Western Michigan University Drops $500,000 On Cutting Edge Gaming PCs

Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images for Esports Arena Las Vegas

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Andrew Kerr Investigative Reporter
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Western Michigan University announced in January it would spend $500,000 to sponsor an eSports computer gaming arena, and a picture posted on social media Thursday reveals that the university left no expense spared to give their students a top of the line video gaming experience.

The picture, posted on Reddit, shows eight cutting-edge eSports PCs installed at the entrance of a WMU computer lab as part of a beta test for the eSports@WMU initiative, which is set to launch in the Fall.

The gaming PCs pictured are each equipped with a Nvidia 1080TI video card, a state of the art piece of computer hardware built to provide an optimal computer gaming experience. Each card retails for over $800.

Student gamers can expect to be ergonomically supported with DXRacer gaming chairs, according to the picture. The chairs, which retail for at least $290 each, are designed for hardcore video gamers who practice their craft for up to 12 hours a day.

My campus just put in a new eSports section in the computer lab from r/gaming

The gaming systems are funded by WMU’s Transformational Initiatives Fund. The university is renovating a 192 theater to create an eSports arena to be equipped with a minimum of 22 gaming PCs to be used for competitions between student clubs, according to WMU’s Office of the President.

eSports have become an international phenomenon that’s expected to grow into a $1.5 billion industry with a global audience of 580 million by 2020. WMU said it hopes to capitalize on the growing trend to “enhance the out-of-class experience for students.” (RELATED: Video Games Are Apparently Too Violent For The Olympics, But Jiujitsu, Boxing And  Wrestling Are Not)

“In this case, we’re recognizing a trend that is already strong on our campus and choosing to make it part of our infrastructure,” WMU President Edward Montgomery said in January. “Rather than a solitary activity, the organized competitive aspect allows the campus to embrace, sanction and leverage gaming as a community activity.”

Full-time WMU students will be able to try out for a spot on an eSports team when the arena launches in the Fall, according to the initiative’s website.

In-state tuition to attend WMU is $11,943, and the average indebtedness of its 2016 graduating class was $34,040, according to U.S. News & World Report.

While the eSports gaming arena may find success in making WMU the school of choice for prospective students and in developing an alternate revenue stream for the university, studies suggest it may hinder the academic performance of participating students.

Multiple studies have found a correlation between gaming and lower GPA scores.

The American Psychiatric Association identified “Internet Gaming Disorder” as a “Condition for Further Study” in 2013. The APA states that the disorder is most common in males aged 12 to 20, and is defined by a preoccupation or obsession with internet games, combined with withdrawal symptoms when not gaming.

eSports@WMU did not respond to requests for comment by The Daily Caller News Foundation.

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