Students gather together in a crowded room to play a handful of games at the University of New Haven, with one being the school's Overwatch team.
When they're not choosing roles in the matchmaking lobby, they have the opportunity to take classes on esports.
The school offers an interdisciplinary major in esports and gaming that was announced October 9 of last year and established an academic curriculum in esports management.
The concentration in esports management was introduced to the university's Bachelor's degree in business management. The university also created an interdisciplinary undergraduate program in esports and a companion Master’s program in esports and technology, the first such graduate program in the U.S.
"The esports industry is one of the fastest growing in the world," said University of New Haven President Steven H. Kaplan, Ph.D. in an interview with the university's news. "Developing these in-demand, unique academic opportunities at both the undergraduate and graduate levels will enable the University to maximize the interdisciplinary strengths of our programs in business, technology, engineering, and computer science, creating a pioneering opportunity for our students that will prepare them to be the future leaders of the esports industry."
They also built a 1,300-square-foot esports training and competition center at the University’s Bergami Center for Science, Technology, and Innovation. The center hosts esports competitions and is the home for the University’s esports club, Charger eSports.
The home page for the club states, "Charger eSports, where friendships are made and fun is had. We are a family of gamers, who enjoy competitive gaming on the collegiate level. We have game giveaways, and monthly tournaments. Come and meet us on Fridays in Buckman 120 @ 7:30pm. Are you not into competitive gaming but still would like to participate? Still come down to Buckman, meet new people with similar interests, and hang out. We host events every month full of prizes and fun. Also if you are looking to be more competitive, we host teams on the collegiate level."
The club's teams play League of Legends, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, Rainbow Six Siege and Overwatch.
The Overwatch team is one of the fastest growing at the school and is headed by the president of the esports club, Giancarlo "G" Consiglio. Along with him are the Overwatch team's two coaches, Matthew Fettig and Ben Menkes.
When Fettig first came to the school, he knew he wanted to join the esports club right away and they had a team for his favorite game, Overwatch. Unfortunately, he didn’t have a PC to play with the team at the time, but he still wanted to contribute. So, he asked if he could help coach the team.
"Being a coach has been awesome," Fettig said. "It’s let me meet some great friends at school and still be involved with a game that I’m passionate about."
Menkes became a coach for the New Haven team by being the CTM (competitive team manager) and recognizing the interest for a competitive tournament team.
"I think one of the best things about being a coach of the team is seeing just how much people have improved over the course of our practices," Menkes said. "One of the other things that’s really great to watch is the camaraderie of the team and how close some of the team members have gotten just by playing and having fun together."
During the team meetings, they spend time going over specific map strategies as well as areas that they can improve on. During matches, one of the more important roles for the coaches is making sure the team stays cohesive and focused on communication.
"I think the team as a whole is in a really great spot and is extremely motivated to improve. When it comes to certain individuals, I think Thomas Chung is really one of the players that has pushed this team to its limits at the best times," Menkes said. "It’s really pushed this team to a level that we never really knew we could achieve."
The full roster for the New Haven Overwatch team is,
- Thomas “Sunday” Chung
- Chris “CQ1” Colq
- Theo “Tenno” Glemarec
- Nick “Funnybunnz” Azzara
- Devin “Dboy” Perkins
- Stephen “Halen” Baviello
- Matt “TheMegalodon” Fettig
- Ben “GhengisKhan” Menkes
- Jacob “Lightlord” Duggan
- Mike “i2lander” Dannemiller
- Giancarlo “Gcons” Consiglio
- Jon “TheJonSmith” Smith
- Christian “Deku” Nnonyelu
Fettig, Menkes and their team were invited to the NYXL Tri-State Collegiate Overwatch Tournament last year and then again this year, which is a tournament that has the 16 biggest and best collegiate esports programs in the East Coast.
They were invited back to the rally this year because they were a school in the North East who competed last year and have an established esports team. Heading into the rally, they were the underdogs and fought a tough battle in a first round loss.
Going forward, the Overwatch team full of different faces from different paths and majors, will be enjoying their new facility and looking to become a varsity team at New Haven as the University is establishing varsity esports teams next semester.
"I think the program is going in the great direction and I’m excited to see where it goes," Fettig said. "The new facility is awesome and is going to enable a lot of people to participate in esports if they want to."