eSports: A New Way to Compete
Southeastern has a new team on campus. Instead of a field to practice on, the athletes use an indoor suite of computers equipped with the latest technology to compete in the world of eSports, multiplayer video games competitively played in front of spectators.
One of the fastest-growing sports in the nation, eSports generated more than $1 billion in 2019, with over 165 million fans. In the United States, nearly 130 colleges have joined the National Association of Collegiate eSports (NACE) with 3,000 student-athletes. Through the organization and universities participating, they provide more than $16 million in financial aid and scholarships.
In the first year of the program, Southeastern’s 32 athletes participated in scrimmages, with the goal of competing in national competitions in the 2020-21 academic year. The competitions provide students the opportunity to earn monetary rewards — some with prizes as high as $25,000. Southeastern competed in two games — Overwatch and Rocket League — in their first year. Additional titles (Super Smash Brothers and Fortnite) were added in the spring.
Ethan Cadore, ’18, director of eSports and resident director of Bauer Hall, was approached with the idea in November of 2018 as Southeastern’s leadership team was looking to continue building community on campus. Ethan competed in grassroots eSports competitions previously and coached traditional high school sports teams.
“The goal is for eSports to be a medium for students to hang out and develop relationships,” said Ethan. “Our team has four values: character, commitment, competition, and community.”
The eSports arena is located in the Buena Vida West Mezzanine. The suite includes 13 stations that are powered by Alienware PC monitors and the latest peripherals. The students practice three times a week in the evenings and compete in team-based games with teams of six in Overwatch and teams of three in Rocket League.
Max Good, ’20, played on the Rocket League team when he was a senior. He applied to be a part of the team and sent a video of him playing as a part of the application process. He jokes that the time he spent playing video games finally paid off.
“I bought Rocket League when it first came out,” said Max. “I really like the team dynamic of the eSports team. At the end of every practice, we do devotions together. We are a group of people who might not have met if it were not for this team. My dad went through a tragic accident this summer and they all prayed for me. I am thankful for how supportive they have been of me.”
Jessica Jarvis, a junior music major, started playing video games with her younger brother. Her favorite game to play was Overwatch on a PS4. Jessica joined the team in September after sending in video clips of her highlights playing Overwatch.
“We play team-based games. We have to learn how to adapt to any situation and overcome situations together,” said Jessica. “It’s really cool to be a part of a team and something that is bigger than yourself. I am proud to represent the eSports team. The coaches care about our spiritual growth as well. It’s cool to have the support of the university.”
eSports is different than most athletic competitions. It affords students opportunities to play against teams from any college or university across the United States, since there are no divisional breakdowns. Students are able to compete at Southeastern with the games played online. When the athletes start to compete in invitationals, they will travel to the university hosting the competition. The Southeastern team even has practice and game-day jerseys.
In addition to being used for competition, the arena is open for all Southeastern students to play video games during the week.
Ethan’s future goals include growing the team to compete for national titles. “eSports allows smaller schools to get national recognition. I would love to shed more light on Southeastern if we are able to make it to the national stage,” said Ethan.