Gamers are not always a close-knit bunch. The days of huddling around the four-controller port console for split-screen sessions of Mario Kart and Goldeneye have been dying a slow death.
The temptation often exists to isolate oneself in the world of gaming and make the act of gaming a one-person experience that eschews social interaction for cold, emotionless interaction with a console or computer.
Multiplayer is now an online function that often puts the gamer in a situation of isolation, interacting with players on a short-lived, impersonal basis.
The existence of MMOs, such as World of Warcraft and Star Wars: The Old Republic, as well as smaller scope online games, such as League of Legends, have offered slightly more personal ways for players to engage with others across the globe, even if in a still somewhat impersonal setting that, while social, requires no face to face contact.
The eSports club, which is relatively new to AU’s campus, seeks to take this one step further by making gaming the close-knit social setting that it once was in the days of the N64. They offer the chance for student gamers at AU to come together and do what they love in a team-based social setting.
Rather than rely on a program like TeamSpeak to communicate across campus from separated dorm rooms and apartments, the eSports club meets in one location.
The environment is not dissimilar to that of other interest clubs, with officers facilitating discussion. Some things are unique to the club, such as facilitating tactics of the game being played in real time.
The group’s mission statement is: “to offer an opportunity for AU students of all gaming experience to come together to build community, have fun, and earn scholarships.”
The group was founded during the fall 2016 semester, after co-founders Caleb Conrad and Levi Armentrout were approached by Dr. Justin Lambright, of the Mathematics Department, about starting an eSports centered club that focused on bringing the students of AU with an interest in competitive gaming together in a formalized setting.
Sessions revolve around three games: League of Legends, Overwatch and Hearthstone. During sessions, the club has a stream of professional players going on the projector screen in order to help give a frame of reference for how the game is played at the professional level.
The group has an open membership, so any AU student may come and participate, regardless of their experience. In addition to the stream of professional players shown at each meeting, the eSports club has an officer position that is unique to the group: coach. Currently, Taylor Grim holds that position.
Grim offers lessons to new players that focus on, as he puts it, “learning to function as a team, and helping them get better at what they like doing.” Whether a student is new to the gaming circuit, or is an expert, Grim offers the opportunity for them to grow as a gamer, as well as a team player, by offering these lessons.
By sponsorship through AU, the club offers the opportunity to earn scholarships for those who compete in inter-school tournaments that, beginning in February, will encompass several local schools, including AU. Hosted by uLoL, a nationwide organization that sponsors and organizes tournaments for collegiate-level eSports, these tournaments will offer the chance for students to use their gaming experience (either previously learned or learned on hand at the eSports club meetings) to earn scholarship money doing something that many do simply as a hobby.
Despite the club’s faculty sponsorship by a member of the Mathematics Department, students of all stripes, majors and gaming experience can be found at the meetings, and all are welcome to join.
Conrad was especially enthusiastic about that aspect. “We want anybody and everybody who can show up to join,” he said.
So whether you are new to the gaming community, or a battle-hardened veteran of many games, past and present; whether you are a music business major seeking some down time outside of the recording studio, or a political science major trying to catch a break from post-election hysteria, the eSports club can offer a chance to spend time in a community of gamers who share your passion, and simply want to have fun.
The club meets every Thursday night from 8 p.m. until 12 a.m., and sessions take place in Decker 347.