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Monday, May 20, 2024
Esports Gaming Room
Three students game in the Bakke Esports Gaming Suite on Feb. 20, 2024.

Bakke gaming room reflects growing investment in UW-Madison esports

UW-Madison and other schools are beefing up their gaming spaces and programs.

University of Wisconsin-Madison gamers have found a community among light-up keyboards and high-end monitors in the Bakke Recreation Center’s esports room, which opened at the beginning of the spring semester. 

The $100,000 room boasts 12 computers and a variety of setups for gamers of all types. The investment reflects a nationwide higher education trend: many universities are adding esports academic programs and spaces like the one at Bakke to their campuses in response to student interests and job markets

In Madison, the esports room reflects a growing economic sector furnished by companies and studios like Epic Games and Respawn Entertainment. For some experts, working in esports — a sector projected to bring $4.3 billion in U.S. revenue in 2024, according to Statista — develops relevant skills for any industry.

UW-Stout introduced an esports coaching certificate program in fall 2023. According to a UW System press release, the school’s successful varsity esports team helped originate the program, which will require students to coach one sports team at any level. 

“The skills one would need to work in esports are transferable to many other careers. Training in esports is a good investment,” said Dr. Krista Lee Malone, a professor in the game design certificate program at UW-Madison. 

The program involves classes from the departments of computer science, theatre and art. Despite demand beyond its available slots, Malone said the program is small and specific for more individualized instruction.

Alejandro Robinson, president of the Madison Esports Club, said students are interested in various fields within esports: advertising, graphic design, marketing and professional competition. 

“We're trying to find places in the club where they can use those interests and shine,” Robinson said. 

Robinson said the Bakke Center’s esports room changed the landscape of his club. After the room’s opening, the club had an easier time building deeper connections with members.

“Having an in-person space where you can practice and hang out together, I can tell just from the team's dynamics, has changed a lot,” Robinson said. 

In using the esports room, Robinson hopes the club will be able to recruit more casual gamers to join and increase club support from UW-Madison.

“Our hope is that as the space is used more often, we start collecting these statistics showing [usage] and tell the university, ‘Hey guys, a lot of people are using the space. We need more,’” Robinson said. 

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Gabriella Hartlaub

Gabriella Hartlaub is an arts editor for the Daily Cardinal. She also reports state politics and life & style stories. Follow her on Twitter at @gabihartlaub.

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