Level up: Welcome to the new Arizona Esports Arena

click to enlarge Level up: Welcome to the new Arizona Esports Arena
(Submitted)
One of the 20 computer stations at the new Arizona Esports Arena, where both students and community members are welcome.

There’s Arizona Stadium, McKale Memorial Center and Bear Down Beach, where athletes can train and compete.

Now, gamers can level up at the new Arizona Esports Arena.

Located on the ground floor of the Student Union Memorial Center, the arena is for anyone of any skill level who wants to participate in computer and video sports. Even community members and their kids are welcome. In fact, operations manager Kevin Buchmiller said this is a place for everyone.

“Gaming is for everybody,” he said. “For us that means having a welcoming environment that does allow for varsity to compete at a high level, of course we want high level competition; but it needs to be accessible and open to everybody who wants to be a part of it. That can be even if you’ve never played a game before in your life. Anyone can come in. It’s open to everyone.”

Buchmiller, whose favorite game is Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, said there are three ways to engage with the arena: as simply someone who likes to play, as part of the Wildcat Gaming Club — an actual Associated Students of the University of Arizona club — and as an athlete on one of the varsity esports teams.

Twenty high-speed computers, including five designated varsity stations, are run on Windows 10 and have Viper Gaming-brand keyboard and mouse sets.

“All the graphics cards are RTX 3060s, and then we have one row of RTX 3070 cards, and all of them have Intel i7 10th generation processor,” Buchmiller said.

For those of us who don’t know what that means, it translates this way: fast computers with beautiful lights and graphics that can keep up with anything out there.

Headphones are unavailable but gamers may bring their own peripherals.

The arena boasts a smorgasbord of games. These are only a few titles: Call of Duty: Vanguard, Valorant, League of Legends, Rocket League and Halo: Infinite. Also ready for play are four televisions with your choice of these gaming systems: Nintendo Switch, Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5. A few examples of the games available here include Spider-Man, Dragon Ball Fighter Z, Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe.

Two larger, wall-mounted TVs are used to stream live events or tournaments happening around the world.

The first step to gaming in the esports arena is filling out a user agreement, which you can do at the arena or online.

Buchmiller has a fairly large staff of student workers, and whether you are an inexperienced gamer or ready to jump to the pros, someone there will help you find the right game for you.

“The staff is patient with every single person who comes in, answering all the questions,” Buchmiller said. “You can be brand new, and we can guide you in the right direction.”

As with everything else, gaming time at the arena is not free. Cost varies depending on whether you can show a valid cat card. For cat card holders, it’s $4 for one hour. For the general public, it’s $7 per hour.

Hours during the school year are 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday to Friday and 1 to 8 p.m. weekends. The arena is closed during university-recognized holidays, such as the Christmas shutdown.

The esports arena is not just about fun, however. For those who are serious gamers and considering a career in gaming, the arena is a good place to begin, and although the workers there may not all be majoring in game design, here is where they can see how their major can intersect with gaming.

Student Lead Yadeiliz “Jade” Mari (she’s top dog of the student workers) plays on the varsity League of Legends team and is getting her bachelor’s degree in psychology. She sees lots of ways to apply her knowledge.

“There’s a lot of research going on in esports and what it takes to be a gamer, what are the attitudes and behavior about gamers and within gaming,” she said. “I do plan on applying psychology to esports. Esports is a very broad career. There’s more to gaming than actually playing the video games.”

More than anything, what both Buchmiller and Mari want people to know is that this is a safe space for anyone who wants to play.

“(You) belong here,” Mari said. “Even if (you) don’t feel like an advanced gamer, (you) belong in this space.”

“It’s for everybody and everybody belongs here,” Buchmiller added.

Level Up Wildcats, an The Arizona Esports Arena Launch Event

WHEN: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday, Aug. 26

WHERE: Arizona Esports Arena, Student Union Memorial Center, Room 138

COST: Call for cost

INFO: 520-621-7755, https://bit.ly/UAEsports

Discord: https://bit.ly/UADiscordLink

Watch on Twitch: twitch.tv/universityofarizona

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