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Photo: Handout/TNS, License: N/A, Created: 2014:11:26 11:54:47

Blizzard Entertainment Inc. Characters in Blizzard Entertainment’s “Overwatch” video game include a glasses-wearing gorilla.

by Phil Yacuboski

At Lackawanna College, you can study accounting and business or pick up an associate degree in the culinary arts or emergency medical services.

And now socially, you can be a competitive gamer in your spare time as a student.

It’s one of the first schools in Pennsylvania to have such a team.

“We are looking to put together competitive teams for some of the more popular eSports video games, which are Overwatch, League of Legends and Rocket League,” said Ted Delaney, the eSports Program Administrator and head coach at Lackawanna College. “We are looking to honestly recruit as many students as we can because eSports isn’t governed by the NCAA so we field multiple teams for multiple games.”

Delaney said since his he was hired in mid-May, he has been ‘heavily recruiting.’

“It’s super exciting for me,” he said. “I come from a gaming background as a child, so this is a dream come true. It’s pretty awesome.”

In May, a group of gamers and those looking to promote the eSports industry formed a nonprofit called the Pennsylvania eSports Coalition. Its goal is to advocate and promote competitive video gaming throughout the Commonwealth.

“This is going to be a big thing within the next few years,” said Bill Thomas, chairman of the coalition’s board of directors. Thomas, who once worked in government relations in the casino gaming sector in Pennsylvania said he sees a lot of potential. “With college potential, college scholarships being offered, it becomes a public policy issue.”

Thomas said in the past few years, eSports have exploded into the mainstream.

“This is about how it fits in all parameters from business development, to venues and arenas, to colleges and universities and STEM education,” he said, “and how it could be married into the casino gaming industry.”

He said in Las Vegas, competitive eSports is already on the book to bet. With the laws quickly changing, he feels it’s only a matter of time before it comes to Pennsylvania.

“We want to make sure we have a secure and safe industry,” he said. “And we are here to make that happen.”

“This is basically an extension of the athletics program,” Delaney said. “eSports is just another sport and we are going to hold all of our athletes in other sports.”

Students must be enrolled in 12 credits and maintain a 2.5 grade point average throughout the semester to take part in the program.

“They also have to partake in four hour-long study halls and take part in tutoring sessions if needed,” he said. “We are really putting an academic stamp on this.”

The school would play teams within the NACE organization – NACE stands for the National Association of Collegiate eSports – which is the governing body within collegiate eSports, according to Delaney.

“They are trying to become the NCAA of eSports,” he said.

Lackawanna College would compete against like Clemson, Boise and Notre Dame.

“Those are big name schools,” he said. “We could go up against Luzerne County Community College one week and the next week, Notre Dame. It opens up some big name exposure for us.”

Because gaming is done over a computer system, no travel is required.

Lackawanna College is building a state-of-the-art gaming facility, Delaney said, with 25 high-end gaming PC’s.

“It’s a soundproof room,” he said.

He said there are big tournaments where the team would travel.

“It’s really neat that we could do this all from the school,” he said.

Thomas said so far the Harrisburg University Science and Technology has adapted the gaming model, building it into the curriculum.

“Colleges see an opportunity because of its popularity,” Thomas said. “There are a lot of components that are important to the advancement of technology.”