The Melton Student Center will soon become a state-of-the-art gaming venue with the addition of an Esports Lounge set to debut this fall. The space is a joint initiative between Student Affairs and Student Involvement and one of this year’s more than 50 featured Tiger Giving Day projects.

The Esports Lounge will include 30 gaming pods allowing for PC and console gaming, a lounge with high-definition TVs for additional gaming, a section dedicated to classic arcade style games, a streaming room, and a competition space with 10 PCs for the Auburn Esports team.

Esports is a billion-dollar industry, and according to a 2021 video game industry report by Entertainment Software Association, nearly 227 million Americans play video games with 38 percent of individuals being between the ages of 18-34.

As part of Tiger Giving Day, Auburn Esports is raising funds for what will be the club’s home on campus. Created to bring the Auburn University gaming community together, Auburn Esports is comprised of more than 300 students.

“Auburn Esports is something different to everyone,” Auburn Esports president Ben Cigelske said. “For our players, it provides structure and support for those who want to compete for the university and push their competitive drive. This includes individuals who may be unable to compete in traditional sports due to disabilities or other reasons. For our other club members, it is a place to meet other students that are interested in esports and gaming and cheer for our players and Auburn.”

For officers and staff, involvement in Auburn Esports helps strengthen their leadership, management and technical skills, all while building camaraderie around a shared passion for gaming.

Dalton Counter is a junior studying management and serves as the marketing director for Auburn Esports. He credits the organization for enhancing his Auburn experience through friendships made, opportunities provided and management experience gained.

“Since I am pursuing a career in esports, being a part of this organization has allowed me to find out what it really takes to manage an esports team,” Counter said. “I changed my major to management because it is the degree that I saw as having the most connection to the future career I would like to have. It is a big goal of mine to stay in the collegiate esports scene, whether that be a coach, manager or director.”

Counter currently manages the Valorant team, which is competing in two collegiate tournaments this semester, both with a $10,000 cash prize. One tournament has 64 colleges competing while the other has 124.

“I love our team because I have recruited every player on our team, and in my opinion, they play for the best reason possible, which is for the love of the sport,” Counter said.

According to Counter, Auburn Esports has competed with schools across the United States, but also with colleges in Canada, Brazil and Korea.

“This is so important because it allows us to invite other universities to come physically compete with us and create new events for the community to spectate, both online but also cheer in person,” Auburn Esports events director Meredith Rice said. “Furthermore, it gives us a practice facility to foster our growth and better our skills.”

In addition to tournaments, Rice also creates casual community events such as game nights and group dinners.  According to Rice, Auburn Esports likes to host two to three larger events each semester and at least one small-scale event per month.

The University Program Council, or UPC, will also be able to utilize the new Esports Lounge for events.

Frank Pugh, UPC’s director of video games, said the new game room will serve as a venue for events beginning next year. According to Pugh, the equipment provided throughout the room will allow for a wider variety of events and provide stability.

“New events and improved older events are going to be even more enhanced by the technology in the room, and that is so exciting to see,” Pugh said.

The current Game Room is limited to just console games, which does not engage the entire gaming community.

Since COVID-19, the Game Room has not re-opened in its full capacity, allowing Student Affairs leadership and Auburn Esports to have conversations about the organizations growth and competition needs. By appealing to a larger group of students with more diverse interests, the Esports Lounge will help to enhance the student experience and the Melton Student Center by providing a space for the campus gaming community to call their own.

“The lounge is resource for a group of students that may not have a place to meet other students with the same interests,” Assistant Director of Student Affairs Operations Taylor Dyleski said. “Auburn provides so many opportunities for students with like interests to meet. This is just an interest we are not able to serve at the moment, and the new game room will give us the ability to do that.”

According to Dyleski, he has not been able to find a SEC school that has space like Auburn plans to provide.

“We’re going to try to meet everyone’s needs, whether that’s helping UPC hold a Mario Party game night or hosting an esports tournament where other SEC schools can come compete at Auburn,” Dyleski said. “We are trying to build something unlike other schools.”

With this addition to the Melton Student Center, it also allows any Auburn student who enjoys or is interested in gaming a place to play and connect.

“We’re excited to bring a gaming space back to students in a new form,” Dyleski said. “Whether a student wants to play during a break between classes or with a group of friends at night, this space is for all students.”

For Cigelske, the new Esports Lounge will allow for more personal interactions and inclusiveness.

“Since the creation of the club, we have had most of our events, matches and practices virtually,” Cigelske said. “Having the Esports Lounge would allow us to establish more personal connection with our fellow club members and players. It would also open up esports to students that may not have their own personal computers or consoles at home.”

According to Cigelske, the streaming room will be a game changer for the organization.

“Having a streaming room will also allow us to enhance our streams so we can provide the best viewing experience of our matches and events to the world and show them how fierce of a competitor Auburn can be in the collegiate esports world stage,” Cigelske said.

From games with friends to competitive intercollegiate matches, the Esports Lounge will provide opportunities for Auburn students to strengthen existing relationships and build new ones.

The project aims to secure at least 250 individual donations on Tiger Giving Day. To support this project on Tiger Giving Day, click here.

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Last modified: 02/23/2022