SARASOTA, Fla. (SNN TV) — The internet has connected the world in many ways, but it can also feel isolated being physically away from people. And at Ringling College — home of many video gamers — they found an antidote to that isolation problem.
It's not hard to find student gamers at the college. And Ringling student Jaehee Kim said for those who liked to play Super Smash Brothers, playing online was a problem.
“The online system is not geared toward competition," Kim explained.
Even with perfection connection, Kim said there's a half a second delay from pushing a button and your character reacting. So, for the best way to play, they had to do it locally.
“We used to meet in either common room spaces for dorms or just in our dorms ourselves," Kim said.
But now a new esports arena, which opened earlier this month, allows students to play and compete in one space. And the students in the varsity esports team, the Ringling Rollers, find the 600-square foot space leaps and bounds more convenient.
"[Before] we’d have to bring monitors from other rooms in the school, we’d bring our own setups, and then we’d play it and then have to take it down," said junior Christopher Herbst, who's majoring in computer animation.
"Now you just take five minutes, set up your Switch, and you're done," said sophomore and illustration major Sophie Leone.
Of course, we played just for fun with the students when SNN visited, but there is a competitive tournament scene. And a professional is coaching them in Valorant®, Overwatch®, and Super Smash Bros.®.
"They have to win a certain amount of games to get into playoffs, and then if you win the playoffs, you get a monetary prize," said senior and photography major Shannon Craddock.
But it's the sense of belonging that wins this game. Leone said she's autistic.
"Sometimes when I’m talking, I’ll say things faster than I’m thinking, then I'll be like, 'What am I saying?'" said Leone.
But she feels in her element playing a video game, and especially so with others.
"Because we all really like animation, cartoons, all that stuff. I can hyper obsess with someone over South Park and then we start to click." Leone said. 
And click she did, as SNN's Marco La Manno replied, "I’m playing [South Park:] Stick of Truth right now."
"I love Stick of Truth!" Leone exclaimed. 
See? Clicked right away.
The National Association for Collegiate Esports reports that more than 170 member schools have provided more than $16 million in esports scholarships, and esports livestreaming viewership numbers are expected to hit more than 920 million by 2024.