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Illustration Courtesy of Dhiyaa Al Jorf.

A Perfect Evening: How NYUAD’s first In-Person Esports Game Night Unfolded

On Nov. 12, close to 25 students attended the first ever in-person Esports game night hosted by the NYU Abu Dhabi Athletics Department.

Nov 28, 2021

On Nov. 12, close to 25 students attended the first ever in-person Esports game night hosted by the NYU Abu Dhabi Athletics Department. The evening lasted for two hours and was dedicated to students exploring their passion and interest in video gaming.
Saideep Sreekumar, the Esports technical admin for Athletics and Class of 2023, viewed the event as a precursor to future large scale events as well as a starting point for NYUAD students to actively and competitively engage in Esports.
“The event was a videogames event where people could drop by and find people to play games with and against,” explained Sreekumar. “[It] was a bit small scale because we were just sort of testing the waters to see where interest lies. We saw that a lot of students were interested in playing console games, especially on the PS4, so next time, we'll provide more TVs and PS4s.”
NYUAD introduced and recognized Esports as a sport with competitive potential about five years ago as part of the Abu Dhabi Inter-University Sports League. However, that first Esport tournament lasted only about four weeks due to the lack of resources and an arena to host the tournament, especially as students preferred to attend in person events.
In response to the Covid-19 pandemic and public health and safety protocols, however, Athletics once again turned to Esports to provide sporting opportunities for students in a socially distanced setting. This positively changed the trajectory of Esports, allowing participants to build connections with over 150 students from across the United Arab Emirates, Colombia, Taiwan and the Philippines through online gaming.
“When the pandemic hit and for three semesters we couldn't do anything in-person we rejuvenated the Esports league … the first semester we did it we had about 24 men teams and 14 women teams from 17 different universities across the country and so that has gone on [for even this semester] … last semester we also held two online Chess events,” noted Jim McGrath, NYUAD Intramural Sports and Campus Recreation Manager.
For Sreekumar, the transition of Esports to an in person format functioned as a reinstallment of hope as it marked a return to normalcy: “The event mean[t] a couple things for us … Esports on campus is starting to get some traction and it also represent[ed] a gradual revert back to high capacity in-person events.”
José Alberto Gonzalez Aranda, student assistant at Athleticsand Class of 2023, shared how the in person dimension of the event helped reinforce Athletics’ baseline standard for relationship building. According to Aranda, the event helped to bridge issues of assimilation and belonging within the sports community: “I think Esports on campus, particularly during the pandemic, has become an easy way for people to socialize … [especially] now that there’s not a lot of [in-person] events on campus … it’s an easy way to promote a sense of community … and a good start to getting to know people to have fun together.”
For future semesters, both Sreekumar and Coach McGrath expressed their aims for Esports to evolve into a full fledged intercollegiate sport.
“... With less restrictions, we can hold larger events — like I said, more consoles and we also hope to offer prizes and have food for participants. We also hope to potentially have in-person matches for our intercollegiate Esports league, where we could host other university teams that come here to play — just like regular sports. We hope to take Esports here to a bigger scale,” noted Sreekumar.
“We don’t have Esport coaches … the newness of it is one thing and the fact that we started off remotely and we don’t have a facility [is another]. We’re looking at the possibility of what we can do to have a gaming arena or host a fairly large scale event in the performance gymnasium … [to also] host regular training at a designated spot and have dedicated coaching … just like we would soccer or table tennis,” shared Coach McGrath.
“[The evening] was perfect,” said Coach McGrath. “Not because the event was perfect but [because] it was in-person, we had students come out that didn’t know each other meet each other … we were able to establish that we could hold future events on a larger scale and most importantly that it was student run.”
Nghia Tri Nim is Deputy Copy Chief. Email him at
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