Esports take centre stage at University of Manitoba expo

When you think about the Olympics, do video games come to mind?

Competitive gaming, known as ‘esports’, has been growing in worldwide popularity to the point where it’s being legitimately considered for a future Olympiad, and a group of students in Winnipeg are hoping to gauge local interest in the activity with the upcoming Manitoba Esports Expo at the University of Manitoba.

“It’s actually really popular among millennials,” U of M Esports Club president Melanie Penner told 680 CJOB. “It’s really popular in some countries and some cities in the States, for example, but it’s not really tapped into Canada at all.

“There no market here in Winnipeg for it – no one’s really done an event like we’re doing.”

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The event, which takes place Friday and Saturday in a multipurpose room at the university, is a way to help build the existing esports community in the city, by inviting existing players and curious newcomers to experience an esports event live and in-person.

“There’s so much demand for esports in the city, and there’s not a lot of opportunities for kids to show their talent,” said Penner.

“This esports expo is specifically for that – to see the demand and to see how many people are interested… and is this something we can build up that could be a major event in Canada?”

Melanie Penner, president of the U of M Esports Club.

For those who might feel that video games and higher education are incompatible, Penner said there are numerous universities in the U.S. that offer full scholarships to students who excel at esports, as they play on teams that bring money back to the school.

The weekend event has ties to traditional sports as well, with the Canadian Sports Centre Manitoba on board as a partner. Penner said her experience as an esports player has actually been similar to her experience with other sports, but even more welcoming.

“I’ve played sports my entire life, but I’ve never been in that sort of environment where I’ve felt so welcome,” she said.

“It’s just an amazing environment to be in, because you’re around a community of people who all share the same passion.”

The Manitoba Esports Expo takes place Friday and Saturday and features players competing in tournaments for the games League of Legends, CS:GO, Overwatch and Smash Ultimate.

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