Waikato University has become the first university in New Zealand to offer an e-sports scholarship to a student. The university has also recently unveiled a new e-sports ‘arena’, for interested students to improve their skills.
Student Ryan Holt received the e-sports scholarship for his work on League of Legends. Sponsored by 2degrees, the $5,000 scholarship is intended to help “high level esports athlete who can lead the way in esports” attend university. According to the university’s website, it is part of a larger commitment to help “enhance esports opportunities for students”.
Waikato has also unveiled the OMEN E-Sports Arena – an area dedicated to helping students practice and improve in e-sports. Featuring 12 high-end gaming computers, the area will allow students to compete across a variety of games. These will not include first-person shooters though – according to e-sports coordinator Tom Featonby the university made the call to exclude these games after the Christchurch Shootings. “After what happened in Christchurch, we decided we wouldn’t have any realistic first-person shooter games here at all,” he says, “We don’t support that sort of violence or any over-the-top violence. We’re aware that we are the first New Zealand university in this space and we want to be a shining example of what esports can look like at the university level”.
Waikato University Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor Alister Jones says the scholarship and arena are just two examples of the university’s ongoing commitment to stay future-proof. “A goal of this university is to be forward thinking in our approach to providing a distinctive student experience,” he says, “A high proportion of our current and prospective students play esports and this arena presents an opportunity to engage with these students, plus support their interaction with esports through clubs and the hosting of tournaments”.
Waikato is also looking to build a team to compete in the Melbourne Esports Open.