Esports players in a traditional practice environment. Photo credit: Pengta Network Technology

This morning, SNHU President Paul LeBlanc announced on Twitter that SNHU officially has an esports team. There will be four teams to start: Fortnite, Hearthstone, League of Legends and Overwatch.

These teams will be managed by Director Tim Fowler and Team Coordinator Sultan Akhter (‘19). According to Fowler, “Esports is competitive gaming in front of spectators, either in person or online.”

As the director of esports, Fowler’s role will be to coach the games, mentor the players, recruit players both on and off campus, develop and approve marketing efforts, work with the Information Technology department at SNHU to create the esports arena for 2019 and procure funds for scholarships.

Formerly, Fowler worked at SNHU as a Dynamics CRM Developer, but he’s been passionate about esports for a while now.
“I, personally, was involved in esports, back when I was in college in 2010 and 2011. I worked with the school when the school was building a new student center, and they gave us some money to build computers. I just remember how rewarding it was to have something that I love so much get recognized. . . So being able to do that for students here and now is my biggest goal.”

As team coordinator, Akhter’s role will be to “help our director by organizing the team, setting up practice times, setting up scrimmage times, and signing the team up for tournaments and such.”

Akhter has been involved with esports since his freshman year at SNHU playing on the League of Legends team.

“Esports has been around for maybe four or five years. . . In the past, esports hasn’t been too widespread on campus. Not a lot of people know about it, and the organization has been in the hands of students. Now that we have staff backing us up on a lot of the things that we do I think it’s going to be a very successful program that I’m sure many students will be excited about.”

SNHU has partnered with the National Association of Collegiate Esports (NACE) to bring this program on campus. Fowler chose to create these four teams based on how well established they are at the national level through this association.

While some may question esports applicability to higher education, NACE has created eligibility requirements for individuals that must be met in order to continue a university’s membership, such as: “making normal progress toward a recognized baccalaureate degree”, taking 12 credits a semester, as well as minimum ACT, SAT and GPA requirements for incoming students.

Fowler explained that esports offers multiple advantages to a student. “I think it opens up a lot of opportunities, especially in business and sports management. The focus on teamwork and leadership will drive towards academic endeavors as well. We also will have real-world opportunities. We’re looking for commentators, in-game logistics, like spectating and live streaming,” he said.

Player John Stillman (‘19) also added that the team is hoping to develop for-credit internship opportunities on the team.

SNHU is the first to have a varsity esports team at the collegiate-level in New Hampshire. This means that it is the first to hire dedicated staff, offer scholarships and create an arena for the program. Currently, there is no determined location for the arena. These funds will come directly from SNHU.

Stillman believes that “SNHU is an early adopter as well. There are only 90 other colleges that have a scholarship program. [SNHU’s] going to be at the forefront, so if we can get the high-level high schoolers to continue the tradition [we] will put SNHU on the map for esports. . . I think when you have that kind of draw, it benefits the school, sure, but it also benefits the community.”

Fowler notes that SNHU offers many advantages to having an esports team here.

“We have this gaming community that’s interested in esports, and we have game design students, and we have the gaming housing now that’s going to play a big role in growing a community here. So when it comes to what do we offer, what is SNHU’s differentiator, it’s about that large community aspect that we want to embrace. I think, competitively, we exist in an interesting spot. There’s not really too much around us. That’ll be helpful in recruiting students”

The Office of Residence Life also noticed this large gaming community.

In developing the new gaming housing floor in Hampton, Associate Director Matt Petersons said, “It was really coming out of seeing what the students’ interests were and recognizing that there are opportunities within the Game Design and Game Development major. . . It felt like a really natural fit. It felt like the way things were going. It was a very common theme among returning students and incoming ones.”

Elaina Hill, the assistant director of student learning and leadership, also added, “I think it’s exciting that students who do this individually, or in doubles, or whatever, can do it together. It was happening anyways. With the gaming floor, there’s more of a chance for it to happen together.”

Players, like Stillman, are eager to break the stereotypes behind gamers. He joked, “I assure you, I don’t smell,” but more seriously, he’s looking forward to “showing people what [they] do, like any other sports team” and “being part of the community and representing SNHU.”

If you’re looking forward to trying out for esports, keep an eye on your email this Thursday, 8/9, there will be a survey sent out to all current students on campus to sign up for tryouts. Questions on getting involved can be addressed at esports@snhu.edu. You can also reach out to their social media on Twitter and Facebook, SNHUesports.

Nick Klotz
Nick is Editor in Chief of the Penmen Press. Formerly, Nick has served as the online manager of the Penmen Press. He is a junior at SNHU, studying information technology with minors in mathematics and video production. Nick's love for storytelling has inspired him to explore new ways for the Press to connect with their audience. When he's not in the Penmen Press office, Nick can be found at the movie theater or practicing with his band, Social Ghost.