With a mess of tangled wires hanging from the rafters, it’s hard to imagine how the future home of a competitive e-sports arena on Ohio State’s campus will take shape.
Many of the ceiling tiles are missing, exposing ductwork no longer in use. Several walls that previously separated spaces have been removed.
The carpet in the room, stained and dirty from years of foot traffic will be one of the last vestiges of the space’s former identity to be removed as it makes the transition into the 21st century.
That transition promises to bring with it a new life for the space.
Lincoln Tower was built decades ago. At one point, the second floor was home to a dining hall.
Most recently, the former dining hall had been converted into training rooms.
Now those too are being eliminated to make space for what the Office of Student Life hopes will increase student engagement on campus.
Once the space is fully renovated, a state of the art competitive gaming center will be open to students.
The university has already made a commitment to building an e-sports team, creating an e-sports based major, and opening up research opportunities in the process.
Of the three items, research is already underway. Construction on the team’s competitive and practice spaces is about to start, and there is still long way to go before the major could come into existence.
Brandon Smith the e-sports Director and Enterprise Project Lead with the Office of Student Life says things are moving along well.
“We’re working very aggressively through the spring to finish out this space so that we can start to test equipment and install things over late spring and early fall,” said Smith.
Smith says the space will be open to students of any skill level to simply come and enjoy themselves using the latest technology, like Virtual Reality, or to try new things on equipment they may never have had the money to access before.
The competitive gaming rigs professional e-sports competitors use can be quite costly to the everyday consumer. The hope is to have the same level of equipment the competitive team will use available to the non-team member students as well.
The idea behind the competitive arena/student center is to foster a sense of community and social interaction.
Smith says many gamers are subjected to the stereotype they spend all their time in a dark room.
He says, by and large that is a mischaracterization and hopes the centralized place for gamers on campus will help them connect more openly and frequently.
Further opportunity for study will be available once the renovations are done and students have access to the space.
And then there are the academic opportunities for departments across the entire campus that could help students realize real-life applications for what they are learning in the classroom.
Artists renderings of plans for the space provide food for the imagination, however, a business not far away gives a tangible opportunity to see what the space could be.
Game Arena in Hilliard opened in early 2018, the brainchild of Justin Kogge and his partner.
It took the pair five years to bring the business into reality and since then they have seen the ups and downs of any new business.
More importantly, they have seen the impact places like it can have on people.
“We’ve actually seen it change some people’s lives and we’ve only been up for 10 months,” said Kogge.
Kogge says one of his customers was extremely socially awkward when he first started coming in.
“He was so nervous to talk to other people and then 6 months later, after coming a ton, he started to come out of his shell, and now he walks around and has a lot of friends and I don’t see any of those problems that he had when he first came in,” said Kogge.
Game Arena appears to have slightly more square footage to work with, but that could just be how the floor plan is laid out.
It has a competitive arena housed in a soundproof room complete with a booth for a producer to manage multiple camera feeds as they are broadcast and up to two announcers for the event.
Outside the room, dozens of PC’s are set up side by side in rows; off to the side, a couple of large-screen televisions are hooked up to consoles; and on the walls televisions play feeds of games and broadcasters streaming over the internet using platforms like Twitch.
In all, the space is welcoming environment for people with common interests to gather and hang out.
The university hopes the space in Lincoln Tower will likewise have a positive effect through student engagement and be a source of good on campus.