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Taking the midstate by Storm: HU helps usher in esports era

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The HUE Festival, a gaming and music festival, was held Sept. 21 and Sept. 22 in downtown Harrisburg.
The HUE Festival, a gaming and music festival, was held Sept. 21 and Sept. 22 in downtown Harrisburg. - (Photo / )

Harrisburg University of Science and Technology helped bring esports to Central Pennsylvania in a big way this year by hosting the largest collegiate competitive gaming tournament to date.

The 32-team HUE Festival in September attracted schools from across the country for a two-day gaming competition, which also was paired with a music festival. Thousands of people came out Saturday for a free concert featuring performances by Lit, Alien Ant Farm, and Atlas Genius. Vendors and food trucks also lined the streets downtown.

Harrisburg University President Eric Darr was pleased with the outcome — the HU Storm finished second in both gaming tournaments — but he is looking forward to hosting more live events to boost esports in Central Pennsylvania.

Members of the HU Storm
Members of the HU Storm - ()

The esports market is a budding billion-dollar industry with millions of competitive players and money pouring into professional esports leagues featuring franchise teams and sponsorship deals.

Through its partnership with the Whitaker Center for Science and the Arts, the Storm's home arena, Harrisburg University is planning at least two more esports events in the spring. One of those events will be a show match in which HU will square off with another regional college, like Penn State University or Lebanon Valley College, Darr said.

"The idea is to help begin a friendly rivalry," he said. "You do it in person to give people an opportunity to see esports up close and personal."

The second event in planning is a multi-team competition. Collegiate esports programs from across Pennsylvania would come to Harrisburg for championship games.

About 40 universities in Pennsylvania have varsity or club esports teams, Darr said.

The university plans to bring back the HUE Festival next fall. Darr sees the additional events as a way to keep esports top of mind in the Harrisburg area throughout the year.

2018 highlights

The unveiling of the HU Storm's new practice facility
The unveiling of the HU Storm's new practice facility - ()

Here is a look back at some of our favorite esports headlines from 2018:

Harrisburg University, Whitaker Center unveil esports training facility: HU and Whitaker opened a dedicated training facility for the university's varsity esports program in November 2017. "It's something that should be in a science center," said Ted Black, Whitaker's president and CEO, who sees potential to draw people to Harrisburg as competitive gaming becomes more popular, especially among college students.

HUE Festival: University, Whitaker Center playing the long game with esports: A story about the rapid growth of collegiate esports in the U.S. and why Harrisburg University decided to create a large gaming and music festival in Harrisburg.

Harrisburg U esports team preps for first season: The Storm players began training together over the summer, but esports is about more than just gaming. Nutrition and physical fitness also are a big part of the weekly routine for the players.

Game on: Whitaker Center CEO sees esports potential in downtown Harrisburg: Ahead of the HUE Festival, Whitaker Center CEO Ted Black talks about the potential for Harrisburg to become a hub for esports. Whitaker is hoping to host big esports events, including future high school competitions. 

Nonprofit launches to promote esports in Pennsylvania: The Pennsylvania Esports Coalition launched in June to begin promoting the industry in the commonwealth. The nonprofit organization was set up to help groups and individuals make connections and build relationships in the industry, as well as encourage collaboration between stakeholders.

Harrisburg U unveils esports team name, logo, roster for fall: University officials held an event in July to introduce the team roster and early plans for the HU Storm.

Other tech highlights

Dan Schwab, left, co-president of Harrisburg-based D&H Distributing, competes against Geoffrey Wang, head coach of Harrisburg University's varsity esports program, at D&H's gaming exhibit at the company's annual summer technology conference at the Hershey Lodge and Convention Center.
Dan Schwab, left, co-president of Harrisburg-based D&H Distributing, competes against Geoffrey Wang, head coach of Harrisburg University's varsity esports program, at D&H's gaming exhibit at the company's annual summer technology conference at the Hershey Lodge and Convention Center. - ()

Here are some other top gaming and tech stories from the year:

Harrisburg startup developing brain-powered software: A profile about Naqi Logics, a tech startup that has developed a patented command system to allow people to control computers and other devices with their minds.

Refashioned bowling alley offers window on amenities geared to younger professionals: The owner of the Midway Bowling Center in Cumberland County has been diversifying the family business to appeal to a younger audience that is looking for more experiences to spend money on.

Big swing: Taking golf high-tech: The Harrisburg Golf Simulator makes its debut as an indoor golf alternative for use on rainy days and offseason or late-night training before tournaments.

After 100 years, change still in the air for D&H: The midstate's largest private company by revenue, D&H Distributing, continues to diversify its products and services. Members of the controlling Schwab family said they believe D&H can build on its growth through opportunities in augmented-reality and virtual-reality products, digital signage and video conferencing, as well as hosted IT services. Smart-home automation has been another priority for the company.

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Jason Scott

Jason Scott

Jason Scott covers state government, real estate and construction, media and marketing, and Dauphin and Cumberland counties. Have a tip or question for him? Email him at jscott@cpbj.com. Follow him on Twitter, @JScottJournal.

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