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Can you imagine jocks and geeks coming together? Geeks stay inside playing video games and jocks venture outside to practice for the next big game. The eternal rivalry between them is a staple of American culture. Jocks may have won the battle in the past, but geeks are arguably turning the tide of the war in an unprecedented way. LSUS now provides a space and opportunity for geeks to earn their own banners hanging from the rafters.
Over the last few decades, video games have gone from a pastime for young children to a multi-billion-dollar industry and a force in popular global entertainment. With the advent of the Covid-19 pandemic, the world connected on the internet more than ever before, and video games filled a need for entertainment for many during stay-at-home orders. According to the Entertainment Software Association, adult gamers spent 6.6 hours playing online with others per week last year. The continued rise in the popularity of video games over the last few decades has created a professional descendant (one that has only grown in appeal and legitimacy after March 2020): esports.
An esport is an organized form of competition featuring multiplayer video games. It is a spectator sport, often with both an online and physical audience. Professional esport athletes can make millions in prize money and endorsements, along with the adoration of fans across the globe. The growth of the profession has fueled interest among college administrators, athletic departments, and students all over the world. In the U.S. alone, more than 100 universities across the nation have esports teams.
LSUS established esports as a club sport in 2020, and currently competes in three video games: “League of Legends”, “Overwatch” and “Rocket League”.
Computer science student and club president Haley Beard is the “League of Legends” team captain. His team will participate in the Riot Scholastic Association of America’s Fall ‘21 competition. Its regular season begins on Oct. 7.
The “Rocket League” roster is currently developing two teams: LSUS Purple & LSUS Gold. Its captains will be pre-dental hygiene student Tyler Christie and computer science student Josh Richardson.
The “Overwatch” team makes its debut this academic year. The “Overwatch” team is participating in PlayVS’s National League whose regular season began on Sept. 27.
The rosters for all four teams will be updated on the LSUS Athletics website in the near future.
“League of Legends” is a team-based strategy game where two teams of five powerful champions face off to destroy the other’s base. Players choose from over 140 champions to make epic plays, secure kills and take down towers as they battle to victory.
“Rocket League” is a futuristic action-sports game where players pilot rocket-powered vehicles in an enhanced version of soccer by driving their vehicles into the ball and other players in a variety of arenas. “Rocket League” uses an advanced physics system to simulate realistic interactions between cars and the ball, where mass and momentum determine how hard balls and cars hit each other, creating a unique and visceral playing experience.
“Overwatch” is a colorful 6v6 team-based first-person shooter action game starring a diverse cast of powerful heroes divided into three roles: tank, damage, and support. Teams work to complete map-specific objectives within a limited time frame.
LSUS Athletics Director Lucas Morgan recognizes all student-athletes, whether on the playing field or the virtual field. “[esports players] are the best at their craft and they work hard to be a member of our team. They may not run up and down the court like a basketball player, but they have to strategize, prepare and work as a team just like a basketball player.”
LSUS’ state-of-the-art Cyber Collaboratory is the meeting place for the club. Its “e-sports Lab” is housed in the computer lab, which features high-end gaming computers, monitors, and gaming chairs. Students can also attend classes there, including but not limited to machine learning, data visualization, and graphic design. Some members of the League of Legends team have even used an eye tracker tool during practice sessions. Most of the club members are computer science majors and being a part of the club offers a special opportunity to discover or foster a love for STEM careers.
STEM program engagement is an appealing advantage to esports in higher education according to the CDW Corporation and the Forbes Technology Council mentions . Morgan recognized the benefits early on, which is why he is a huge proponent. “It teaches you to strategize and work together as a team with other students. It keeps your mind sharp and forces you to make quick decisions. It also has the benefit of accountability.”
Head Coach Matthew Parks remains optimistic for the club’s future. He has one goal in mind for the Fall 2021 semester, including the potential for scholarships. “We are trying to expand out to more games. We need more interest in those games to establish them as an esport at LSUS. If you want to play it, come join us and let us know!”
While it remains to be seen if any of the LSUS players will parlay their talent to actual careers in esports, the educational and social benefits are undeniable. After all, for many students, what could be better than having a place on campus where playing video games is not only encouraged, but celebrated? The tables have turned for the naysayers and jocks. Geeks are the new athletes on and off the playing field, and they are ready for their spotlight.
If you are interested in joining the eSports Club, email Matthew Parks (Matthew.Parks@lsus.edu) or Lucas Morgan (Lucas.Morgan@lsus.edu). Club meetings take place in TC 104D on Wednesdays from 11 AM to 12 PM.
This feature was written by an LSUS student as part of an ongoing series of on-campus articles presented by students.