Alexandria Leland, Staff Photographer
The camaraderie, sportsmanship and diligence associated with sports go far beyond the field at Utica College. Members of the eSports club on campus engage in hours of practice every week to take part in competitions that keep them at the edge of their chairs. The club’s hard work has fostered its participants to engage in a type of competition they may have never thought to be possible.
The eSports President, Hong Jin, founded the club in November and has gained the attention of professional broadcasters. The two full-rostered teams have played a total of 17 games against 180 teams from 150 colleges.
Jin started the league to show others that video games can take you places, including a place of success. One can succeed when given the platform of eSports to compete, according to Jin. One of the most successful aspects of the club has been the rise of their Call of Duty team.
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The members can engage in a range of games, including Call of Duty, Rocket League and League of Legends.
Ryan Becker, the captain of the Call of Duty team, has been playing since the third grade. In high school, he was a football player. Now, he has stepped foot into new territory.
“I’ve always loved the teammate experience,” Becker said. “I remember being under the lights in the huddle, there’s like one minute left to go. Like, this is it, we gotta do it.”
Becker is astounded at the similarities between playing on the field and behind the screen.
“It’s literally the same thing, and I never thought it would be coming from, you know, a sport where you get thrown around with your head smashed around in the dirt, and this is behind a computer screen,” he said. “I never thought they’d be comparable to one another, but absolutely. It’s the same feeling.”
Jin recounted an experience with Communications Arts Professor Ariel Gratch who, according to Jin, said, “We tend to view what happens online as somehow less real than what happens offline, yet that’s becoming more of a ridiculous distinction. Our lives exist both online and offline, so we shouldn’t view the two as that different.”
“From this perspective, eSports is simply what sports look like in virtual space,” Jin said.
Becker appreciates the competition aspect of eSports, especially since the club plays against schools from across the country.
“We have some of the top talent in the nation,” Becker said. “We’ve got to practice as much as they do.”
The club meets Monday through Thursday from 8:30 – 11 p.m., sometimes slipping a little past midnight. The time may slip away, but their academic willpower does not.
The sense of community eSports brings its members a sense of belonging and encouragement for academic and personal growth.
“I think it’s really helped some people come out of their shells,” Becker said. “I have a soft spot for that. So when people are having a tough time, I want to be able to help them because I’ve been there, done that. I know how it feels.”
Becker’s Call of Duty team played in a tournament on April 14 that involved five colleges from across New York state. Aside from the technical difficulties, everyone persevered and a duo from Cornell University won.
“You could tell it was our first event, let’s put it that way,” Becker said.
The participants were appreciative of the event and are looking forward to the next one. This summer, Becker plans to create a New York state college-based Call of Duty league.
The big dream is to host a physical event where members of the league can compete for scholarship money. He hopes the event can serve as a place to network and connect with other players. So far, there are about 16 schools interested, including Utica College.
As Becker graduates from Utica College this semester, he is excited to pass the torch down to someone as passionate about eSports as he is. Junior Brandon Kowalski will be the new captain of the Call of Duty team.
To become a member of the eSports club, you can contact any member through their Discord. Open to anyone willing to put in the work, Jin and Becker will sign you on.