Esports Club to Launch at Highlands Fall Semester

Las Vegas, N.M. – A new esports initiative at New Mexico Highlands aims to get students involved in competitive video gaming via a club at the university that will launch fall semester 2018.

The Esports Club will focus on League of Legends and Overwatch, two of the most popular video games with tens of millions of players worldwide.

“Video games are one of the most popular and relevant kinds of entertainment for today’s students,” said Brandon Kempner, Highlands English Department chair and English professor. “A structured and competitive Esports Club environment provides many of the same benefits as more traditional athletic competitions like discipline, campus engagement, and academic engagement.

“Students are already playing video games in their homes or dormitory rooms. This new Esports Club gives them a public space to connect with other Highlands students and make new friends,” Kempner said.

Kempner will lead the Esports Club at Highlands along with fellow English professor Benjamin Villarreal. They are both academic experts on video games and have published and presented on video game culture.

“We’re creating access to the technology used in the competitive gaming community, whether the student is a beginner or an expert,” Villarreal said. “At the same time, we’re teaching about an exploding industry that’s offering jobs ranging from game design to games journalism and marketing.”

Villarreal said Highlands identified a space in the Stu Clark Building Cantina Room at 903 Baca Ave. for the Esports Club to use.

“We’ll be providing gaming computers, video game consoles, and televisions as well as a space to socialize,” Villarreal said.

Kempner said the vision for the esports initiative is to eventually have an academic component through classes offered in the English Department and other disciplines.

According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, there is a growing national trend for esports to become a university-approved sport. In New Mexico, the New Mexico Activities Association voted in June 2018 to allow esports to become an activity in high schools.

“Looking ahead, the long-term goal is for esports to potentially become a varsity team at Highlands and compete within the RMAC schools at the collegiate level,” Kempner said.

“Similar to all of our other athletic teams, esports can teach many skills that are valuable outside the classroom such as teamwork, time management, and competing,” said Craig Snow, Highlands’ acting athletic director and head men’s basketball coach. “I envision that esports could eventually become aligned with the NCAA. For us to be in the game early could potentially make us a leader in this market. It’s fortunate we have faculty involvement, with Dr. Kempner and Dr. Villarreal leading the charge.”

The first organizational meeting for the Highlands Esports Club is Aug. 30 at 5 p.m. in the Stu Clark Cantina Room. For more information, contact Kempner at bkempner@nmhu.edu or Villarreal at bjvillarreal@nmhu.edu