The Esports Lounge isn’t just for professional gamers

“Esports” refers to playing video games professionally. The finals for tournaments that attract talent from all over the world are played on the stages of stadiums boasting 50,000 person capacities. Such was the case with the League of Legends World Championship finals in 2018, which took place at the Incheon Munhak Stadium in South Korea. Tournaments as massive as this often have $1 million championship prizes.

Room 211A had previously been a computer lounge, which allowed for a quick construction period for the lounge. Photo by John Novotny.

Smaller esports tournaments can take place anywhere, even in a garage. Esports can be as simple as playing in a $100 winner-takes-all tournament at the local gaming center. In general, when the term esports is mentioned, it’s usually in reference to professionally organized tournaments.

The Student Union soft-launched its own Esports Lounge on Aug. 26. Anyone, from someone who has never played a video game before, to the seasoned veteran, is welcome to play games in the lounge. The soft-launch period is a trial period where the hardware can be tested and Student Union management can identify any places for improvement, as well as obtain feedback from the community, according to Adrianna McCoy, the Esports Lounge manager.

To get started, gamers will be required to create a ggLeap account at the Student Union Information Desk. The ggLeap user interface “locks down the PC” so that gamers can only play games on it, according to McCoy. If they are a student enrolled in at least three credit hours, they will be allotted a certain number of game time hours per semester.

UAA staff and faculty will be given a certain amount of game time per semester. The public is also welcome to play at the Esports Lounge.

The lounge will feature all current-generation consoles in addition to high-end PCs.

“We have 18 top-of-the-line gaming PCs, a PlayStation 4 that also includes a VR [Virtual Reality headset], an Xbox One and two Nintendo Switches,” McCoy said.

The Esports Lounge PCs even feature rgb lighting. Photo courtesy of uaa.alaska.edu/students/union/esports (the official Esports Lounge web page).
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The PCs boast impressive specifications, including Intel Core i7-9700k Processors, NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 graphics cards, 32 GB of RAM and 512 GB PCIe NVme M.2 SSDs in addition to 1 terabyte hard drives.

The peripherals are also impressive. Esports Lounge patrons will be able to play PC games on a 25-inch 144Hz FreeSync monitor and use an HP OMEN Sequencer optical-mechanical gaming keyboard.

The games available vary by platform. There are competitive, multiplayer games such as League of Legends, Overwatch and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. There are also more casual, single-player games such as The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Minecraft, Pokemon: Let’s Go, Eevee! and Pokemon: Let’s Go, Pikachu!.

Players are also welcome to suggest new games to be installed on the PCs and consoles. For a full list of games and platforms, visit the official Student Union page on the UAA website. Students and the public will be able to play various games on a PC, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 Pro and Xbox One S this fall.

The Esports Lounge was created in less than a year. The UAA eSports Club was a driving force behind the creation of the lounge, as was the UAA administration. The eSports Club was first approached about starting an esports lounge after the spring semester ended, according to Christian Marcale, the club’s president.

“Cody [Buechner, the Student Union building manager] started talking to us in April or May,” Marcale said. “He got sponsors lined up who were interested and then a couple officers from the club and administrators met up and pitched [to businesses to sponsor the lounge].”

Marcale is excited to see UAA finally get an esports lounge after having been a founding member of the eSports Club for over two years.

“This was one of my goals. To get an esports lounge built here and see it come to reality in two years is honestly amazing,” Marcale said.

Marcale hopes that having an esports center at UAA will help grow Anchorage’s esports scene.

“I think [the Esports Lounge] doesn’t only help the UAA community, I think it helps the whole Anchorage esports community. As we’ve seen esports grow in other states, I think it will grow in Anchorage too,” Marcale said.

McCoy is excited to try out the Esports Lounge PCs. She feels they are a great selling point of the lounge.

“I’m really excited for [the lounge] and just seeing other people buzz about it makes me excited too,” McCoy said. “I’m not sure if I’ll have much time to use it since I’ll be working it and going to class, but I’m definitely looking forward to using the PCs, especially since they’re better than the one I have at home.”

The Esports Lounge is located in the Student Union in room 211A. The lounge is open Monday-Sunday from 12-8 p.m. during the soft launch.