There’s not a lot in common between video games and political debates, but when the University of Utah needed help in hosting virtual viewing parties for the upcoming vice presidential debate between Mike Pence and Kamala Harris, administrators turned to the Utah Esports program for help.

That’s because the broadcast team for the U’s video game esports program already has expertise in broadcasting its matches on the streaming service Twitch. The debate will be streamed live Wednesday, Oct. 8, to two scheduled viewing parties – one for U students and another for university VIPs. Both parties will be held virtually through Zoom. Neither are open to the general public.

Sam Morris, a junior in the U’s Entertainment Arts and Engineering video game development program and the broadcast and production director for Utah Esports, will take the live network news feed of the debate, which will be held at Kingsbury Hall at 7 p.m., from cable provider Xfinity and pipe it into the two Zoom viewing parties. The procedure only requires a handful of computers that will be manned by university IT professionals as well as Morris and people from the Utah Esports broadcast team.

Security for the feed will be airtight, he said. First, the Zoom gatherings will be password protected – those who want to join in must first register to get the link and password – and there will be backup computers, power supplies, internet connections and other contingencies. Participants will have their audio muted, but their own video feeds can be turned on, and they can chat via Zoom’s online chat function. Morris said, however, that there will be a team of moderators to ensure that the conversations and video feeds from party participants remain decent and respectful. And to protect the video feeds from internet attacks, “We’re relying heavily on the U’s network and infrastructure to help prevent those,” Morris said.

There is expected to be a pre-show presented by the university before the start of the debate, and the viewing parties will have a debate bingo game hosted by the Hinkley Institute of Politics for when Pence or Harris ever mention topics such as Medicare, student loans, masks or Black Lives Matter. Party attendees will also be given poll questions throughout the debate. Finally, there will be a moderated discussion following the end of the debate.

“This is a much simpler setup than what we do for our esports matches,” Morris said. “For the matches on Twitch, we have much more complex shows with graphics. But this is a basic viewing party, the kind that people have been wanting for these debates.”

In addition to broadcasting the Utah Esports matches each year, the team also produces the university’s football coach’s shows online and produced last spring an online version of EAE’s video game event, EAE Play, when students show off their newest video game creations. Click below to see a video about what the broadcast team does. Utah Esports and the Entertainment Arts and Engineering video game development program are part of the U’s College of Engineering.

Students who want to join the student viewing party can register at