WSU home to rising esports community

WSU home to competitive gaming teams

Members+of+WSU%E2%80%99s+Esports+Rocket+League+A+team+holds+practice+to+hone+their+video+game+skills+Tuesday+night+in+Chinook+25.+Club+president+Bobby+Belter+said+the+club+was+founded+in+2015+and+has+grown+beyond+being+a+source+for+people+to+play+video+games.

SERENA HOFDAHL

Members of WSU’s Esports Rocket League A team holds practice to hone their video game skills Tuesday night in Chinook 25. Club president Bobby Belter said the club was founded in 2015 and has grown beyond being a source for people to play video games.

BRANDON WILLMAN, Evergreen reporter

Professionally as well as at the collegiate level, esports has become widely popular. Several games have leagues that pay their players upwards of hundreds of thousands of dollars in contracts, which does not include potential millions to make in prize money.

Some of the biggest esports events rack in over a million combined watchers between live attendees and those watching virtually. Organizations have dedicated fan bases that can be more devoted than traditional sport fan bases.

At the collegiate level, there are currently 175 colleges in North America that are members of the National Association of Collegiate Esports, according to Next College Student Athlete. The NACE provides officially recognized varsity programs and offers scholarships to students for their esports prowess.

WSU students have a discord server by the name of “WSU Gaming Community” where students can share their common passion for gaming.

With the Chinook sporting an esports lounge, there is now a physical location where students can get together to play. Although, due to the nature of gaming, most of it is spent online.

Several teams that compete under the Cougs banner have spawned, with one of those teams being in the game Rocket League.

Rocket League is a “high-powered hybrid of arcade-style soccer and vehicular mayhem with easy-to-understand controls and fluid, physics-driven competition,” according to the game’s website, which is truly just a fancy way of saying car soccer.

The team here at WSU consists of three players, Nick “Ninimin” Charters, Ethan “Fitz” Fitzsimmons and Andrew “Wimpulse” McGann. These three are competing in the Collegiate Rocket League series together in hopes of competing for a prize pool of $300,000, according to Esports Insider.

Although ideally, many players will join an esports team for their competitive nature. That is not the full story for this Coug squad.

“It’s a really fun experience and a nice way to make friends,” Wimpulse said.

Esports is not just the competitive side, in the same way as traditional sports, it is a thing of culture and community that brings people together.

The CRL is not a new endeavor for WSU, as the school has had teams competing since the 2016 season. Notably, one of the foundational players went by the name J4mes. Since his departure, the teams that have represented the school have not seen the same success, the Crimson team looks to turn that around.

The general consensus of the players was to gain experience since several members are just freshmen here at WSU.

“The goal for this current season of CRL is obviously to make it as far as possible,” ‘Fitz’ said. “I hope we can improve as much as we can.”

Hopefully, the team can reach the league play stage of the season so they will be able to get a part of the prize pool, but any experience will be vital in the expectations for future years.

Even with prize pools and representation of esports increasing year by year, with prizes such as RLCS’ $6 million pool, there is still a debate whether esports are really comparable to traditional sports.

Asking all three players, they all believe that esports and traditional sports are more similar than not in nature. They said it takes a similar amount of dedication and support to reach the professional level.

“The hours may not be equal in physical work, but they both require an insane amount of muscle memory development, understanding of the games, fundamentals, strategy and mechanics,” Fitz’said.

This claim is heavily supported by the amount of time players will spend perfecting their craft. Many RLCS pros have played over 7,000 total hours in the game since its release in 2015 and to maintain their high level of play, it is expected that they are playing anywhere between 30-50 hours a week.

“At a certain point, talent runs out and must be replaced with hard work in order to improve,” Wimpulse said.

There have been several prodigies to come up to the RLCS but to truly reach the top level, they have to dedicate themselves to being good teammates and threes player, as personal talent can only take a player so far at the professional rank.

With WSU and other colleges working in tandem with professional leagues to bring more eyes to esports, the goal is that one-day esports will be talked about in the same way as traditional sports.

“I think esports deserves their place alongside other sports for sure, most prominently, I think the future of college sports should include esports,” Nininmin said.

Hopefully, it will not be long before every major school in the nation has a dedicated esports team and offers scholarships to bring students in and introduce them to esports.

WSU Rocket League will compete in the CRL west qualifiers for league play on Sunday.