In a very remarkable case of an Illinois Tech student organization gaining enough traction and administrative support to claim a permanent physical space on campus, Illinois Tech E-Sports (ITE), a student organization revolving around video game competitions, has collaborated with several key campus administrative bodies to convert the MTCC’s Executive Conference Room (Room 725) into a full-fledged E-Sports and Digital Arts Center for use as a central competitive and casual gaming area and as a creative learning space. A formal ceremony ribbon cutting ceremony with President Alan Cramb, Executive Director of the Kaplan Institute Howard Tullman, Vice President for Enrollment Michael Gosz, Vice President of Finance Mike Horan, and Vice President for External Affairs Jess Goode on the afternoon of Wednesday, August 22 marked the official opening of the center.
In his opening remarks before partaking in the ribbon cutting, Gosz stated that he was “very excited to see the learning and competition opportunities” that the new center would provide, with its capacity for virtual reality (VR) applications and rapid prototyping. Tullman reflected on his own background as a game developer and stated that “the most remarkable thing (concerning the opening of the center) is how quickly this came together.” Tullman then drew a parallel between the rapid conception and opening of the center (a span of only a few months) to “the way change is happening and opportunities are created.” President Cramb (armed with a 3D-printed war hammer and a pair of scissors) then officially cut the ribbon to the space and opened it to the general public.
The Illinois Tech E-Sports and Digital Arts Center was then opened for free play for the Illinois Tech students and general public members in attendance. The numerous high-end gaming computers, as well as the VR setup were available for use, with members of ITE present to answer questions about the space and organization. Later into this opening, Horan went on to answer the question of why this space was invested in with the answer that it was a “no-brainer for Illinois Tech as a tech school.” He went on to state that this space is “what we’re about” and that “we should have been on it a long time ago.” Goode built upon these sentiments when he remarked that this center is “an incredible example of what makes us one of the best universities in the country.”
Ignoring a minor power outage that occurred a couple of hours into the opening of the center, the new E-Sports and Digital Arts Center remained open until 7 p.m. for open casual play. A raffle was also held by ITE to give away a Logitech G205 Proteus Spectrum gaming mouse. Popular competitive games such as “Hearthstone,” “League of Legends,” and “Overwatch” lit up the screens of the new center for hours on end, much to the satisfaction of the administrators who made this space possible.
The faculty advisor for ITE and Vice President for Strategic Initiatives April Welch sat down with TechNews to discuss the origins and future plans for the new E-Sports and Digital Arts Center. She described the space’s origin in the summer high school camps hosted on the Illinois Tech campus with various students from the Chicago Housing Authority and the workshops given to teach them coding skills and the Unity game engine. Looking forward, Welch envisions the space to be used in the immediate future as a dual purpose gaming and creative learning space, teaching and exploring gaming-related skills such as “character design, storyboarding, and sound design.” In terms of specific details, discussions and planning is underway to divide the usage of the space between open hours for casual gaming and reserved slots for ITE teams to practice and compete.
In the mean time, the new E-Sports and Digital Arts Center is a very remarkable example of a student organization gaining very fast recognition among various campus officials and represents an otherwise aspect of campus culture that has otherwise been disappointingly divorced from academics - gaming. Between this new center and the existing infrastructure such as the game studies and design minor through the Lewis College of Human Sciences, gaming as a hobby and as a career will hopefully continue to elevate in the eyes of those both within this university and outside of it.