A robust culture: Esports rise post-pandemic at Northwestern


Daily file photo by Evan Robinson-Johnson

Gamers have fun at the Nintendo Switch: Together Tour kickoff in 2020. Nadine Manske, a Medill fourth-year and internal president of Esports Club, said more Northwestern students have been getting involved in esports following the pandemic.

Kaitlin Bender-Thomas, Reporter

More Northwestern students have been getting involved in esports since the pandemic, fostering a community where gamers can connect, discuss and compete at their leisure.

The online gaming environment allows students to compete in a plethora of multi- or single-player games, including Super Smash Bros., League of Legends and Overwatch – all from the convenience of their home or residence hall. 

Nadine Manske, a Medill fourth-year and internal president of Esports Club, said there has been an uptick in membership since COVID-19. She attributes the growth to students seeking stress relief and interaction during trying and isolating times. With more than 900 members in the Northwestern Esports Discord, she said she appreciates the friendships she’s forged since joining the club the summer after her sophomore year. 

“I’m friends with some people who are completely different majors than me, live in a completely different area of campus, and it’s like, gosh, I really never would have met you if we didn’t play together,” Manske said. 

Esports was previously offered through Northwestern Recreation in 2020, separately from the Esports Club. According to Associate Director of Competitive Sports and Wildcat Camp Ryan Coleman, NU Recreation ran esports during the beginning of the pandemic as an alternative to in-person sports. Once students were allowed back on campus and could resume regular programming, it was discontinued.

Manske said she saw a collaboration with NU Recreation as an opportunity for the club to gain more exposure because many people are unaware of the game room located in the basement of Norris University Center. However, she said, she hopes to collaborate while maintaining the club’s integrity and the balance between a competitive and casual space.

Carolyn Zou, a Communication sophomore and member of Esports club, said she felt “unemployable” going to school and playing video games until she found a job within the gaming industry. With the growing popularity of esports, she said the University should provide more funding and support for professional development to help destigmatize video games and alleviate common misconceptions about gaming. 

“I think it would just be a valuable thing for people because it’s no longer just a thing that people do if they have no aspirations,” Zou said.

Andres Rojas, a Weinberg sophomore and external president of Esports Club, said he has been playing video games for as long as he can remember, and his favorite part about esports is the strong community. He said he plays more uncommon games like Guitar Hero, a rhythm game, but in such a robust group of gamers, he can still find people with similar interests who want to compete.

Zou said esports is universal and can connect people in ways other platforms cannot.

“I think there are a lot of things about games as a medium that just make it super interesting, intrinsically,” Zou said. “If you don’t speak the same language as someone, you can still play chess with them if you both understand the rules of the game.”

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