Roll 20 Esports

Former University students Nolan T Johns, Richard Zayas and Riley Dutton cut the grand opening ribbon at the new Roll20 Esports Lounge on the first floor of The Union.

The first floor of the Union is now a gamer’s paradise with high-tech computers, huge tv’s and consoles from all the major providers. This was all made possible by three former University students brought together by Student Senate and Grace Pearson Scholarship Hall.

The KU Memorial Union substituted their normal tea and cookies on Thursday afternoon for a ribbon cutting for their new renovation — the Roll20 Esports Lounge.

The lounge, which has been in the works since January, is stocked with a variety of gaming items and is meant to provide resources for KU Esports clubs and enthusiasts as well as a place for any student to hang out and play a game.

“We are hoping to offer almost every console on the market as well as games to go with the console,” said Ashley Dunn, tech and games coordinator for Student Union Activities.

Dunn said she has played a leading role in planning multiple SUA events for the remainder of the semester to draw students to the new space, which will be open anytime the Union is open. Students will need to check out gaming consoles in order to use them, this can be done from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays.  

The lounge was named after a company developed by three former University students: Nolan T. Jones, Richard Zayas, and Riley Dutton.  The three met at the University in the mid 2000s before eventually starting their business together in 2012.  In an effort to keep in touch after they moved across the country, they developed technology that would allow them to continue to play tabletop games despite distance; the result was Roll20.

“A year or two into moving we went, ‘gosh we wish we had a way to play not-Halo with each other,’” Jones said after the event.  “We looked at what was out there, and we didn’t like our options so we came up with our own.”

Jones said they started the business after they created a Kickstarter for the project and received far more money than they expected.

“We asked for $5,000 and got $39,000 and went ‘oh, this is a thing, it’s real,’” he said after the event.

The business currently has about 2.5 million users and Jones said he doesn’t think they would have succeeded if it wasn’t for their experience in Student Senate where Jones served as communications director.

“The multimillion dollar Student Senate budget taught us how to deal with budgeting in the real world,” Jones said.

He said that the power the University grants to students allowed him to leave an impact on the University in a way that other universities didn’t provide.

“It always crushes me when I see students here in student government that are there to add to their resumes or squabble over nonsense,” Jones said. “You play with live ammo here at KU … here you get a group of people together and you can do anything.”

During his time at the University, Jones was involved in the design of a KU logo that is still in use. Now Jones, Zayas, and Dalton are leaving an impact in another way, contributing funds for the Roll20 Esports Lounge.

For students in attendance at the ribbon cutting the space means opportunities to connect with others and improve their game.  

“You have a bunch of people who come to KU that all enjoy gaming,” said Evan Czarnik, president of the KU Esports club, after the event. “It’s a place to meet up and try out new things and old things you enjoy.”

Czarnik said the space will give his group as well as others a better place to meet and play. The Esports Club, he said, operates just like a University sports club, they have jerseys and sponsor students to compete in tournaments around the country.

For Kristian Sheu, Manager of the KU Esports Community, Esports is something the University has lagged behind on until now.

“It’s really nice to see that Esports are finally coming to KU,” Sheu said. “I’m hoping this will help KU become a big Esports school.”

— Edited by Gabrielle Cinnamon