Rutgers eSports hosts first regional competition
One of the largest clubs at the University just held its first major on-campus event, inviting students from around the eastern seaboard to compete in the club's first Fireside Open on Dec. 4.
The event featured eight different games, including League of Legends, Overwatch, Hearthstone, Pokemon and Starcraft II, said School of Arts and Sciences senior Malav Patel. Patel co-founded the organization.
Scott Zackman, president of the Overwatch team and a board member for Rutgers eSports, said the community gathered by this gaming event is unlike any other.
The major gaming competition, organized by Rutgers eSports, attracted a diverse array of participants, including both introverted and extroverted individuals, the School of Arts and Sciences junior said. The gamers gathered for 12 hours of play at the multipurpose room inside the College Avenue Student Center.
Patel said students involved in eSports do not have to be officially signed up for the organization to participate in the various events they host. Though they do not have any official numbers, they estimate that around 2,500 students have played games with the group.
“Unofficially, we are probably the biggest organization at Rutgers,” he said. “We just don’t have people signed up, they just play the games.”
Important gaming individuals have a presence on campus, including a Super Smash Brothers player who graduated last year and ranked within the Top 10 in the world, Patel said.
This gaming community is not something new to college campuses, Zackman said. Some universities have designated arenas inside buildings dedicated to gaming.
In March, the University of California-Irvine announced plans to launch an eSports initiative, with the backing of sponsors including Riot Games and iBuyPower, according to UCI News.
The Irvine campus offers courses on gaming, video game theory and production and game testing, according to the article. These classes further promote the growth of the school's gaming community.
Programs like these are offered through the school, and some even offer scholarships to gamers, Zackman said.
“You can go to to UC-Irvine for being a good League of Legends player, and get paid to go. It sounds so silly to some people, but it’s a big part of a lot of people’s worlds," he said. "To the outside world, it's a little dorky, but it's pretty interesting because it's a very passionate community and it's something that brings a lot of people together that normally wouldn't go out."
Unfortunately, Rutgers does not actively support and sponsor much of Rutgers eSports activities, said Zackman.
"We don’t really get a lot of help from Rutgers. It’s the executive board that works very hard to set events like these up," Patel said. "We have sub-committees doing things such as setting up the event itself or advertising and getting sponsors."
Zackman said the little funds they do receive from Rutgers are not nearly enough, which is why they have to search for sponsors. He said the sponsors receives the castors, vendors and support for tables.
Sponsors of Sunday's event included Kite + Key and Tespa.
Zackman’s Overwatch team won $2,000, and they will travel to Los Angeles in January to play on ESPN.
"It's not something that's just handed to us and it's not easy," he said. "We were just awarded $1,000 for Giving Day but we had to work for it."