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Sports Are About Games - Esports Is About Gaming

As colleges and universities around the world adopt the notion of the world wide web, collegiate esports has grown by leaps and bounds. While traditional sports lovers may doubt the “sports” aspect of competitive gaming, no one can doubt its growing popularity.



Count Dickinson State University among some of the earliest adopters of esports.

“Universities are always looking for the next thing and North Dakota tends to be hesitant,” said DSU Esports Coordinator Josh Nichols. “But I’m proud that Dickinson State jumped on this. We were the first public institution to jump on board. They saw that vision going forward and it’s been an avenue for recruitment and retention.”


DSU started an esports program in 2019, but lost momentum during the COVID pandemic in 2020. It survived those dark days to flourish today with Nichols acting as recruiter, program manager, driver. The one thing he doesn’t do is coach.



The team competes against NCAA, NAIA and NJCAA schools all across the nation in a game called Valorant, a 5v5 tactical shooting game.


In the world of gaming, all schools are on the same footing, be it NCAA, NAIA or NJCAA. The National Association of Collegiate Esports (NACE) organizes tournaments and is one of a dozen or so tournament organizers DSU has been associated with. Nichols said the NAIA wouldn’t wade into esports water but allows NACE to oversee competition.


NACE strives to be a positive home for the collegiate gaming community. “It’s seen exponential growth since 2016,” Nichols said. “In 2019, when we joined, there were 50 to 60 organizations. Now they more than 200 members and 800 schools competing."


NACE has structure and eligibility rules. The real difference between esports and other sports is the rule book. “It’s kind of a weird thing,” Nichols explained. “In the NAIA, you have certain rule book. (In Valorant), one semester our team was in six

different tournaments with six different rule books. We have to adjust and adapt to follow those rules.”


The gaming Blue Hawks this season include juniors Eli Egli, Wentz Oscar Moqueda, Jadyn Steiner and Chase Steiner and senior Jacob Scully. They finished their season in early April at the Collegiate Champions League playoffs and the NECC Grand Finals.


As word about DSU esports spreads, interest and games offered grows, Nichols said. “We’re really trying to expand and improve. We’re looking to add new programs like Rocket League, chess and Super Smash Brothers.


DSU recently built a racing simulator room to compete in iRacing league. “There are some series that are not necessarily part of collegiate leagues that we are looking to get into,” Nichols said. “NACE is the official NASCAR partner for collegiate gaming.” Nichols just hosted a Level Me Up conference for high school students, parents, coaches and transfer students wanting to know more about collegiate esports.



As part of a growing program, DSU has upgraded its gaming space in the student center.

“We have lots of opportunities for gaming on campus,” Nicholls said. “We have our broadcast lab, the varsity lab, a casual gaming space, we have a new racing sim space. Within the casual space, we have a gaming club that meets.


“We partner with Dickinson High School to make sure their program is a success. There’s a benefit to the community at large and to our campus. Some students just come to hang out and relax and decompress. There’s recruitment, retention and community engagement efforts.”


DSU offers scholarships for varsity play and scholarship for work positions within the program.


Go to www.bluehawkesports.com for more information, or to www.bluehawkesports.com/scholarships for more information on financial aid.





By Scooter Pursley

DSU Heritage Foundation Communication Specialist

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