A UK college is about to open a brand new esports building, complete with 52 gaming systems, an editing and streaming room, mini cafe… and even a yoga room.
Queen Mary’s College in Basingstoke will open its new esports facility on May 27th 2021. It’s part of a £700,000 project that has seen the first floor of a pre-existing building gutted out with a fresh new interior added, while the IT and STEAM provision on the top floor will be expanded.
The Esports BTEC qualification from Pearson UK and the British Esports Association will be delivered there, and the facility will also be home to the QM Samurai, the student teams participating in the British Esports Championships.
The yoga room has been added to cover the mental health and wellbeing aspect of the BTEC. It will be have space for around 15 students and an instructor, with the option for sessions to be broadcast to students online.
There are also plans to make the yoga gaming-themed, so for positions to be renamed and themed around League of Legends, Overwatch and more. Two sessions are planned per week, with each lasting one hour and allowing for more students to participate. The college is also open to having water bottles or mats in the yoga room sponsored.
James Fraser-Murison, director of learning at QMC and national trainer for the esports BTEC at Pearson UK, told Esports News UK: “We can offer yoga digitally to start with, then from September we’ll aim to do one session a week for two hours, we’ll do warm ups, yoga, exercise wrists and so on. There will be giggles from students I’m sure, but tough!
“We want to be the first in the UK to do this. I want us to show parents and students that we take this seriously.
“We know there are several negative stereotypes of gamers: sitting in the dark, being overweight, adverse to sunlight, focusing on their online stats and less so about their physical wellbeing, RSI, sitting down a lot, all of those things.
“My role as an educator is to effectively prepare students for whatever their next steps will be. So there’s two years with us where they’ve got have every flavour and experience and the highs and lows of the esports industry. I want my students to have a positive experience, it’s important for education and preparing them for their next steps, whatever they may be.
“So within that framework is of course making sure our students are as fit and healthy as they can be, day-to-day, and if I want to take this seriously and for the students to take this seriously, we will build this [health and wellbeing aspect] into the course.
“We have therefore created an extra yoga and pilates space on top of the esports qualification for the sports and PE students.”
James continued: “99.9% of all athletes and sportspersons are well looked after, they have nutritionists, psychologists and they take their sport seriously. You’re dealing with an industry worth billions and dealing with marginal gains. You’re not going to make those improvements if you’re not as healthy – physically and mentally. [The yoga room] seemed like a good opportunity.
“We’ve got to look after students, and that includes posture, frame, deep breaths, being able to physically switch off mobile phones or stop staring at screens all day. We’ve got to get them set up for an industry out there that’s constantly changing, so what better place to put a yoga and pilates room than in an eductional establishment surrounded by computers? That was my rationale. And it won’t be an empty room – it will get used!”
Queen Mary’s College will bring in local yoga and pilates instructors as part of the contract with the new building, to look after students on the course, and there will be free drop-in sessions for students planned.
The college will also look to rent out the yoga room to local residents as a space during the weekends, when it’s not in use by its BTEC students.
“If this could be a national government funded thing, then that’s the type of thing we should be looking at because it’s only going to benefit the kids who need it the most, off the back of 18 months of interruptions to their learning, studies and mental health,” James added.
Queen Mary’s College has received funding for its esports facility from a mix of sources, including £228,000 from Enterprise M3, and has also invested some of its own money.
The plan is to make the building a STEAM academy, focusing on computing, networking, IT and esports.
The college expects to have around 150 students studying esports from September 2021.
In terms of other physical esports spaces and events, epic.LAN this week announced a hybrid event featuring online and offline elements, and the British Esports Championships student finals will be taking place at a live venue in July.
Dom is an award-winning writer who graduated from Bournemouth University with a 2:1 degree in Multi-Media Journalism in 2007.
As a long-time gamer having first picked up the NES controller in the late ’80s, he has written for a range of publications including GamesTM, Nintendo Official Magazine, industry publication MCV as well as Riot Games and others. He worked as head of content for the British Esports Association up until February 2021, when he stepped back to work full-time on Esports News UK and as an esports consultant helping brands and businesses better understand the industry.