ACR recently spoke to Bennett Newsome, Esports Strategist at Full Sail University about their program.
Animation Career Review: What are the esports in which Full Sail participates?
Bennett Newsome, Full Sail University: Currently, Full Sail participates in 11 different esports titles including games like League of Legends, Overwatch, Rocket league, Super Smash Brothers Ultimate, CSGO, Fortnite, Hearthstone, PUBG, Dragon Ball FighterZ, Smite and more.
ACR: Please fill us in on how students can join Armada. How are potential students identified?
BN: At Full Sail, gaming culture is a natural part of what our students are interested in based on many of the career fields where our graduates find jobs. With this mindset, Armada encompasses the whole gaming community here at Full Sail and isn't just for our Varsity and Junior Varsity teams. So when you're a student here, and you're into gaming, becoming a member of the Armada community is a natural fit. At Full Sail we have students starting classes and graduating every month, which means tryouts for Varsity teams happen quite often, usually every other month.
ACR: Please tell us about the “Fortress” where the Armada play.
BN: The Fortress is the largest collegiate esports arena on any college campus in the country! The 11,200 + sq ft arena has over 400 LED tiles with 10 million + pixels. The arena has two completely independent sound systems, and an incredible pair of audio and video control rooms on the 2nd floor. The Fortress will be home to not only Armada, but also a ton of Collegiate tournaments and championships, as well as professional events and teams. The Fortress will officially open in May 2019, during Full Sail University’s 10th Annual Hall of Fame Week.
ACR: What can a student do to connect with your university?
BN: Anyone interested in learning more about Armada and esports at Full Sail can visit: https://armada.fullsail.edu/ and follow @fullsailarmada on Facebook and Twitter. Or visit us on Twitch at https://www.twitch.tv/fullsailarmada. To learn more about Full Sail, visit fullsail.edu.
ACR: Please share with us the story of how your team came to fruition.
BN: Full Sail has been involved in esports for quite some time thanks to our graduates who have been blazing the trail of this industry since its inception. On our campus, we've been holding esports tournaments and events since as early as 2012. Last year we officially announced our teams at our Hall of Fame ceremony. We're fortunate that we have had a fantastic group of faculty, staff, students and alumni that have all come together to support esports and Armada here at Full Sail.
ACR: As esports is so new, what are the common misconceptions and concerns that students, parents, and others have about them?
BN: Most if not all of our students live in these worlds already, so there aren't a whole lot of misconceptions on their end. However, I've spoken to parents who have started to come around on the world of esports and competitive gaming. With streaming platforms like Twitch and Mixer, gaming and esports have become part of pop culture. However, I think that one significant part of Collegiate Esports is that just like traditional sports your studies are just as crucial as your talent because if you can't keep your GPA up, you won't be able to compete.
ACR: From a competitive esports standpoint, what is the single most significant moment or accomplishment that stands out in your program’s history?
BN: We've had a couple of pretty significant moments over the last couple years, but recently one of our PUBG players was invited to compete in the Collegiate PUBG All-Star game. So everyone here at Full Sail is excited and proud of @NickCassdy
ACR: Tell us about the competitive landscape you participate in. What other schools are in your division and conference?
BN: With esports, each game could have multiple leagues, each with a different set of rules and requirements. Meaning at the Collegiate landscape there isn't just one division or conference that you'd want your team to play in. At Full Sail, we are members of The National Association of Collegiate Esports (NACE) as well as Tespa. These are two of the larger collegiate battlegrounds, but we also compete in quite a few more leagues like the AVGL, CSL and Collegiate PUBG to name a few.
ACR: How many opportunities are there to compete for a student-athlete?
BN: During the main seasons, students could have matches every week if not multiple, depending on how many leagues they're competing in and the game type. Student-Athletes will also be able to compete in events around the country. Most of which they will compete in qualifying matches to work there way up to the finals.
ACR: What can an esports student-athlete expect in terms of time commitment?
BN: The additional time commitment can be tough to add to their already busy college life. However, dedicated students that maintain their GPA as well as compete in esports can see roughly an additional 15-20 hours a week dedicated to practice and competitions.
ACR: What are the academic expectations?
BN: We expect our Student-Athletes to maintain a minimum GPA of 2.5 to compete at the Collegiate level.
ACR: Share with us how your team is doing this season.
BN: Currently this season we’ve already played over 45 different schools across leagues like NACE, TESPA, CSL and AVGL. As we continue to support our students we have been having a blast learning along the way.
ACR: Tell us about your coaching staff.
BN: Because we don't have traditional sports here at Full Sail, launching esports here has been quite an exciting adventure. We've been building the infrastructure as needed as we've continued heading into the esports space. We're lucky to have a ton of passionate faculty and staff who have risen to the challenge to help coach and advise our various teams.
ACR: Tell us about your esports practice and/or competition facilities.
BN: Most people are familiar with The Fortress, our on campus esports arena. However, what they don't know is that we also have a separate dedicated on campus practice facility exclusively for our student-athletes. The practice facility houses top of the line gear from sponsor MSI including 15 i9 gaming rigs all with RTX2080's as well as a plethora of PS4's and Nintendo Switches. This area has space for two teams to practice/compete simultaneously, as well as two dedicated streaming stations.
ACR: Please share any unique qualities of your program (first one in state, emphasis on team)
BN: Outside of having the largest on-campus esports arena in the nation, we’ve had 1,400 students in our gaming community. Because of this large gaming community here at the school, we tend to recruit from within. Many schools are building support for this type of culture on campus, which is fantastic, for us, this culture on our campus is what built our teams. In addition, The Princeton Review has once again recognized Full Sail as a “Top Graduate & Undergraduate Schools to Study Game Design” in 2019.
ACR: What advice do you have for prospective students wanting to pursue esports?
BN: When I speak with prospective students about esports, I tend to focus on two things — Building and growing your current skills as a player, but also concentrating on your academics. At the collegiate level, you can't only have one or the other. You need to make sure you efficient at both. Building your stats and being able to show your growth as a player is essential as well.
ACR: In what ways do participants in collegiate esports programs benefit?
BN: I think the camaraderie that our students share when they compete is a pretty great thing. It brings a great team element just like traditional sports would. As well, any winning that the student earns from competing goes into scholarships for the athlete.
ACR: Tell us about your goals for your program. (Do you expect to add more sports, scholarships, etc.)
BN: With the grand opening of The Fortress in May at our Hall of Fame ceremonies, we will continue to strive to be the best place to play esports - not only form a collegiate perspective, but as esports continues to grow and evolve as a whole. We will be revealing more exciting events and announcements in the coming months. Although no scholarships announcements have been made yet, we look forward to updating you on that news soon.
Check out more interviews at Animation Career Review's Interview Series.