Miami's varsity RedHawks esports teams, League of Legends, Hearthstone and Overwatch, train in the esports arena.
Miami's varsity RedHawks esports teams, League of Legends, Hearthstone and Overwatch, train in the esports arena.

Game on: Esports maintains a growing presence at Miami

By Margo Kissell, university news and communications


Miami student Jennifer Frank will be a counselor at the upcoming Esports Summer Camp.

Back in high school, Jennifer Frank was drum major of the marching band, captain of her softball team and active in drama and show choir.

“When I graduated, I lost a lot of those competitive outlets,” said Frank of Loveland, a third-year Miami University student majoring in interactive media studies with a minor in film studies.

How did she tap back into her competitive drive at Miami? Esports.

Short for electronic sports in the form of competitive multiplayer video gaming, the rapidly growing field generates World Cup-level excitement primarily among the younger generation. They’re known to pack arenas to watch professional video gamers compete for multimillion-dollar prizes.

Esports continues to command a growing presence on Miami’s Oxford campus, where faculty, staff and students formed the first Division I varsity esports team in 2016.

That increased visibility can be seen in:

  • three varsity RedHawks teams competing in League of Legends, Hearthstone and Overwatch games. Miami’s Overwatch team won the 2017 National Association of Collegiate Esports championship.
  • the esports arena on the first floor of King Library.
  • a couple of partial scholarships for varsity esports offered this fall for the first time as a way to stay competitive with other universities.
  • next week’s first Esports Summer Camp on the Oxford campus.

Networking, playing and learning


Glenn Platt

Hosted by Armstrong Institute for Interactive Media Studies (AIMS), about a dozen participants, mostly teenagers, have registered for the camp and will live on campus July 8-15.

Programming includes classes on the history, culture and business of esports, gaming and tournaments, as well as interaction with team members and industry partners.

Organizers hope it will become an annual event, drawing young people interested in gaming to “network, play and learn” in state-of-the-art facilities.

Glenn Platt, the C. Michael Armstrong Chair in Interactive Media and director of AIMS, called esports one of “the most significant and fastest-growing changes to the sports and entertainment landscape.”

The NBA and Major League Baseball have launched esports leagues and the industry is expected to reach $1.5 billion this year, he added.

“As a university, we have a responsibility to prepare our students for the world that will be here when they graduate in four years,” said Platt, a professor of marketing and interactive media who also is co-director of the varsity esports team.

Frank, who will be one of the esports camp counselors, hopes the on-campus experience inspires participants and fuels their passion for gaming.

“I get to work with two young women at the camp this year, and I cannot wait to hear about what drives them,” she said.

Academic program ranks high


The varsity esports arena at King Library

Miami University is known already for a digital game studies program that ranks in the top 25 percent of schools, both public and private, in the United States by Animation Career Review.

This spring, Miami and its AIMS Game Center climbed nine spots in the Princeton Review’s 2018 Top Schools for Game Design list, ranking 16th overall and third among all public universities.

Phill Alexander, assistant professor of game design and co-director of the varsity esports team, said research shows there are more young people from about age 14 through the mid-20s who watch the gaming channel Twitch more than television, and they are more interested in games than traditional sports.

“One of the things we have realized is the way to reach out to that generation and to meet them where they want to be is to come into this space,” Alexander said.


The Miami University Overwatch team won the 2017 National Association of Collegiate Esports season. Front row: Calvin Sanree. Back row, (l-r): Tyler Fass, Sam Yancer, Sean Mullee, Soojung Kim, Alex Salem and coach Ben Decker.

Jarod Haney, who graduated in May with a bachelor’s in interactive media studies, played on the varsity Overwatch team for a year before becoming an analyst last year. He enjoyed the experience and is glad to see the growing esports presence at Miami.

As for Frank, she has run the Twitch streaming room in the Armstrong Student Center, where students can schedule a time to use gaming equipment set up in the room to stream. (Miami also has an active esports club with 488 members.)

This fall, she plans to try out for Miami’s Overwatch team. She enjoys the comradery and is looking to capture a special moment.

“On every competitive team you're ever with, there's a crunch time. I've felt it in show choir, in softball, in marching band. It's a moment where nothing else in the world matters — from grades to bad relationships to how little sleep you've gotten,” she said.

“It comes with this surge of excitement that fills the whole room and makes you feel like you can take on the world together.”

If you’d still like to register for the esports summer camp, contact Phill Alexander at