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Michigan State’s growing varsity Esports team takes a big leap forward

Evan Katz

The university is adding two new state-of-the-art facilities for students and the esports team in hopes of enriching MSU’s gaming culture.

The Michigan State esports program unlocked a big level up, thanks to the university opening two esports lounges on campus this semester; the Alienware esports lounge in Communication Arts and Sciences and the Hubbard Hall esports competition lounge.

The Alienware lounge houses 12 Alienware R16 battle stations, Alienware M16 laptops, a space for broadcasting, a console gaming area, and a varsity room. Alienware, a company owned by Dell, makes high-end gaming equipment geared for competitive and serious players.

The demand for high-end gaming has soared with the growing popularity of esports at MSU.

Evan Katz

“It's the best of the best technology in the room,” said Christopher Bilski, director of esports at Michigan State. “The computers, the monitors themselves, it's all the tools that students will need to be successful when it comes to gaming in one place.”

The explosion of esports at MSU has led to a student-led esports club. It comprises 15 different registered Student Organizations, with 1,500 students participating and a Discord Server of more than 3,000 students. However, before opening these esports lounges, there were limited spaces for these students.

“Opening dedicated esports space on campus will finally help alleviate some of those spatial needs and give students a place to connect and grow their clubs,” said Bilski. “When we see students are very passionate about things, they are excited about providing those places like Alienware, which is just part of us fulfilling that promise.”

Evan Katz

Bennett Marr, a senior from Okemos studying electrical engineering, is a varsity esports athlete for MSU’s Rocket League team. He said the new lounges should help him focus better.

“I think the classroom spaces were great, but it brought me back to when I was in class,” said Marr. “Having spaces where it's dedicated and there's no worries about your grades, you can have peace of mind and do whatever you want in this space with video games.”

Planning for these facilities was a process, as MSU is just the second university to have an Alienware esports lounge. The first one is at the University of Texas at Austin. The cost of the Alienware lounge at MSU was undisclosed.

“Planning for the Alienware esports lounge has been going on for over a year now,” said Bilski. “The planning space in Hubbard has been going on since before August 2022, so we are finally getting to the stage now where construction is finishing and the lounges are opening to students.”

Marr emphasized there will be an adjustment period to get used to the new lounge.

Evan Katz

“We just had the opportunity to get on those computers for the first time,” said Marr. “The more we get in there, it will become a routine,” said Marr. “Like when you're going to bed, you go brush your teeth; we have to ensure we are ready to play when our competitions are scheduled. People might arrive an hour before or 30 minutes before, and it's really about building a mindsight before games happen.”

Marr is optimistic about how the future will look with the partnership with Alienware and is thankful for the generosity.

“Alienware was amazing, and they've donated top-of-the-line machinery,” said Marr. “The computers and monitors are the best they have. Everything they have given us sets us up to be as successful as possible.”

Upon opening, both lounges will be opened to the community during the day. Anyone with a Michigan State computer login can use the computers for a two-hour time limit. All games are pre-downloaded. Bilski explains this is a pivotal point where esports continues to build its community.

“That is one of our huge goals for the space,” said Bilski. “This is a place where there will be times throughout the day where you do not have to be a “gamer” or an esports person. “We want this to be a space that anybody can come to regardless of their skill levels and be immersed in gaming, getting the chance to try out different games and engage with others who are interested in gaming.”

Down the road, Bilski hopes for the lounges to be a place to connect different local communities to hold their competitions in the space.

Evan Katz

“The ability to bring in high schools from across the state or around the country for different events brings the ability to not only serve Michigan State University but also provide a space where MSU can further their impact beyond campus,” said Bilski.

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