A recent Counter Strike 2 tournament, Blast Premier World Final, had a grand prize of $500,000.
It may seem strange that people can seemingly win tens of thousands of dollars just for playing a video game. However, the esports scene is not showing any signs of slowing down. In fact, many large corporations are sponsoring teams and major universities are now starting to focus on esports as an important part of their student recreation programs.
I spent time with The Wright State University esports team, interviewing officers and longtime members to learn more about this popular team and its history.
It now meets in a big space, but I was told the team was originally in a small room under a stairway, tucked in a corner of the campus. Now the team has a large facility right in the center of the Student Union Building, with multiple gaming rooms and a large lounge area. This facility seemed to exemplify the college’s shifting attitude towards the team.
“The university saw our [member] numbers are were like, okay, we want to make you like the front of Wright State,” said long-time team member Abner Conyers, who handles public relations and outreach. Conyers referring to the size of the group’s Discord server ― a popular social media platform where users can join groups relating to topics they are interested in. It is more than 600 students strong.
This doesn’t mean 600 students are participating in tournaments, but it is evidence of the popularity of the group.
To get a better sense of why Wright State students were gravitating toward this group, I talked to several other members. A trend I quickly started to notice is a lot of members in the group are long-time gamers who were exposed to the medium by family members or friends at a young age. Nearly all the members I interviewed had this background and passion for gaming.
“I knew, if I’m going to college, I got to go somewhere that offered video games or esports,” said Vice President Evan Man.
Having such a large amount of members means there is a need to have a ton of games and teams for prospects to join. The club actually allows students to create their own team, as long as they follow certain guidelines.
“If you want to make a team, you need to have a full roster,” said Club President Courtney Carpenter. “So for Apex Legends, for example, you need three people, and we’d prefer if you’d also have a sub. Just so then if it was a really important tournament, you’d have a backup.”
Of course, other games have teams of five or four and such, so the parameters change with the game. The club offers a variety of games, from “Call of Duty” to “Overwatch” to “Counter Strike” and more. Many of these games are team-based, first-person shooters, so players all use guns and other weapons to score kills and complete objectives.
Each of these games have several teams of players who all compete against other colleges and groups.
Many of these teams have sponsors. Companies such as JP Morgan Chase will support these teams, making sure they have the right equipment and means to perform well in tournaments and skirmishes.
While the college may be supportive, public outreach and awareness of esports is still an issue. I asked members how their families respond when they talk about the esports club.
“They don’t really understand it,” said Luke Buell, the club treasurer. “None of my family is really into gaming, like my parents, but they’re supportive.”
A lot of club members think this will eventually change, and esports will gain more popularity in the future.
I had a very pleasant experience with the the Wright State esports club. Everyone was incredibly nice and their passion for gaming always showed.
For those interested in following the group’s events, visit Wright State’s website or follow it on Instagram.