Jul 06 2023

Esports in Higher Ed: How the Right Peripherals Can Boost Multiplayer Gaming

Larger monitors and virtual reality headsets give recreational gamers an edge and help students prepare for esports careers.

Across campuses, students and their universities are organizing multiplayer video game competitions as the popularity of esports continues to soar. Esports has infiltrated higher education in the form of competitive teams, gaming centers open to the broader campus community and even as part of various curricula.

When it comes to the gaming itself, competitions are both institutionally organized and recreational, says Jeffrey Palumbo, global senior product manager for esports at Lenovo.

The field of esports has grown so much that the nonprofit National Association of Collegiate Esports now includes over 240 member schools and more than 5,000 student-athletes. Popular games include Valorant, League of Legends and Rocket League.

Competitions offer real-world teaching and learning spaces for students pursuing careers in esports. Research shows that about 10 percent of students interested in esports careers aim to make a living as competitors, with the rest hoping to work behind the scenes.

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There are many ways for students to participate in esports other than through competition, including shoutcasting, which entails broadcasting, production, event planning, marketing, social media and more. Participation in any of those areas could lead to a career for students. If it doesn’t, that’s OK too, Palumbo says.

“It doesn’t mean that they have to necessarily go into esports, but it’s a nice entryway to learning what they may or may not like, and they get the ability to try all sorts of cool things,” he says.

In 2021, the global esports market was worth $1.22 billion, and the market is expected to grow to $5.48 billion by 2029, according to Fortune Business Insights. By 2025, the esports industry is expected to have 640.8 million viewers worldwide, an increase from 435.7 million in 2020.

As for the hardware powering all that growth, many esports gamers are using consoles. However, higher-end gaming PCs such as Lenovo’s Legion desktops and laptops deliver more capabilities, Palumbo says. Lenovo offers the Legion T7 with an Intel Core i9 13th-generation processor and up to a NVIDIA RTX 4090.

“You don't have to buy the most expensive computer to play most of the popular esports titles,” Palumbo says. “But it doesn’t hurt to have the latest graphics to make the games look as stunning as they can be for the players.”

READ MORE: What type of esports program is your university building?

Gaming Peripherals Help Universities Attract Students

Just as weight rooms and strong football programs will attract student-athletes, the latest hardware can attract students interested in multiplayer gaming. Virtual reality (VR) requires advanced headsets, and students have an interest in learning with these devices.

“Now, anyone can come and hang out, have a good time, or compete with the latest and greatest,” says Palumbo. “And that’s what a lot of schools are looking for: student engagement. It’s a big draw.”

Supporting students gaming during the day and designing games at night requires the latest technology, he adds.

“The new tech is always going to help push that barrier, and help you do more, especially within coding for VR, AR, mixed reality and now even production,” Palumbo says. “Those are the programs that are really pushing the limits as to what you can do.”

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Competitive gamers should choose headsets that feature surround sound instead of standard stereo capability so they can gain an edge. Being able to hear better increases response time, he says.

Palumbo says most esports programs use 24.5-inch screens, like the Legion Y25g-30 gaming monitor, which offers a 360-hertz refresh rate and a 1-millisecond response time. An integrated NVIDIA Reflex Analyzer helps users avoid system latency by tuning the monitor before games. Other key peripherals include keyboards, mice, extra-large mouse pads, headsets, desks and gaming chairs.

To allow students to compete in an increasingly competitive higher ed esports environment, accessories must work seamlessly with desktop and laptops and enhance their capabilities.

EXPLORE: How design and technology play a vital role in top-tier esports rooms.

College Gaming Hardware Requirements Will Continue to Advance

System requirements for games are becoming more graphics-intensive, and that means university students will continue to upgrade their PCs and peripherals, Palumbo says.

“As technology grows, especially with AR and VR, and with Unreal Engine 5 and Unity Engine becoming more graphics-intensive, not only in design but also in testing, you’re always going to need that,” Palumbo says. “And as VR develops, you want it to be more realistic. You’re going to need more graphics and you’re going to need better PCs. I don’t see that ever really going away.”

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