Esports at the Lone Tree Hub brings in players from around the state to share in one of their biggest passions — competitive gaming. Chris Curtis, South Suburban’s esports coordinator, hosts …
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Esports at the Lone Tree Hub brings in players from around the state to share in one of their biggest passions — competitive gaming.
Chris Curtis, South Suburban’s esports coordinator, hosts two tournaments a week for anyone who wants to compete, every Wednesday and Saturday. Wednesday tournaments usually attract about 50 people, whereas Saturday yields between 70 and 75 people.
“A lot of the players you see out here are either professionals or semi-professionals, and so they go to these events quite literally like they are their job,” Curtis said.
Curtis began his career in esports, a form of competition with video games, by running similar events on his own time. In January 2020, South Suburban reached out to him to build the esports lounge, which he created out of an old classroom.
“It’s honestly really awesome. I mean there’s a lot of really interesting people to meet,” said Christian Townen, an esports player. “It's a good time to experience the game that I like to play against people who are genuinely challenging.”
The Hub, at 8827 Lone Tree Pkwy in Lone Tree, also offers drop-in times where anyone can purchase hours of playtime and gain access to the quality computers in the lounge. The drop-in rates start at $5 an hour for residents and $6 for nonresidents.
“We have really high-end gaming computers here, so the experience you get playing PC games in the lounge is usually an increase from the experience you might have at home,” said Curtis.
Curtis said that they ran summer camps last year, but the pandemic made it difficult to find participants. This year, they had to increase their class sizes from six to 10 people and have an average of four to five people on a wait list.
“We treat it very similarly to an art camp or a basketball camp where it’s a two to three hour section, using whatever game they’re attending for as a vehicle to teach life skills, communication skills, camaraderie, more on the social aspect of playing games, and then using something that those students are already interested in to get them out of their typical comfort zone,” said Curtis.
Rhiannon Ham, an esports player, comes to the hub to play every week. She loves the community aspects of it, but wishes the male players didn’t treat her differently for being female.
“I’ve been here for about three years. At first it was very challenging,” Ham said. “I have had a lot of situations where I’ve been uncomfortable, but a lot of folks are understanding once you educate them about what you need to feel comfortable in spaces like this, so it’s definitely a work in progress. Everyone is trying their best.”
If the program sees the same success it has in 2021 in the next few years, Curtis expects esports will expand into other South Suburban recreation centers.
“To provide a space for players like this and for students that come in on drop in nights where they really feel at home and feel safe and in a community they’re comfortable expressing themselves in quite literally means the world to me,” Curtis said. “I’m glad to be doing this over anything else.”
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