3 Rutgers students each take home $10K in prize money from national e-sports competition
Three Rutgers students beat out hundreds of teams to win first place at the Hearthstone National Championship this past Sunday, with each player receiving $10,000 in scholarship as their prize.
Rutgers students Matthew Koutsoutis, a School of Engineering sophomore, Julio Clemente, a School of Arts and Sciences junior and Michael Causing, a School of Arts and Sciences junior, created their own team of three to enter the tournament, known as the Scarlet Crusaders.
The students won the finals event in Santa Ana, California that took place on April 22 to 23, taking on an engineering school from Quebec, Canada in the final round.
As part of the Tespa Competitive Series, this competition spanned a seven-week regular season. Each week, teams would compete in one match. Teams competed from campuses across the country playing the game Hearthstone, a digital, collectible card game, developed by Blizzard Entertainment.
“Tespa’s goal is to establish a solid foundation for e-sports in the educational institutions of our nation. The organization aims to develop leaders that will create fulfilling experiences for the students on their campus and instill competitive gaming as a fundamental part of their campus culture,” Rosen said.
Tespa is known for organizing the largest collegiate gaming tournaments in the world. The game now has more than 50 million players worldwide, said Adam Rosen, the co-founder of Tespa and program manager at Blizzard.
The national championship event was the first major tournament to use cards from the newest Hearthstone expansion, Journey to Un’Gro, Rosen said.
Causing and Koutsoutis said that a large part of their success was analyzing their opponent’s previous moves, and even creating a large spreadsheet of data to create a strategy for the tournament format.
“This competition tests the student’s ability to work together as a team, develop strategies against their opponents, and perform under pressure. Leading into the tournament teams are studying their opponent’s play from the previous matches to learn about their play styles and take advantage of weaknesses,” Rosen said.
More than 800 teams competed from universities across the country in the competition, including schools like Colorado State University, University of North Carolina—Chapel Hill and the University of California—Berkley.
Koutsoutis, the team captain, originally heard about the competition in high school, although he did not enter until his first year at Rutgers. Koutsoutis said that he held tryouts to create his team and enter the competition, originally creating a team of five. After two members of the team graduated, the trio decided to stick together and enter this year’s competition.
Koutsoutis was also ranked eighth overall in North America for the official Hearthstone tour, which included all professionals in the game, he said.
“Matt is a genius to be very honest. I think captain is an understatement — I mean, the man is a veteran. I've never seen someone learn the ins-and-outs of a meta so quickly like this before in any game really. His hard work and dedication are exactly what you look for in a strong leader and the man is (going to) go places far beyond this hearthstone game. I just hope when he makes it big he doesn't forget about the good ol’ scarlet crew,” Causing said.
Causing and Koutsoutis said they have been playing video games their entire life, although nothing could have prepared them for the moment they officially won the entire competition.
“It feels surreal. We worked so hard and prepped so much and all of it paid off. Knowing that we're coming home a champion is one of the most rewarding feelings ever,” Causing said.
Neither Koutsoutis nor Causing said they picture themselves pursuing a gaming career currently, although both agree it will always be a part of their lives.
As for the prize money, Koutsoutis said he plans to use the money to help him pay for his final year at Rutgers. Causing has not decided how he will be spending such a generous prize.
“(I am) definitely going to invest in a new computer. I feel like using the money towards a long-term investment will be the best choice for me. Either that or a ton of fat sandwiches, whichever one comes first,” Causing said.
Marissa Scognamiglio is a School of Arts and Sciences first-year student. She is a contributing writer for The Daily Targum.