanted to play their favorite games competitively for fun. Then, last year, the company N3RD Street Gamers contacted the previous gaming club president about a collaboration,” Pene said. “This led to talks with Rowan administration as well and eventually led to our first Rowan esports competition, ‘Rowan Esports Extreme,’ last fall. Talk continued and now the school decided to finally have official esports teams at the club level. My role with the esports team as president is just to manage the teams, talk with administration about issues or ideas and facilitate the growth of the program.”

Rowan’s esports team has a lot of potential moving forward and it is in a continual state of growth. Thanks to the people like Pene involved with the club, it has an almost endless ceiling to grow.

Since there is now an official team at Rowan, Pene has some goals in mind for the team.

“In general, right now, we just want to grow and get our name out there to draw in more interest to the program,” Pene said. “Recruitment is the number one goal [because] while we’ve been successful at cultivating a culture of improvement already, talent will help us compete with the larger schools and prove ourselves to the university.”

Much like a major college football team, recruitment seems like it will play a huge part in Rowan’s continued success when it comes to the esports concentration. Great recruiting will only catapult interest in Rowan’s esports program.

So, what does the future hold for Rowan’s esports team?

“The future is very clear right now. Hopefully, next year, we can finally start to practice in person and function more like a normal sports team,” Pene said. “I’ve been in talks with other N.J. colleges about a bi-monthly tournament series, which would be great for all of us and the growth of the sport in general. We expect to be competitive in games like ‘Overwatch,’ ‘Rocket League’ and ‘League of Legends’ constantly as well, with strong performances against other schools already.”

The great thing about esports is that the games that are being played are never really “over,” and the teams involved can invest time in games throughout the whole year, unlike other major sports. It is clear to see that esports can be expected to significantly grow at Rowan.

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