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UAlbany Launches eSports Competitive Video Gaming Team

Joins Record 57 Schools in ECAC; Team Among Largest in Conference

ALBANY, N.Y. (Oct. 15, 2019) -- Most nights after class, you can now find Jose Novoa Lucas '20 in the basement of Draper Hall, advancing his "FIFA20 skills" and living out a childhood dream.

Novoa Lucas, a senior in the College of Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security and Cybersecurity (CEHC), is one of five starters for the new UAlbany eSports "FIFA" soccer video game team.

Through the support of President Rodríguez and the Division of Student Affairs, UAlbany’s official eSports team launched this semester, joining a record-setting 57 colleges and universities, from 18 states, who are competing in the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) this fall.

The ECAC is sponsoring competition in eight video games, including "FIFA," with distinct seasons of competition in both the fall and spring. It will also host several in-person events, highlighted by the ECAC eSports Championships at HV Gamer Con in Albany in early April.

Photo of FIFA video game on UAlbany eSports computer.

UAlbany's eSports team is competing in eight games including "FIFA." (Photo by Brian Busher)

Fall competitions began the week of Sept. 30 – UAlbany already has wins over Syracuse University, SUNY Canton and SUNY Polytechnic Institute.

“This experience has been amazing so far,” said Novoa Lucas, who was born in Jiquilpan, Michoacán in Mexico, and hopes to work in cybersecurity after graduation. “Since I was young, I had a dream of playing video games professionally. It’s something I would have never imagined was possible 10 years ago. But, this is a growing sport and I’m excited to be part of it.”

“It’s an honor to represent UAlbany and ‘Go Great Danes!” he added.

More Than Just Video Games

Michael Leczinsky, a professor of practice at CEHC, who focuses on emerging technologies, is the UAlbany eSports director/head coach. Since being approached by the ECAC last spring to field a team, he’s hit the ground running.

In just two weeks, Leczinsky recruited 75 students – from an applicant pool of 175 – who represent a wide variety of majors across campus. UAlbany’s team is one of the largest in the ECAC and one of only two competing in all games the conference offers.

“We know there’s a stereotype out there of a bunch of kids huddled around a computer screen playing video games instead of studying,” Leczinsky said. “But, being part of this, and watching our students participate, there’s so much more that goes into to it. They are competing at the highest level, while at same time, prioritizing their academic work. Our players are students first.”

With growing demand for jobs in augmented reality, game design, simulation and various other gaming-related disciplines, Leczinsky believes there’s an opportunity to expand eSports inside the classroom too. He’s teaching a course this semester on digital gaming and simulation.

“There’s a huge demand for talent, not only in eSports, but in related fields such as game development and design. Our students are building the technical skills necessary to fill these jobs and be successful,” he said.

Join the Team

UAlbany eSports competitions are held in its “arena” at Draper Hall on the Downtown Campus. It currently includes a dozen high-performance Alienware Computers, each lit in purple and gold, along with six Nintendo Switch consoles.

The space is still being constructed – with more growth anticipated for next semester. Interested students are encouraged to apply by visiting albany.edu/eSports.

“My goal is build the biggest, highest performing and most diverse eSports team in the country. We want to put UAlbany on the eSports map,” Leczinsky said.

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About the University at Albany
A comprehensive public research university, the University at Albany offers more than
120 undergraduate majors and minors and 125 master's, doctoral, and graduate certificate programs. UAlbany is a leader among all New York State colleges and universities in such diverse fields as atmospheric and environmental sciences, business, criminal justice, emergency preparedness, engineering and applied sciences, informatics, public administration, social welfare, and sociology taught by an extensive roster of faculty experts. It also offers expanded academic and research opportunities for students through an affiliation with Albany Law School. With a curriculum enhanced by 600 study-abroad opportunities, UAlbany launches great careers.