UNT’s new esports team sweeps the virtual field

UNT’s new esports team sweeps the virtual field

UNT’s new esports team sweeps the virtual field
June 01
10:30 2018

Six students face computers on the left and right sides of the UNT Lyceum stage. Behind each team of three are red lights and blue lights, and in between them is a projected image of what each team is looking at — an intense battle of reflexes and skill.

These competitors were all vying for victory during UNT’s first-ever “Overwatch” esports tournament back in April, and the esports phenomenon has since been growing in the community.

UNT is home to the first collegiate esports program at a Texas public university. The program is hosting varsity team tryouts for the games “Hearthstone,” “Heroes of the Storm,” “League of Legends” and “Overwatch” throughout April and in the fall. Varsity teams play competitively against other colleges in tournaments for scholarships.

For casual gamers, esports coordinator Dylan Wray said there will be more open tournaments in the fall.

“We want to have open tournaments for students to participate in, and in the future, those tournaments will be closed off from varsity people competing,” Wray said. “It’s a huge deterrent if you’re a casual gamer or someone that’s trying to get good, knowing the varsity players always win these tournaments.”

Dallas Fuel, Dallas’ professional “Overwatch” esports team, team members and representatives were at the event to support the local gaming community. Dallas Fuel is a part of a professional “Overwatch” league that plays against teams across the nation.

“Given we’re a Dallas team, we want to be everyone’s Dallas team,” said Justin Rojas, social media manager for the Dallas Fuel. “A big part of it for us is to create that association with the city, making awareness that we are here, and we want to be a part of the community.”

In an email to the UNT community to encourage that first-ever esports tournament on campus, President Neal Smatresk said that the “eSports industry grossed $696 million in total revenue” last year.

How is esports a sport?

When people think about sports, the first thing that usually comes to mind is football, basketball or some other athletic game. Even though there are not obvious physical traits involved in esports, esports has a valid place under the umbrella term of “sports.”

“It’s a competitive game that involves a lot of experience, knowledge and kinesiology, like your reflexes and your reaction time,” Wray said. “It has an athletic component to it—it’s not football, but it does have a lot of reaction time, a lot of strategy, and a huge psychological component to it when it comes to actually doing it at a competitive level.”

On the other side of the screen, spectators are an equally important part of esports. The launch event at UNT was an example of that as students filled the room and cheered on each team.

“I think the most important part in what everyone easily dismisses is that games that are considered esports are fun to watch once you actually know how the game works,” Wray said. “Once you play the game, once you’ve seen it for a while, it’s easy to pick up and have a good time.”

Esports at UNT

The UNT gaming and esports club has been an organization since 2012. UNT has always had a strong gaming community, which is what attracted marketing senior Bri Delgado to go to school here.

“Starting in late middle school I realized there was a competitive scene for gaming, so when I got into high school I wanted to be a part of it since it was like two of my favorite things, competition and gaming,” Delgado said. “When I was graduating high school and looking for a school to go to, I looked for a college that had a gaming scene that was really strong.”

Esports is now breaking into the college level, and a recent boom in the gaming market has caused a greater interest in it. According to the 2016 Global Esports Market Report from Newzoo, the global esports audience consisted of 226 million gamers.

“Esports have actually been around for almost 20 years now,” Wray said. “[The industry] was steadily growing for the longest time, but it’s rapidly growing now. So I think colleges are starting to notice that this might be a viable career path, or players are realizing, ‘Wow, I can get paid a lot of money to play video games.’”

Women in the industry

Women are active in the esports industry, although that may not be obvious to the mainstream culture. A study from the Pew Research Center said 48 percent of women play video games and 50 percent of men play video games.

“In my experience, there are a lot of women in the industry,” Delgado said. “The head of my department is a girl, and it’s a lot more popular than you think.”

Delgado explains there is more work to be done on the consumer side of esports. Nielsen’s Esports Playbook data study found that 30 percent of esports fans are female, while 23 percent of esports fans that watch esports weekly are female.

“I think within the next five to ten years, we’re gonna see a really sharp incline in the number of girls in esports,” Delgado said. “Recently for ‘Overwatch,’ the first woman pro player [joined] the team, so that’s huge, and I think we’ll start seeing more of that.

Featured Image: Reid Studley plays Overwatch at the varsity esports tryouts. Kathryn Jennings 

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Kelly Fox

Kelly Fox

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