Staff and students at St Vincent’s College, in Mill Lane, opened the area’s first video gaming venue of its kind on Wednesday – lovingly named the ‘shark tank’ in honour of their team, the St Vincent’s Sharks.
The set-up, which includes gaming computers, gaming chairs and streaming equipment, was converted from a former study room on campus after e-sports grew in popularity among students over the past two years.
A number of them take part in Rocket League and Overwatch tournaments.
It was also needed after the college launched a new BTEC in e-sports this September, for which 12 students with special educational needs signed up.
E-sports teacher, Martin Birch-Foster – who is also an IT and media teacher – said: ‘The students introduced me to e-sports in 2019.
‘I didn’t really understand why people would watch others gaming until one of them told me it was no different from people wanting to watch football.
‘After some research we were able to get teams together to enter championships, where we had a bit of a winning streak.
‘We’ve raised money for charities doing so as well, with people donating to watch.
‘Since September we have offered the chance to study the BTEC. It’s an interesting subject because it doesn’t really fit into just one area and means it opens up lots of career possibilities. For example it involves digital media because they are live streaming their games on Twitch.’
Student Kieren Joy, 22, from Horndean said: ‘E-sports really is a unique thing in itself because it allows all types of people to get together and play as a team or against each other or to watch. It builds your teamworking skills and hand eye co-ordination and it doesn’t matter if you’re disabled.’
And Jack McCourt, 20, from Gosport said: ‘It’s really exciting to see the shark tank open. I’m not a gamer myself but I get all the equipment set up and ready for everyone because I’m quite a practical person.’
To set up the arena companies such as Novatech and HyperX provided some equipment with the rest of the funds needed met by the college.
Andy Grant, the college’s principal, added: ‘This is the start of a journey for us. We have ambitions to become the lead innovator of e-gaming and e-sports in the Gosport and Fareham area.
‘We are hoping to open up the arena for other schools and the community to use, as well as to expand on the BTEC offering for students.’
An open evening for members of the public to try out the e-sports arena will be held at the college on Wednesday, November 17 from 4.30pm to 7.30pm.