Mark Nook joins the game

University President Mark Nook joined Panther Esports for the launch of their campus-wide Minecraft server. Panther Esports President Tanner Brain joined President Nook for a livestream of him playing the game in the Esports Lounge in Maucker Union.

MALLORY SCHMITZ, News Editor

New Panther Esports Minecraft server creates community, one block at a time

Panther Esports celebrated their latest milestone with none other than University President Mark Nook.

On Dec. 1, Panther Esports launched a campus-wide Minecraft server.

As Panther Esports President Tanner Braun said, the idea was meant to bring people from all areas of campus together. “I wanted to really get that big community outreach,” he said. “The whole plan was just to do a huge community engagement project that will last from now into the spring semester.”

The club’s plans for community outreach included none other than President Nook, as he was invited down to the Esports Lounge in Maucker Union to play Minecraft on the newly launched server, which was also livestreamed on Twitch.

The day of the launch, Panther Esports tabled in Maucker Union to gain interest and asked people passing by for a list of ideas for what President Nook should do while he played Minecraft that day. By the end of the stream, President Nook completed almost every objective on the list, including making a pickaxe, fighting a zombie and traveling to the Nether, the second dimension within the game.

Panther Esports Vice President Anna Plathe said that the exec board is very pleased with how the launch went. “I would say it was a pretty successful launch. We did launch at noon, and we did have the president here at 3:00, which that’s a busy class time,” she said.

“I think our top was over 40 people on the Twitch, and we had around at least 40 people in the room, so around 80 people during a busy class time, right near finals,” she said.

The server provides a common online space for UNI students to play Minecraft, the best-selling video game to date. A team worked on coordinating the back-end details of the server, and some community members created the spawn point in the server, which includes recreations of the UNI logo and the Panther Esports logo out of blocks in the game.

“We have a lot of plans for the future for some community building events,” Plathe said. “So like every week maybe having a build of the week highlighting different community members.” Possible events also include completing mazes and one-versus-one battles in which players can duel one another.

The Minecraft server may also lead to educational opportunities as well. 

“We’ve had clubs reach out to us, like computer club, and we want to get them involved as well,” Braun said. “We’ve had talks of having a part of our club to build video games themselves, and so they can hopefully get involved in this so we can teach people even coding kind of stuff through Minecraft, so we see a lot of possibilities.”

Aside from community outreach, Panther Esports is also taking action with accessibility to online games.

“There’s tons of kids on campus who don’t have a computer, who don’t have a Minecraft account, and then we’re here and we can provide that stuff,” Braun said. “We can provide accounts, we can provide a computer so that this can be an accessible thing for everyone, so you don’t have to buy a $30 Minecraft account.”

When putting together the components for the server, the team made it so up to 1,000 people can be on the server at a time. Additionally, the server supports both the Java version, accessible on computers, and the Bedrock version, accessible on Xbox, PlayStation and the mobile app.

“And really like with all of our events, we’re not just trying to get people that are in our club. We’re trying to get people who just want to come in and just play a game,” Braun said.

This is the first semester that Panther Esports has occupied their current space in Maucker Union, in the former location of the Health Beat gym. According to the Panther Esports executives, the space averages around 300 visitors per week, with their busier weeks surpassing 400 visitors. 

“This room has exceeded our expectations for community value,” Braun said.

“It’s interesting to see that this space is being utilized. President Nook said it in there, too. He was like, ‘yeah, this space wasn’t as utilized, and now look at this,’” he said.

Aside from planning community events and competing in gaming tournaments, Panther Esports has been recently focused on the group’s presence on campus. The exec board said that they have worked with campus tour guides this semester to make it clear to potential students exactly what their space in Maucker Union is for.

“You can just have a good time and you can make friends here because so many of us have made friends through video games, but to have friends through video games that you know in person, too, is wild,” Seth Franklin, Panther Esports Finance Director, said. “And that’s something that can only really happen at college, so we want to get kids in from high school touring the place, seeing this, seeing that as a possibility, getting excited about it, then coming to the university and getting involved in that.”

The success of the club wouldn’t be possible without their strong leadership. As Franklin said, “We have a very strong exec board that takes care of things really well as a group, and nobody feels overwhelmed because we’re so well rounded. We each can take apart and handle these massive tasks, like launching a Minecreaft server with the president there. That’s crazy. How many people can do that?”

The Panther Esports Lounge is open to any and all visitors from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. almost every day, and an executive is always present in the room. For more information on joining the Minecraft server and upcoming Panther Esports events, check out their linktree at linktr.ee/UNIPantherEsports.