Shawna Chretien, left, watches Mallory Mercier play a video game at Central Maine Community Center’s Esports open house Saturday morning. Mercier is a CMCC student and is considering switching her major from liberal studies to esports management. Next to Mercier are Connor Beaulieu and Mercier’s twin sister, Megan.

 

AUBURN — Central Maine Community College revealed its newest sport at an open house Saturday morning: esports.

Competing in the National Association of Collegiate Esports, CMCC will be one of 140 colleges listed on the NACE website competing in esports.

CMCC director of admissions Andrew Morong says that the school has received more than 110 applications to be on the esports team, and more than a dozen students that have applied to enroll in the school’s new esports management degree.

“I think this isn’t even the tip of the iceberg,” said Morong, who also is CMCC’s women’s basketball coach. “There’s a lot that we don’t know yet, and being able to learn on the fly in this wildly trending subject matter is pretty exciting.”

The new esports arena at CMCC, down the hall from Kirk Hall Gymnasium, is loaded with games and screens. The arena holds 30 Alienware computers in groups of six, with each group having a television screen on the wall. The televisions are used for film study during team practices.

There also are five television screens on the left wall, each equipped with a Nintendo Switch, Playstation 4 Pro and Xbox One.

“We looked at it from the students’ perspective and the academic perspective, and asked what do we want to deliver and how do we want to deliver it,” Morong said. “We wanted to treat this as athletics. In women’s basketball, we watch a lot of film after practice, so that’s why we have these TVs, so the coach can pull up replays. They can do that live with their team. We wanted to give them the competitive advantage.”

Saturday’s open house was packed with people throughout the morning. Some were just seeing what all the commotion was about, some were prospective CMCC students who wanted to see whether esports is for them.

Esports is already the plan for some who showed up.

Jeremy Pellegrini has been accepted into CMCC for the fall semester as an education major. The esports management program isn’t for him, but he’s already applied to be on the team.

“When I came in to fill out some financial aid forms at admissions, (Morong) had recognized my name because I emailed him and inquired about the esports program,” Pellegrini said. “He actually got me in about a week ago to get a sneak peak of the room, and it’s so cool. It got me really excited for the season coming up in the fall.”

The 2017 Mt. Ararat High School grad is excited for what could come of the new arena and team.

“I was flabbergasted. It’s honestly such a cool arena,” Pellegrini said. “The different stations set up with the big screen — it’s going to enable a lot of cool options for team play and strategizing.

“Walking into here, it looks like a place where an esports team would come and be able to practice and grow as a team and develop good strategies.”

For CMCC student Mallory Mercier, the team and the program are suited to her interests. She already plays a lot of Fortnite, so the opportunity to play competitively is intriguing.

Mercier is in the liberal studies program but is looking to switch to esports management and has already made some changes to her school schedule.

“I’ve even added a few classes on that kind of mix between liberal studies and esports management, just to see if I like it, and I probably will,” Mercier said. “I will probably switch majors, but before I do I want to make sure. I used to play a lot of NHL (video games) and stuff like that. I never really played shooter games, but I played a lot of Star Wars Battlefront. Then I started playing (Fortnite) when it came out and I’ve been playing ever since.”

Fortnite is one of the many games that Morong anticipates being played in the arena. Other popular games likely to be played are League of Legends, Apex Legends, Hearthstone, NBA 2K19 and Overwatch, among others.

Diego Vera traveled to Auburn from Bangor to check out the arena and gauge his interest in the program.

“It’s definitely possible,” Vera said of joining the program. “It’s definitely an amazing atmosphere. The room definitely looks professional.”

Vera said he watches professional gamers online, and he plays on a PC because it’s more competitive.

For Ethan Honaker, a junior at Leavitt Area High School, CMCC is now a potential landing spot for him once he graduates.

“Right now I’m trying to figure out what I want to do,” Honaker said. “It’s absolutely amazing. I thought I’d never see this many gaming consoles in one room. I heard that it used to be a locker room, so the way they turned this into the esports arena is just amazing.”

Morong expects many more people to continue to view CMCC as an option now because of the esports program. He will be traveling to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, in July to learn more about NACE, and esports in general.

“When we signed up in October, NACE had 95 members, and I think now they’re pushing over 200,” Morong said. “It’s such a rapidly growing thing that it’s just scratching the surface. We’ll be playing teams from the Southeast, the West Coast, all over. We’re doing it right from campus, which is wild.”

Katie Szustak and Hannah Poulin, of Lewiston, play with some of the video games at CMCC’s Esports open house Saturday morning.

Devon Thibodeau, right, and Ethan Honaker, both juniors at Leavitt Area High School play a basketball video game at CMCC’s ESports arena’s open house on Saturday morning. (Sun Journal photo by Andree Kehn)