ESports are a brand-new and rapidly growing trend. Only a few years ago, it was nearly nonexistent. Now, the prize pools for the largest games reach into the millions and the championships boast similar crowds and viewers as the Super Bowl or the World Series. Colleges are even forming their own teams to compete in these new arenas. Competitive gaming has always had a healthy presence on college campuses, and the University of Utah has been no exception, with the state’s oldest eSports chapter of TeSPA. This year, however, Utah eSports have been kicked into high gear by the Pac-12’s announcement of upcoming support and events. The U is stepping up to the challenge with excellent teams in half a dozen games. The University of Utah boasts a strong tradition of eSports competition starting years ago through the university’s local TeSPA chapter, but this year they’re adding new games to their roster, among them Overwatch.
Overwatch is a team-based 6v6 first-person shooter developed by Blizzard Entertainment. It’s wildly popular, but its release in late May of 2016 meant there was little time for TeSPA officers to put plans together.
Now that fall semester has started in earnest, however, the second competitive season of Overwatch is starting and the U is aiming to get in on the action with its first Overwatch team of 10 players (six starters and four substitutes), with one manager and one coach.
The starting six:
This skilled team has able assistance in the form of Jordan Runyan, the team manager, and Joe Johnson, the team coach, working to develop and counter opposing strategies and hone their team’s skills. The Geekwave asked a few questions to the starting team:
Geekwave: What do you think is going to be the biggest challenge of managing a brand-new team in a brand-new game?
Runyan: The biggest challenge of managing any new team is keeping the players focused and motivated. Overwatch is a fairly new game and the competitive scene is still developing. I’m hoping this will help drive the team to stay dedicated and ride out the initial bumps that will undoubtedly come as we step into our first few matches as a team. I’m confident that with our current leadership over the team that we can help this new CG Overwatch team succeed and rise to be one of the best collegiate teams in the country!
Geekwave: What’s the thing you want to see most out of your team this year?
Johnson: I want to create a team environment where people can improve at the game while also having fun. I think that most people haven’t really had a competetive experience and it can be a lot of fun if people are communicating and looking to improve together as a team.
Geekwave: What’s your favorite part of Overwatch competition?
Kraiss: I think I like how everyone is focused on one goal. Even though you’re supposed to focus during practice, it’s hard to get everyone to be serious. During competition everyone on the team is focused and making calls. It’s just a cool atmosphere.
While it’s the newest game and team on campus, it’s by no means the only esports team. Other older games are still around with competitive presence. Among this older competitive bracket is Counterstrike: Global Offensive.
Counterstrike is an objective-based game: 10-24 players split among two teams compete in fast-paced, unforgiving battles, with no respawns during rounds and an upgrade system between rounds that rewards the best members. It’s famous for the aiming skills and quick reaction times cultivated by its players.
This year, the university is fielding a team of five, with coach Sean Kneeland to assist:
Geekwave: What do you want to see with your team?
Kneeland: I think our team has a lot of potential, and I’d like to realize as much of that as possible. I know there are a lot of great CS players in Utah, and with eSports growing the way it is right now, I can see this year being a great way to start a platform for the university in the future.
In addition to FPS games, Utah is also fielding teams for other genres of games. DOTA 2 is the most unique game on the university’s list of competitive esports — the original DOTA was a community-made mod of Warcraft III, an RTS-based strategy game. The mod proved so popular that the sequel to DOTA was a fully-developed game. DOTA 2 is a MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena) where two teams of five each compete to destroy bases of the opposing team, destroying defensive structures and mowing through AI minions in the process. Each round is separate, so rounds are based on the skills shown within that round and not on any previous round, making it perfect for online gaming.
DOTA 2 is the direct successor of what’s considered the most successful of the original MOBAs, and as such has a lot of weight behind it. Competitions have prize pools in the millions, and viewership to match. Though the university’s team may not be competing in the international forum, it nonetheless boasts a talented team of five:
Geekwave: What would you say is the most important quality your team needs this year to be successful?
Lee: Since it is a new experience for all five of us being in an actual team training and competing, we have a lot of things to learn and improve especially in our communication and knowing what’s next to do during a match. Our team is strong with the fact that we do have individual talents and no one is shy to speak up, everyone also follows any shot calls made without disobeying.
The university is also fielding Hearthstone, League of Legends, and Heroes of the Storm teams. Geekwave reached out to those teams but was unable to obtain full rosters and interviews.
For more information on Crimson Gaming and our eSports teams, check them out on Facebook at facebook.com/crimsongamingut