The first annual National Association of Collegiate Esports (NACE) Conference concluded with two days of exceptional panels and field trips, all of which added up to a most successful conference launch.
Highlight of Day Two had to have been the field trips to Hi-Rez studies in Alpharetta, north of Atlanta, and, Skillshot, its nearby Esports broadcast studio.
NACE attendees witnessed the frenetic activity of an international SMITE competition being broadcast from Skillshot.
Most impressive was the lengths to which Hi-Rez went to accommodate the competing teams from around the world: dedicated sound-proof team rooms, a well-stocked kitchen, attention to team needs, and first-class competition stages. As this is a broadcast-only facility, there is no audience viewing area, but for broadcasting purposes, it is hard not to view Skillshot as a penultimate accomplishment for Hi-Rez.
Day Three of the conference began with the originally planned keynote speech by Dr. Chris Haskell, professor and researcher at Boise State University. Technical problems forced cancellation of this planned keynote. Consequently, what had been anticipated as an “Opening Keynote” turned into a “Closing Keynote” - albeit one well worth the wait.
Chris Haskell is head coach for the Boise State Broncos esports program. His research focus is on the impact of video games, virtual worlds, social media, and digital culture, while also teaching courses in Minecraft and World of Warcraft.
Dr. Haskell’s presentation was a well-scripted recounting of the journey taken by Boise State University from humble Esports club beginnings to a university presidential commitment to make Boise State the national leader in university Esports.
While not exactly a blueprint on “how to launch your own collegiate Esports program,” Dr. Haskell provided myriad insights and tips on promoting and selling Esports to university administrators and potentially interested parties. He was generous enough to offer his Esports sales video to all in attendance; an offer readily accepted by many in the audience of more than 80 participating colleges and universities.
The conference concluded with NACE Executive Director Michael Brooks’ summation and assessment of the tremendous year of growth for Esports among North American colleges and universities.
With over 80 colleges and universities offering $ 9 million dollars in Esports scholarships, NACE sees no end to Esports growth in academia. Brooks highlighted NACE’s association with the High School Esports League, while announcing its association with Gamer Sensei, to develop the next generation of Esports coaches. Expanding this even to establishment of a NACE Esports Coaches Association.
Another initiative was highlighted, this time between NACE and Be|Recruited, by which high school and amateur Esports players can be more easily recruited by NACE member institutions.
This was also the opportunity for Brooks to announce publicly two of NACE’s more significant initiatives: 1) partnering with Hi-Rez to host NACE sanctioned competitions in both SMITE and PALADINS; and NACE partnering with Harrisburg University of Science and Technology and the Whitaker Center in the hosting of its first invitational Esports tournament this fall in Central Pennsylvania.
As one who has attended scores of conferences, I commend Michael Brooks, and everyone associated with NACE, for staging an informative, educational, and most entertaining kick-off conference.