North Texas Daily

UNT eSports teams continue to grow along with sport

UNT eSports teams continue to grow along with sport

January 16
12:28 2018

ESPN, “The Worldwide Leader in Sports,” recently made a decision. On the homepage of its website, it added a sport on the top of the page for easy access beside the other popular sections on its site. Next to the tabs marking the NFL, NBA, NCAAM, NCAAF, Soccer and MLB sits something new.

eSports.

It is the name given to the blossoming, yet already saturated world of competitive gaming. Its status in the realm of sports is now so apparent, not even ESPN can afford to ignore the sport on its site or in its television programming from time to time.

Professional eSports teams are sponsored by some of the country’s top brands including Intel, Red Bull, T-Mobile, and more, but the craze does not stop at the professional level. Over the past few years, it has found its way into colleges as well.

Universities across the nation compete in eSports leagues and have student run teams. Some of the major schools include Georgia State University, the University of Utah, Boise State University, and the University of Texas at Austin.

“It’s a game, a skill, with a growing competitive scene,” UNT sophomore Alexis Peveler said.

Peveler is one of the directors of League of Legends for the North Texas eSports organization. League of Legends is one of the most popular games in the world and millions play each day.

UNT has teams playing League of Legends locally as well as nationally facing other college league teams. When they compete, stakes are high. They are not just playing for bragging rights, but for possible scholarship money (http://college.lolesports.com/).

To play a video game at this level, there is a mental switch that must happen between competing and casually playing with friends. UNT senior Jaleel Taylor is a player on the UNT Division Two League of Legends team and knows all about this mentality.

“The difference can be summed up by saying it’s very similar to playing basketball on a team aiming for a championship versus playing street ball,” Taylor said. “When I play a ranked game of League of Legends, or I’m trying to practice for an upcoming match, I am way more attentive to every little detail in the game. I know that one or two mistakes can cost us the game, so I am doing everything in my power to make sure I’m not the weakest link. It can get mentally exhausting very quickly.”

Performing at a high level in the gaming world does not stop at a mindsets, skill and teamwork. It takes hours of practice just to compete at this collegiate level.

“I usually spend anywhere from three to five hours an evening [practicing],” Taylor said.

The dedication is something UNT League of Legends Division One team captain, Anthony Hicks knows all too well.

“Players often begin playing these games just for fun or because their friends play, but eventually they hit a wall that prevents them from continuing to progress their skill,” Hicks said. “If they are content with the existence of this wall, then that in my eyes makes them a casual player. A competitive player will attempt to overcome this wall, even if that means maybe playing alone because their friends are holding them back from improving.”

Many eSports players have seen and treated eSports as a traditional sport for a long time, but now the general public and sports media are finally catching on.

The UNT eSports teams and organization as a whole have the backing of UNT. In Chilton Hall’s media library there are 21 super computers made for gaming. They are located near the back, and they call it the “Nest” which hosts top of the line set up and equipment for the eSports players at UNT.

With the setup at UNT and the new found support and monetary gain from playing this sport, eSports continues to gain traction among college campuses, and it is what drives these competitors every day.

“The transition from casual to competitive requires a constant drive to win and improve,” Hicks said. “It’s the same mindset that separates casual and competitive players of traditional sports. Professional athletes aren’t satisfied with their current achievements; they’re always striving to do better. That’s the same competitive spirit that exists in eSports.”

Featured Image: The eSports club watches the Heros of the Dorm NCAA tournament in the Union Syndicate. File

About Author

Stefan Washington

Stefan Washington

UNT Advertising Major| NT Daily sports writer

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