Rutgers Esports provides community for competitive online multiplayer gaming

Photo by Courtesy of Rutgers Esports

Rutgers Esports recently won the NY Excelsior Spring Rally championship for Overwatch, a popular multiplayer shooter game. 

Initially down 2 games to 0 against the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT), Rutgers won the final three games to complete a reverse sweep, said Thomas Palka, a School of Arts and Sciences junior and president and event coordinator for Rutgers Esports.

“It was a best of five. (NJIT) took the first two games, and it was looking kind of bleak for us. But then our team reverse swept them and took the next three games and ended up taking the finals ... it was amazing to watch,” Palka said.

Rutgers came in as the favorite for the competition due to how renowned the esports team is on the East coast and in the country. The Overwatch team in particular has a strong reputation, even though it was only officially finalized this past fall. The team still needed to put in the hard work and spend hours practicing the game to ensure their victory, Palka said.

Esports, defined as multiplayer electronic sports that are played competitively online, is becoming increasingly popular throughout the country and on college campuses, according to The Washington Post

One of the most popular games currently is Overwatch, in which teams of six players work together to achieve certain goals. In one of the game modes, for example, one team attempts to escort an object across the map to a specific point, while the other team tries to stop them from doing so. In another, both teams attempt to fight for control over a singular point on the map. Whoever has earned more control over the point when the time runs out wins.

These game modes test how strategically a team can work together, as well as how skilled a player is at the game mechanically, said Kyle Frick, a School of Arts and Sciences senior and vice president of Rutgers Esports.

The esports organization has been officially recognized on campus since 2014, but its origin dates back to 2007, when students hosted fighting game competitions recreationally. Today, there are a total of 12 clubs under the organization including League of Legends, Dota 2, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CSGO), Rocket League, Super Smash Bros. and more. 

In its relatively short time operating, Rutgers Esports has been a successful organization in many different games, Frick said. It has achieved success in games such as Overwatch, League of Legends, Rocket League and Hearthstone.

The esports organization has more plans to come for the future. It hopes to have more success in competitions, which will help to provide scholarships to its members. One such competition is the Tespa League LAN Finals in Texas later this May, where the Overwatch team will be competing.

Though scholarships are not currently awarded to players, they still receive benefits such as coaching and connections to large companies such as Microsoft Corporation, Micro-Star International Co., Ltd (MSI), Ubisoft and even international gaming companies from other countries, such as South Korea. 

Another plan is to create a LAN gaming center at Rutgers, specifically Busch Student Center. Frick said it would be similar to a cafe with consoles for different games where people can pay to play.

Beyond its success in competitions, the gaming community is also an important part of many of the members’ social lives. Gaming is an entertaining and recreational activity that many members participate in weekly. Palka said approximately 200 people come to the Science and Engineering Resource Center (SERC) every week to play games and participate in the organization. One of his personal favorite parts of the community is how large and diverse it is.

Frick said that gaming was important because it was an escape from stress. 

“Gaming is important overall because it's an escape from the stress of society, it’s a way to relieve stress and it’s a way to get happy. It’s especially an escape from all the homework and stress of a student, so we allow our players and anyone to come and just play games to pass the time, try to forget about homework and let out all the stress. It's to just have fun in your free time,” he said.