Esports thrive at Arizona State thanks to student-run gaming association

Arizona State University students play various games on desktop computers. (Photo Courtesy of Carino Dominguez)

In the sporting realm, a debate can rage on whether esports is a real sport.

Those who ask that question to the traditional sports enthusiast may get a negative response.

But as the argument continues over skill vs. athleticism, and physical exertion vs. mental exertion, the world of esports continues to take the U.S. by storm.

Esports is playing video games at a high competitive level by professional gamers.

According to esports marketing website Newzoo, the esports market value is predicted to reach $1.5 billion by 2020. Esports, however, has exploded, already surpassing $1.5 billion in 2017.

As popular games such as Fortnite dabble with entering into the esports realm, the industry has garnered more attention as more accessibility to these games is offered. Networks such as ESPN have begun broadcasting live tournaments.

Arizona State University is home to the ASU eSports Association. President Luc Selman leads the organization, which is an esports club for the hardcore and casual gamer. It offers various leagues that compete in Division 1 and 2 competitions of TESPA, a North American collegiate esports organization.

Many of the games its members play are League of Legends, Defense of the Ancients 2, Overwatch, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, PlayersUnknown Battleground, Hearthstone and Heroes of the Storm.

Mr. Selman, a self-proclaimed obsessor of the game Overwatch, has been president of the organization for six months and said he has a big vision for the future of the club.

Averaging three to five new members a week, the club has also grown its social media following. It used to average 1,200 hits a month but has now averaged more than 60,000 hits in a month.

“Everything we have done has just begun to blow up,” Mr. Selman said. “We are in the exact time and place where that is going to be happening for just about every esports program all over the country.

“We have some amazing talent that’s going to be coming into the program next year and I don’t expect that to stop anytime soon. I think the ball has already started rolling and it’s just going to get bigger and bigger.”

(Photo Courtesy of Carino Dominguez)

Mr. Selman contributes the recent growth in membership to the makers of the games PUBG and Fortnite.

“The fact of the matter is that the people who invented PUBG and Fortnite were no schmucks,” Mr. Selman said.

“They are actually some of the smartest people in the business world at the moment. It’s no surprise their games have blown up and it’s because they did a couple things better than anyone else has previously done before them; with their games, they found a way to bring people who have never played video games into the community.”

ASU eSports Association offers opportunities for the casual player. This includes LAN parties all the way up to Division 1 competitions around the country.

A local area network party is an opportunity for gamers to gather at a location to play video games together. Luc McConnell, the group’s vice president, said there was a recent event with Grand Canyon University that was successful.

“It was a great event where gamers from two schools gathered to promote esports and hold friendly competitions with each other,” Mr. McConnell said.

ASU eSports Association members hold bi-weekly LAN parties anyone can attend. They gather at the ASU Tempe campus in one large room and play video games together. Members can bring their own computer or favorite console, hook it up and play with and against each other.

They even have a large screen to show the more popular games for everyone in the room to see.

For the more competitive gamer, leagues that feature their favorite games play competitively in Division 1 and Division 2 competitions.

The Division 1 leagues compete with other colleges. ASU has done particularly well and ranks as high as No. 1 in PUBG in the TESPA tournament. Its Overwatch league is ranked fifth overall.

With the prospect of new talent joining the program next year, the club hopes its leagues continue moving up the rankings into the top spot among all college teams.

As they look to the future, both Mr. Selman and Mr. McConnell speak enthusiastically about ASU eSports Association moving forward.

“I think what’s important moving forward is for people to see ASU as an esports school,” Mr. McConnell said. “That’s how the Utah school is currently seen as. They are the ones that have the funding for it and their esports program is actually sponsored by (a) company. They are looked upon as having an established esports program. What we want is for ASU to become the esports college. We definitely have the numbers.”

Editor’s Note: Carino Dominguez is a student-journalist at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

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