Inside the world of esports: DSU forms team for competition

Feb. 21, 2019

This paid piece is sponsored by Dakota State University.

Picture this: You’re in an online battlefield trying to destroy the other team’s Nexus.

But first, you must demolish the powerful outer, inner and inhibitor towers that block it.

Once you’ve trekked through the map and fought off your opponents, you’re closer than ever to the Nexus and destroy it, winning the game. Congratulations!

That’s a glimpse of what it’s like immersed in the world of “League of Legends,” one of many video games that have crossed over from being pastimes to full-fledged collegiate sports.

Esports is the newest addition to DSU’s athletic department. Starting as a club in 2015, the sport quickly picked up popularity among DSU students, increasing to more than 50 participants.

DSU athletic director Jeff Dittman sought out esports, or electronic sports, and soon realized it would be a fit for the university.

“I started receiving various articles about collegiate esports. It was new, only a handful of universities were offering it, but with our mission of technology, it seemed like something we should look into,” he said.

Dittman took his idea of starting an esports program to the university’s president, Dr. José-Marie Griffiths, and she was on-board immediately.

Dominic Sharma, a junior at DSU, has been an active video game player since middle school. But for the past year and a half, he has been president of the DSU Esports Club and the team coordinator for “Heroes of the Storm.”

“The club itself officially started when I was a freshman at DSU. Before that, it was just a group of students getting together to compete. Then, the athletics department contacted us. We are excited for this opportunity,” he said.

Esports is a non-seasonal sport in which video games are played. It consists of organized events and competitions that involve multiplayer games. These games can be played by teams, and there are even professional players. In fact, an estimated 427 million people will watch some type of esports this year.

As esports becomes the next “big” industry, it’s being looked at by advertising industries, sponsorships, game publishers, businesses and even Olympic officials. Esports allows prime opportunities for companies who have participants or investments in esports to flourish financially and gain national or global recognition. Investing in esports will generate growth in investors, IT departments and companies, ultimately making them prosper in marketing, social media/user engagement and employee retention.

For DSU, having esports could cause recruitment numbers to skyrocket, Dittman said.

“We hope to satisfy an area of interest in which the majority of young people are already playing. We want to offer a first-class esports program that will bring students to DSU to compete at the highest level,” he said.

Esports also will provide scholarships for qualifying students. Sharma is optimistic that having esports as an addition to the athletic department will be advantageous for students.

“The best thing about esports is doing what you love and advancing your skills. As a member of the club or the athletic team, you can test your skills against the best players in the city, state, country or world,” he said.

Becoming a top player, however, is not an easy task. Like a regular sport, it will take practice to succeed and involves tryouts. Tryouts vary depending on the game and will be monitored by the head coach and others.

The team is open to players with enthusiasm and strong sportsmanship skills who embrace collaboration. Teams will consist of both junior varsity and varsity players, who will join competitions remotely and travel to a few tournaments a year.

DSU is still putting together a competition room where daily practices will be held. The room will consist of 14 computers, monitors, esport chairs and a wall monitor for observation.

Although the university is still seeking an esports head coach, there are a few games picked out: “League of Legends,” “Overwatch,” “Hearthstone,” “Heroes of the Storm” and “Super Smash Bros.” Those games were selected because of their team-focused elements, high interest and proven success. Any game that doesn’t become part of the official roster will be handled by the club.

Students who don’t make the official esports team can rely on the club to fuel their gaming passion.

“The (DSU esports) community has always been welcoming to students, regardless if they play games competitively or casually,” Sharma said. “It’s a place where students can build their gaming skills and find new friends who share similar interests and games. It’s through esports that I’ve made some of my closest friends.”

DSU strives to provide its students with the best and most modern technologies and hopes to recruit any students who are interested in gaming to the athletic team for the tentative fall 2019 start date, Dittman said.

“We already have a reputation as one of the greatest technology schools in the country; the addition of esports just makes sense for our school and our mission,” he said.

You can follow the team on Facebook by clicking here. 

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Inside the world of esports: DSU forms team for competition

They’re already playing video games. Now, DSU students could get scholarships and compete against other top players as esports becomes an athletic team.

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