Hundreds of Rutgers students take part in 'Fall Friendlies' Esports party
On Sunday afternoon, over 300 gamers crowded into the College Avenue Student Center for "Fall Friendlies," an annual gaming party hosted by Rutgers Esports.
“This is like if you were going to your friend's house just to play games, except on a much bigger scale,” said Adam Baugh, a student in the School of Graduate Studies who co-founded Rutgers Esports as an undergraduate in 2014.
Jacob Moffatt, a junior in the School of Arts and Sciences and the president of Rutgers Esports, said that the local area network (LAN) party is intended as a welcome-back for old members and as an orientation for new members.
"Fall Friendlies" is the first of two major events to be hosted by Rutgers Esports in the fall semester. The second one will be Fireside Open, which will be a tournament.
Rutger Esports serves as an umbrella organization for all the video game clubs at Rutgers. Every Friday, all the clubs meet in the Science and Engineering Resource Center (SERC) on Busch campus to play video games together, Moffatt said.
“We own the whole second floor of the SERC for the night on Fridays from 8 to midnight,” he said.
Baugh said that club meetings are open to anyone who wants to play video games.
“We don't even require people to sign in. If you wanna come and play video games, you're more than welcome to," he said.
Rutgers Esports also helps the clubs organize to compete in tournaments and hosts their own as well.
Baugh said that their most recent tournament held this past April, the Scarlet Classic III, garnered a turnout of over 500 participants and was their most successful yet. The event was sponsored by 17 corporate partners and included over $9,000 in prizes awarded to the champions.
“Our tournaments are one-off open bracket tournaments,” Baugh said. “People can come in for a day ... enter their name, and try to go through the gauntlet of playing against all these other people who came and then we crown a champion by the end.”
Rutgers Esports is itself a local chapter of Tespa, a collegiate eSports organization. Moffatt said that last April Rutgers' team won first place in the Hearthstone Collegiate National Championship, Tespa's collegiate series, and received a prize of $30,000 in scholarship money that the three-person team split among themselves.
Among the attendees at this year's "Fall Friendlies" was Susie Kim, a Rutgers class of 2004 alumna who now works for the video streaming service Twitch. Much of Kim's work has been towards popularizing eSports in America.
Kim said that in South Korea, eSports have enjoyed tremendous popularity for about 15 years now. She began her career by translating Korean eSports materials and connecting Western audiences with the Korean industry.
Here, eSports do not yet command the massive audiences that traditional sports do, but in the past five years they have blown up in popularity, Kim said.
“I just liked video games,” Kim said. “I would find videos online of people who were really good playing, and I found out that in Korea they had leagues. And when I'm talking about leagues and stuff, there's fans, and groupies and girls who throw themselves at players. There's ticket scalping. The whole thing.”
For this year's "Fall Friendlies," Rutgers Esports partnered with Women in Computer Science, a pre-professional club that provides support for female students interested in the technology industry.
“The interests kind of overlap. People that are in computer science tend to play games of some sort,” Moffatt said.
Baugh said that, according to the Entertainment Software Association (ESA), about half of gamers are women. Yet women are vastly underrepresented in the video game community.
At Scarlet Classic III, only about 15 percent of attendees were women, Moffatt said.
“I know there are tons and tons of girls who are interested in gaming, interested in the scene, are in the scene, but are just uncomfortable with the environment,” he said. “The whole goal of everything we're doing is to foster a healthy and diverse community of gamers at Rutgers, and of course we would like women to be a part of that."
Max Marcus is a School of Arts and Sciences senior. He is a correspondent for The Daily Targum.