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Members of the UH Mānoa and UH West Oʻahu esports teams played an exhibition match against HPU.

A new state-of-the-art technology facility that will help build valuable game and software development skills for Hawaiʻi’s residents in the skyrocketing esports industry was launched by University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa and UH West Oʻahu esports players.

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Players preparing for the match

The TRUE Esports + Tech Lab at Waipahu Public Library by the Technology Readiness User Evaluation (TRUE) initiative of the Hawaiʻi Executive Collaborative was unveiled at an event on July 14. To promote the lab, players from UH Mānoa and UH West Oʻahu showcased their talents through an exhibition match against Hawaiʻi Pacific University (HPU), which was televised live on ʻŌlelo Community Media.

“Participation by the UH esports teams highlights how vital our university’s program is to broader community planning for esports,” said Nyle Sky Kauweloa, a spring 2022 communication and information sciences PhD graduate and head of the UH Mānoa Esports Task Force in the College of Social Sciences. “The TRUE esports initiative will collaborate with the UH esports program by our providing instruction, mentorship and support to students from the Waipahu community, many of whom are underserved, with the technologies industry and through the relationships built between students who may never have imagined that they could attend college through esports.”

UH leading Hawaiʻi’s esports efforts

people talking to each other next to computers
Gov. David Ige meets with members of the UH esports teams.

A new report projects global esports revenue will reach $1.38 billion in 2022, up from $1.08 billion in 2021. UH has been at the forefront of the state’s effort to create more esports opportunities in the islands.

For the second year in a row, UH Mānoa will host a regular season Overwatch League global tournament in July 2022. The tournament is expected to provide UH students with valuable learning opportunities. In 2021, UH Mānoa’s esports program was nominated by its peers across the country as one of 10 finalists for the nation’s best collegiate esports program.

UH West Oʻahu’s esports program, Pueo Gaming, is led by President Giovanni del Rosario and Vice President Garrett Lau. The organization is growing in popularity, and currently fields teams for games such as Valorant and League of Legends.

Pueo Gaming member Melanie Denda said, “Participating in the TRUE event was truly a blessing. The esports community from Mānoa and HPU has so many passionate and friendly members. It’s amazing to see Hawaiʻi taking recognition for esports and being able to see the value of competitive gaming.”

More on the TRUE Esports + Tech Lab

I see this as a trailblazing moment for the esports and tech industry community here in Hawaiʻi.
—Jannel “JJ” Nanquil

The lab is the culmination of a public and private sector collaboration. It will house the first community-based, competitive high school esports team with a dedicated coach (Jannel “JJ” Nanquil, a spring 2021 UH Mānoa biology graduate and former UH Mānoa esports team captain) and will compete locally against other teams. Community members can learn and earn a certification in foundational software game development and coding. Content is available free of charge for library members. The lab opens to the public on July 27.

“I see this as a trailblazing moment for the esports and tech industry community here in Hawaiʻi,” Nanquil said. “This is a unique opportunity because it provides the tools to succeed and find a career in a growing industry where the barrier for entry is usually the financial cost of a high-end PC. I’m happy to be a part of this and I believe we can achieve this for the rest of the 50 public libraries.”

“This is an unprecedented opportunity for the state to put our economy on a solid path towards digitalization,” said Gov. David Ige. “As we work to diversify our economy, we have found great opportunity in the STEM industries. We know the potential that our state and our people have. Now, the world will see it.”

—By Marc Arakaki

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Jannel “JJ” Nanquil addresses the crowd at the Waipahu Public Library.
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