CMU Steps Up Game With eSports

New sport launching, video gaming arena in the works

October 26, 2017

eSportsAs the popularity of video games continues to rise around the world, so, too has the appeal for gaming as a sport at the collegiate level.

Central Methodist University is stepping up its game, literally, as it works toward launching a co-ed eSports team.

Also known as electronic sports, competitive video gaming, or professional video gaming, eSports allows students to compete as a team against other schools in select video games.

For Central’s up-and-coming team, the University is in the process of building a state-of-the-art arena – scheduled to be completed by the fall of 2018. It will be housed within CMU’s Inman Student and Community Center, fully loaded with gaming stations and specialized equipment, and designated as a space strictly to be used by CMU’s eSports team.

Central already has hired a full-time eSports coach, Donald Sledge, who is quite the gamer himself.

Central Methodist University eSports Head Coach Donald Sledge (right) instructs CMU student Casey Vaughn, a sophomore biology major from Cape Girardeau, while playing a video game in preparation for tryouts for CMU’s new eSports team. “eSports is an opportunity for students that are gamers to show their talent in a new, emerging way,” Sledge said. “Allowing video games creates another route toward a better education, and adds value for students on a personal level.”

Sledge, who can be found in-game as “DuckTheStampede,” “Don_Mnemonic,” or “Duck_L-O-D,” plays a variety of games in many different gaming genres.

“We’re excited to name Donald as our first eSports head coach,” said Ken Oliver, vice president for institutional growth and student engagement. “His commitment to the new age of student athletes and the CMU community is what we were looking for in our first coach. We believe he will embrace our university mission while building a solid program.”

Sledge is a St. Louis native and 2017 Central graduate, currently serving as a resident hall director (RHD) for CMU’s Burford Hall – a residence hall for men on the Fayette campus.

Central’s eSports competition will begin with the game “League of Legends” – widely considered the most popular gaming circuit today. According to Sledge, League of Legends is a competitive game that blends Real Time Strategy (RTS) with Role-Playing Game (RPG) elements. Competitors battle head-to-head across different modes, and teams have characters with specific and designated roles.

But according to Sledge, there are other game possibilities also in the works, as the sports program only has the potential to keep growing.

After joining the National Association of Collegiate Esports (NACE), CMU’s eSports team will compete against member schools of similar size and even larger sizes, including NCAA Division 1 schools.

Missouri institutions currently involved in eSports include Columbia College and Stephens College, both in Columbia, Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Missouri Baptist University in Creve Coeur, Culver-Stockton College in Canton, Maryville University in St. Louis, and Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar.

Central is actively recruiting students with an interest in the sport, and will offer scholarships to potential team members.

According to Sledge, excitement around campus is on the rise, and a growing group of current CMU students already have an interest in trying out for the team.

The potential for eSports is limitless, as the sport continues to grow and pick up new, competing colleges and universities throughout the world.  Opportunities for the game to benefit students in their academics and professions, as well as outlets to pursue a career in professional gaming, also continue to rise.