By Maddy Majewski, Abbi Pflum, Abigail Turner, & Kaylee Homerding
Recently, the University of Wisconsin – Green Bay campus got an upgrade. An E-Sports lounge was added to the communal area on campus. The lounge will allow students to play video games on campus, outside of their dorms or apartments. Whether by themselves or in leagues, this provides a great opportunity to bring people together. Building Operations Managers Stacy Baumann and Grant Winslow, E-Sports Co-Manager Ryan Krumrei, Professor Bryan Carr, and student Lashia Moua gave their insights on the new lounge.
From a student’s perspective, the lounge is a hit. Lashia Moua, a student at UWGB, has shared that it is “really fun,” and everyone is “really nice and funny.” Moua found one area of critique in the lounge. The E-sports lounge lacks one game Moua discovered. “It needs Minecraft included.”
The construction of the lounge was a long journey that took a lot of minds to produce the final project that we see here today. Grant Winslow, Associate Director of Union Operations, was one of those minds. “We wanted it to be cool. Not old man cool – young person cool. We wanted it to be cutting edge. We wanted it to be different. We wanted it to look different from anything else in the building, which is really what the ceiling is… I think putting that ceiling in there really changed it, and it looks like no place else on campus.” The changes that they have made to the area have turned it into a new hub for students to hang out and get away from the everyday stress of classes.
The future of the lounge is unknown, but things are looking up for the space during the first weeks of it being open. Stacy Baumann, Building Operations Manager for the Union, is hopeful for the future, “There is a line out the door every single day before we open, and everything. Right now, it is just gauging what people want to see; it’s student-driven. I always like the question, what do you see in the future? I wish we knew, and we are getting there.” Stacy has heard rave reviews about the lounge, and many students want to get involved with this project. Baumann stated, “I have had so many emails having people want to work and volunteer in the lounge. So, it is just seeing what the need is, assessing, and then moving forward with a plan.” The E-sports lounge may be the new hot spot for students to show some creativity. This is definitely not the last time we will hear about the lounge.
Bryan Carr shared that he wanted to bring E-Sports to campus for at least three years in his advisory role. He clarified, “I am not personally involved with the operation of the current space on campus, but the conversations, networking, and work we did as a group was part of what led to this space existing.”
Besides E-Sports being a fun engagement activity for students, Carr hoped having a space like this could be one of many fun things for students to do as he had heard that a lot of students feel that they do not have a reason to stick around on campus on the weekends. “My big hope is that it will be a gathering spot for students to come together and play games, as well as a training facility for a competitive university team, and it will be welcoming and inclusive in the way video games should be. I hope it also helps make UWGB look like a cool and exciting place to be because it is,” Carr stated.
Overall, Carr said there had been positive feedback about the new lounge. He affirmed, “I do not recall any major criticism or pushback. I had to do a lot of explaining about E-Sports and what video games are and how they work, and what sort of technology we need, but there has been a lot of enthusiasm from both the student level and the administrative level. Everyone seemed extremely excited during the grand opening.”
Carr has been impacted by video games his whole life. He elaborated, “I have been playing video games since I was able to hold onto a controller. I do not think it is hyperbole to say that I would not be where I am right now without video games. I wrote my dissertation on ideology and representation in video games, and that dissertation was part of what got me hired into the position I am currently in.” Carr stated that he has seen the video game industry grow and change in terms of technology and complexity. He also shared he “learned a lot about the world and the different experiences of people in the early days of online game fandom, where I would go onto message boards and talk about Final Fantasy and Mega Man and other games with other fans – I met a lot of interesting people from different countries, backgrounds, etc. and honestly it was one of the many things that helped expand my horizons before going to college.”
His gaming academia was put to the test. He stated, “I did play a round of Fortnite down there, purely for academic reasons, and to ensure that the equipment was up to par. Which it was. I think I came in 19th place in that round. I have no actual skills to show off, but perhaps you may see me and hopefully some of my fellow faculty down there flailing about in a vain attempt to look cool someday.”
Having the E-Sports lounge open for recreational activity, Carr also hopes that the space can become a part of campus initiatives and programs. He shared, “we have the Center for Games and Interactive Media handling the critical and streaming/media side of games, and it would be great to see partnerships and collaborations there. It would also be wonderful to see the space used for major campus and community events.” More so, there is also the possibility to open academics to E-Sports. Carr said, “I’ve really hoped that we can use the E-Sports space for a lot of excellent learning and curriculum opportunities, and I have had some interesting conversations to that effect.” More opportunities with the lounge could include, “having scholarships for interscholastic competition with other schools, but also opportunities to learn more about the business side, the media and streaming side, the management and training side, and the psychological impact of E-Sports on players just to name a few,” Carr informed.
Ryan Krumrei, a manager for the E-Sports lounge, was able to help give insight into the newest project in the Phoenix Club. He mentions how he has very high hopes for the E-Sports lounge. He has hopes that the lounge is able to foster a community of gamers that attend UWGB. Thus far, the feedback has had an overwhelming amount of positive feedback. One area of improvement is that the students simply want more. “The students want to be able to play more games, compete in tourneys, and join an official UWGB E-Sports team,” Krumrei stated. He thinks that the E-Sports lounge is going to be a great place for an atmosphere for people who have the same passion for gaming as other people. Krumrei also stated, “Gaming can be a powerful tool in bringing people together.”