VIDEO: RWU Opens an Esports Facility for Students

With growing student interest on campus, new facility provides cutting-edge gaming systems for competitive video game players

By Jill Rodrigues '05 & Justin Wilder
Gamers play on the new video game stations.
Nick Stanglewicz (center) and Michael Delli Carpini (foreground) practice inside RWU's new esports facility.

BRISTOL, R.I. – Seeing his team member’s thwarted advance against an opponent, Nick Stanglewicz reassures the player and offers him a new performance strategy. “It’s ok. Reset and regroup,” Stanglewicz tells him. “They’re going to push you now, so back up.”

Sound advice for changing a play on the field for almost any sport. But this team is using only mental agility to compete against an opponent who could be thousands of miles away, in a match that is unfolding on a digital field.

Esports, a form of competitive sports played on video games, is experiencing rapid growth at the college and professional level. Marketing analysts report that more people watched the 2018 League of Legends tournament, one of the most popular esports competitions, than the Superbowl. Professional gamers have the opportunity to win millions and gain brand sponsorship in the top competitions.

“Esports are a team-based game like almost any other sport,” said Stanglewicz, a senior graphic design major and member of RWU’s Esports Club. “We all work together to achieve an objective. The teams need practice to perform well. They have coaches who strategize and make them better.”

Established a few years ago, RWU’s Esports Club quickly became one of the larger clubs on campus. Players would meet in the library or a classroom to share techniques and game plans, but would have to return to their individual rooms when it came time to practice and compete, bound by the hardwired needs of their gaming devices.

In response to the growing student interest on campus, Roger Williams University opened a new esports facility for students this fall. The facility is outfitted with 12 Origin PC gaming stations, boasting 24-inch monitors and a high refresh rate that powers a lightning-fast game pace, as well as plush gaming chairs, inside a repurposed classroom space. A large-screen TV is set up for players interested in connecting their own devices like Nintendo Switch. Beyond the cutting-edge technology, the facility now provides a space where players can work together as a team and bond during practices and competitions.

Club members credit the new facility at RWU with greatly enhancing their performance and seeing membership more than double, including a significant increase in membership from female students.

“Esports and competitive gaming has been growing exponentially. Having this facility lets us further ourselves in this activity, not just for fun, but also as something competitive and official,” said Michael Delli Carpini, Esports Club president and sophomore architecture major, during yesterday’s opening celebration. “Many colleges have been adding esports programs, and we are very happy to step up to the challenge [of competing against them]. This facility allows our players to compete at the highest level possible.”

“Having this facility allows us to have communication at a superb level. It allows a sense of camaraderie,” said Esports Club member John Harron. “Being in this space allows us to be closer and to be more like an actual team.”

Just like with traditional sports, esports players cultivate skills that will prepare them to succeed beyond the game.

“This facility will allow students to build some of the same skills we are teaching in the classroom, such as teamwork, communication, decision-making and, hopefully, sharpening their skills at time management,” RWU President Ioannis Miaoulis said.

Students tour RWU's new esports facility.
Esports Club members show President Ioannis Miaoulis the cutting-edge gaming stations inside the RWU's new esports facility.

Not only does esports help students build important lifelong skills, the club also offers students with this interest a chance to get involved.

“We’ve learned that esports is a student engagement opportunity. These clubs exist in high schools, and students who are passionate about a club or sport are looking to continue that experience in college,” RWU Vice President for Student Life John King said.

While the club has a new facility enabling them to gain a competitive edge, there’s always room for recreational gamers, Delli Carpini said. And don’t expect the atmosphere to feel like nonstop practice drills. Players share as many laughs as they do riveted dissections of game play.

“At every meeting and practice, we’re like one big family. We’re joking around and having a good time,” Delli Carpini said. “The intent is to have fun, but we are taking it to that competitive level.”

On any given Sunday, you’ll find a swarm of gamers packed into university’s esports facility – it’s prime game day for the Overwatch tournament competitors and fans, where RWU’s teams have been outcompeting much larger universities in the Collegiate Starleague. One of these Sundays, stop by the facility, located behind the Campus Recreation Center (in the former ELS Language Center), and cheer on our Hawks!