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eSports provides new type of community, competition for students

Involvement in clubs, organizations and athletics is a great way for students to have a sense of community during their college experience. CMU has more than 190 clubs and organizations and 35 club sport programs. The one that offers the fastest growing community at CMU may not be the first one that comes to mind — eSports.  

Esports is competitive sport performed in a virtual environment in which physical and mental abilities are exercised against opposing teams through generally accepted rules, as officially defined by the International eSports Federation.

Video game playing may sound like an unusual club sport, but what you may not know is that it has hyper-competitive teams, fans who tune-in to cheer on their favorite players and/or teams, schools with dedicated “arenas” and a growing global following.

Competitive gaming has become a huge industry. SuperData is estimating 299 million viewers will tune in to watch esports competitors this year and that the esports industry will top $2 billion in revenue by 2021.

The CMU eSports club has been a campus club since 2015, but recently it has evolved and is growing. It is now housed under the club sports umbrella. B.J. Long, eSports club president, was among the founding members. Long and his residence hall floor-mate bonded over playing the video game “League of Legends.” They began to involve more friends until it grew into a group of seven.

“We thought, we aren’t the only seven people who like to do this, there has to be more and so we decided to make a club,” said Long.

The club advisor Elaine Venter, instructor of mass communication, admits that there are stereotypes about gamers and their toxic behavior, but this club is a community that comes together in positive ways.

“There are lots of community events where it’s all about coming together as a group and showing that it’s not just people playing in their basements,” Venter said. “It is about building friendships and networks of people and support.”

The club is a great way for students to grow their social skills and find a place where they can be themselves. The club currently has more than 55 members with over 20 competing members.

The club meets twice a week in Confluence Hall where “League of Legends” is downloaded on all the computers. Students can also bring their own computers and games to the meetings. Currently, the club is working to get more access for students who may not have their own means for playing.

The eSports club also has teams for specific video games, where individual practices are necessary. The teams then compete against other schools including the Fruita High School team.

“Practices are like any other sport. You’re focusing your attention towards being a team and getting better at a specific role,” said Long. “It’s developing that synergy and developing that teammate communication.”

CMU’s eSports club has competed at local events but may one day compete against other larger universities who also have growing esports teams like Miami University, Boise State University and the University of California - Irvine.