As the esports industry continues to grow, especially at the collegiate level, Washtenaw Community College is ahead of the curve with its new Esports Arena.
While many schools now offer some level of esports programming, WCC’s arena is one of few in the area offering a dedicated, competitive space to students with access to the latest technology and resources. The college is home to a growing number of club and intramural esports teams that regularly compete in tournaments against schools throughout the country and against each other.
WCC’s six club teams are each comprised of eight-to-10 students selected based on their performance during tryouts. Teams practice two hours a day, several days a week with coaches. Two WCC teams recently reached the National Association of Collegiate Esports (NACE) league playoffs.
WCC students can try out for Winter semester teams January 16-22.
Since the arena’s soft launch last spring, WCC’s Esports program has grown from two competitive teams, with the goal of soon adding a new all-women’s team. Additionally, more than 80 students from the general student body visit the arena each week for free-play opportunities, typically Mondays through Thursdays between 2-5 p.m.
Esports equipment offered to students has grown from one screen and one projector in a classroom to multiple gaming systems — including 12 Alienware gaming PCs, two Alienware gaming laptops, two Nintendo Switch consoles, one Playstation 5 console, and one Xbox Series X console — in the new arena, located on the second floor of the Technical & Industrial Building.
“This first semester we were really pushing to grow esports and show what esports can do. Students wanted the ability to play at a high level and grow together,” said Esport Coordinator Max Kuznia. "Previously, our teams weren’t competing. Now we have structured competition. It’s exceeded our expectation. We’ve been blown away by all of our metrics."
Esports at WCC offers students a competitive advantage and positions them for success in the esports industry and beyond. It is attractive to students who not only like to game but who are interested in pursuing a career that requires skills in video game coding, video game production, animation, shoutcasting, management and marketing.
The college offers academic programs related to the industry, including Sports & Entertainment Management, Animation for Game Art, C++ Programming, Java Programming, Video Production and Broadcast Arts.
The new space also affords the opportunity for students pursuing related career paths to hone their skills, including leadership and communication. A recent graphic design event allowed students to create graphics that can be showcased on WCC Esports gaming streams on Twitch.
“Many students see esports as a fun activity and an opportunity to develop skills that could lead to future employment in the esports industry,” said Peter Leshkevich, WCC Dean of Enrollment Management & Student Experience. “Even students who do not wish to pursue a career in esports can benefit from the teamwork, communication and strategic thinking skills that are cultivated through esports participation.”
Garrett Sly of Whitmore Lake, captain of WCC's Super Smash Brothers Ultimate team that advanced to the NACE playoffs, agrees.
“There is a lot of strategizing involved. There are a lot team-based games that require coordination and strategy among teammates to outplay other teams. Practices help to get us in the mindset because you have a team counting on you,” said Sly, who is following a General Studies pathway with an Arts Management certificate, and plans to transfer to Eastern Michigan University next fall to study music education.
Jay Howell, 19, of Ypsilanti, is dually enrolled as a WCC college student and a graduating Washtenaw Technical Middle College student. He serves as an informal co-captain of the WCC Smash Ultimate team.
“I have some plans for developing a game by myself,” said Howell, who is completing the Michigan Transfer Agreement at WCC and is interested in 3D animation and game design.
“I remember at the college a couple of years ago there was a game club where you could go into a room and play different games. I also used to set up my Switch in the Student Center,” Howell said. "When I heard about the Esports Arena, I was super excited. It’s been a great place to hang out, and I’m excited to be here next semester to play again.
WCC will offer a $3,476 per-semester scholarship to a WCC Sports and Entertainment Management student to assist in the arena and learn to coordinate an esports program.
Because many high schools do not have funding to provide their own high-speed computers or build an arena, WCC is partnering with local high schools to assist with creating teams and hosting tournaments and practices in the new arena.
“This fall, we started reaching out to local high schools to discuss opportunities for utilizing the arena and fostering collaboration in the esports community,” Leshkevich said. “The real work of making an impacting on the WCC community and beyond is just getting started for WCC's Esports Office.”
Other events hosted in the Esports Arena include faculty co-curricular activities with campus groups such as the Phi Theta Kappa honor society and Alpha Scholars, as well as community groups like summer campers from the Parkridge Community Center in Ypsilanti.
ESPORTS AT WCC
Learn more about esports at Washtenaw Community College. The arena is located in the Technical & Industrial Building, Room 239. Call 734-249-5991 or email [email protected] for additional information. View photos of the arena.
ESPORTS WINTER TRYOUTS
Tryouts for WCC Winter semester esports teams will take place January 16-22 in the WCC Esports Arena (TI 239). To be eligible, students must be taking at least one 3-credit WCC class and maintain a cumulative GPA of at least 2.0. Students should complete the winter waiver prior to attending.
Tuesday, January 16
- League of Legends, 5-7 p.m.
- Super Smash, 7-9 p.m.
Wednesday, January 17
- Women’s Valorant, 3-5 p.m.
- CS2, 5-7 p.m.
- Valorant, 7-9 p.m.
Thursday, January 18
- Super Smash, 5-7 p.m.
- League of Legends, 7-9 p.m.
Friday, January 19
- Overwatch2, 5-7 p.m.
- CS2, 7-9 p.m.
Monday, January 22
- Valorant, 5-7 p.m.
- Overwatch2, 7-9 p.m.