A boy sits at a computer playing a competitive esports match.
Chris “Fletch” Fletcher ’24, Film, plays a competitive esports match at Ringling College. Fletcher is Captain Falcon for the Smash team.
Ringling College’s varsity esports team, the Ringling Rollers, will soon have their own dedicated esports arena on campus. This news comes on the heels of the Ringling Rollers winning the Varsity Plus Fall 2022 East Coast Divisional Champs in Super Smash Brothers Ultimate® with a perfect 18-0 record.
The new 600-square-foot arena is designed to provide the Ringling Rollers with a dedicated space in which to enable and enhance their competitive endeavors. The arena will include 10 state-of-the-art gaming stations, a lounge viewing area, and an XBOX® station.
The design aesthetic is minimal with a sealed concrete flooring, dark walls and ceiling to help to create a focused, competitive environment during tournaments and practice, and custom dimmable lighting to enable players and audiences to focus on the gaming monitors during matches. A large vinyl graphic on the east wall will feature the Ringling Roller’s logo and color palette. Modular upholstered lounge seating will provide spaces for gamers to brainstorm in between matches and allows viewers to watch competitions.
The arena will be located on the ground floor of the Ann and Alfred Goldstein Residence Hall and is expected to be completed this summer and ready for the Fall 2023 semester.
The Ringling College esports program was founded in 2020 by E Ramey, director of recreation and student wellness at Ringling College, to drive online esports competition against other colleges and universities during the height of COVID. The varsity team was formed in 2021 and is led by Ramey and Head Coach Nick Deangelis. Deangelis has been coaching professionally for nearly 10 years, initially in top-ranked college and semi-pro tennis. He is coaching the Ringling Rollers in Overwatch®, Super Smash Bros.®, and Valorant®.
“This new arena is a great tribute to the work our athletes and coach have put into mastering their respective games and will provide a fantastic space in which they can realize their esports potential,” said Ramey. “Part of the collaborative nature of creating and supporting our team, beyond the players and competition, are many roles such as branding and marketing, broadcasting and production, event coordinators, and team managers. As the Ringling Rollers and our esports program continues to grow and excel, I believe we will work with more creative disciplines and talent at the College who otherwise might not have considered being part of esports.”
“Being able to play all together in the same arena will really be a great way to build team connections and interactions,” said Shannon Craddock ’24, Photography and Imaging major and Initiator for the Valorant team. “Playing with your team in the same room brings out a whole different feeling, because you can respond and adapt to your teammates physically, rather than just having to interpret from a voice call. I’m excited to have an esports-specific environment because playing in your room or dorm can invite distractions or computer-related issues. I can’t wait for it to be finished!”
Esports, which involves competitive video gaming, has experienced rocket-like growth over the past decade. It has been recognized as an official sport by the Olympic committee, with the inaugural Olympic Esports Week being held in Singapore in June 2023. The National Association for Collegiate Esports (NACE, of which Ringling College is a member) reports that 170+ member schools have provided more than $16 million in esports scholarships, and esports live-streaming viewership numbers are expected to hit 920.3 million by 2024. (NewZoo 2021 Esports Report). And video gaming is pervasive in the USA, with Pew Research reporting in 2018 that 90 percent of teens, ages 13-17, play video games, and among boys of that age, the percentage was 97 percent.
Ringing Rollers and College Esports Program History
At the inception of the Ringling College esports program in March 2020 during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, over 100 students joined in on intramural esports games that ranged from Super Smash Brothers® to NBA2K®, Call of Duty®, and more. In spring 2021, three club esports teams were created and held practices in Overwatch®, League of Legends®, and Smash Bros. to find one team and game to be most competitive for varsity competition in the fall of 2021.
In the Fall of 2021, the varsity Ringling Rollers team came to life with their first varsity competitions against colleges such as UCF, Georgia Tech, Winthrop, University of Tennessee, and Kansas State University. Following the first season, the Ringling Rollers transitioned to the Open league for better competition, practicing several times a week and forging better skills and new friendships.
And that practice paid off with the Ringling Rollers winning the Varsity Plus Fall 2022 East Coast Divisional Champs in Super Smash Brothers Ultimate® with a perfect 18-0 record