NORFOLK, Va. - Old Dominion University recently opened its new Monarch Esports Arena, giving its varsity teams a new home for training and competitions.
"I think it’s cool because a lot of people that play esports and stuff, this is what their dream is," ODU varsity esports player Matt Widenhouse said. "To get this here, I’m like really grateful about it."
"It’s just something that every single person in this room probably has dreamt of and it’s become a reality," ODU varsity esports player Luke Reed added.
ODU's addition of an esports program and state of the art facility is no surprise given the rapid growth of video games in recent years. During the summer of 2020, NPD Group reported that three out of every four, or 244 million, people in the U.S. play video games.
When ODU announced the creation of its esports varsity program, it became the first Division I, four-year public institution in Virginia to compete in esports with a varsity program.
"It’s been an emerging subculture for a number of years now," assistant director of intramural sports and esports Grant Deppen said. "There was actually a study that I read, between the ages of 14 and 24, 87 percent of those people are playing a game on a daily basis or on a weekly basis.
"This is what students do, this is what people do, this is the main form of media people consume."
To satisfy their students' hunger for video games, the new 2,400+ square feet of gaming space is available to not just the Monarchs esports team, but all ODU students.
"You get to bring the experience that a lot of people don’t get to have, especially with the cost of any one of these computers," Reed said. "Bringing that to the public for free and for the varsity guys to be able to play together in-person is just awesome."
For the varsity players, the new facility marks the first time their teams have a home since the program's creation. The Monarchs began competing during the fall of 2020 and conducted all of their training and competition from home.
"Yes, it is different from a tradition sports environment, but the structures that we have, the emphasis we have on team building, competition and student success, that all translates from traditional sports environments right into esports," Deppen said. "They're practicing three to four days a week for several hours at a time, two to three hours a clip. Maybe one to two hours a week, that’ll be the competition times, again, similar to regular sports. You spend more time at practice than you do in a game."
Like traditional sports, virtually the same amount of time is spent training and competing. Although, it's all done on a virtual playing field instead.