Illinois Esports is the initiative to drive and support the many cores of esports on campus. Our mission is to fuel a passion for esports and the social, curricular, and industry tie-ins surrounding it. When considering esports, while competition is the base, it’s important to understand that there are multiple facets of this industry that brings together many fields. Just as with traditional sports, a multitude of careers touch the esports industry, make it relevant for students, graduates, faculty, and the community to explore, study, and grow. Here at the University of Illinois, Illini Esports has paved the way for competitive video gaming and with the unity of many academic interests on campus, together will work to grow Illinois Esports.
History of Illini Esports
Illini Esports, the student organization, began in September 2015 as a culmination of student clubs at the University of Illinois. Registered Student Organization (RSO) members from Heroes of the Storm, the League of Legends club, and the Hearthstone club joined together to form Illini Esports and make a centralized and recognized student esports hub at Illinois.
Since then, the program has grown to include over ten active competitive teams, social gaming, and community events. Students, alumni, faculty, and university staff work hard to bring events such as LANs, tournaments, and viewing parties on a semesterly basis. In Fall 2017, the Center for Innovation in Teaching and Learning (CITL) started working with Illini Esports to increase exposure to esports and academic tie-ins across the university and support social gaming events. In Spring 2020, financial support from the Office of the CIO equipped the CITL Innovation Studio with gaming/VR computers. Here, Illini Esports’ competitive teams and open gaming hours would have their first official home on campus. In Fall 2020, the University of Illinois will be launching its first esports curriculum. Illinois has always been home to innovation and will continue to grow Illinois Esports academics and support the Illini Esports.
Illinois Esports takes competitive gaming seriously and seeks to excel across esport titles. The University of Illinois supports Illini Esports teams with access to a growing number of esports venues, event spaces, and the ability to compete across multiple esports associations. Our team players do not just work to be at the top of the competitive scene, but also encourage the growth of esports academia. Being the player for Illini Esports means being a leader of the game and a mentor for the community.
Community & Inclusiveness
Illini Esports is one of the largest RSOs (register student organizations) on the University of Illinois campus and has an ever-growing strong community. Various events are hosted throughout each semester including weekly open gaming hours (where competitive, non-competitive, and tabletop gaming are welcome), LAN events, a League of Legends Worlds viewing party, streaming events, and casual tournaments. The community also extends to a digital presence via Discord. Whether virtual or in-person, Illinois Esports is a place where everyone has an opportunity to learn and practice their craft. Everyone is welcomed, accepted, and respected. In fact, we encourage open discussion and involvement in what it takes to make Illinois Esports accessible to all types of people. We also encourage our community growth, not just in esports, but in all gaming culture to allow for skill mentoring, unity, and fun.
Academics & Research
The University of Illinois understands the growing and constantly changing aspects of gaming. We seek to lead and explore the many topics that surround this field, including esports. Illinois is projected to launch its first Esports focused course (RST 199 Esports Foundations, a second 8 week course) in Fall 2020 with more to come. Illinois Esports is part of Games @ Illinois, studying potential for a new degree and certificate programs, establishing Illinois as the locus for innovative game studies research and transformative game design. Creating an interdisciplinary game studies community and supporting games and apps that have been created at Illinois will also put the university in a strategic position to attract external partnerships and become a national leader in these fields. We have also established partnerships with a variety of faculty on campus to foster academic research and new curricular tie-ins.
Skill Development & Careers
Illinois Esports presents opportunities for students to learn about the world of esports media. Between streaming, shoutcasting, social media, event management, coaching and more, students have the opportunity to be involved in and develop a wide variety of important skills. Many of our Illini Esports graduates have gone on to find jobs in esports fields. Our alumni have gone on to work in a variety of fields such as shoutcasting, event management, and media to name a few.