Tension settles on a nearly quiet stadium. The clock shows the remaining time in a match between two teams of professionals. With keyboards clacking, computer mice clicking in measured and deliberate time and the monosyllabic communication between team members, the typical atmosphere of an eSports tournament quickens the blood of any gamer.
While not typically associated with blood pounding, adrenaline fueled bouts, the world of eSports is growing into a larger and more lucrative business than could previously be imagined. According to a recent report released by NewZoo, an analyst company dedicated to watching the growth and data of eSports, the eSports industry is currently worth $696 million, and will break a billion by 2020.
With eSports becoming more popular across the world, college campuses are starting to form their own teams, and John Brown University is no exception. Scott Marksberry, head coach of the men’s soccer team, is working with the school’s intramural program to host a tournament of the competitive online arena based game, League of Legends.
“It actually came through JBU administration. The admins, and I believe it may have actually started on a cabinet level, saw that the nearby surrounding schools had started a varsity program for eSports, and that their intramural
league for last year was massive for gaming.”
Marksberry said that the tournament is “another outlet for students. As we give students outlets through the intramural program, we tend to get a lot of repeat students. They come to play one sport and then come to play the next, but we know that there’s a big group of students who don’t participate in any of our activities.”
“We thought this would be a good way to invite those students who are into eSports and into the gaming community to come together and maybe connect in a different way and in a competitive environment,” Marksberry said.
Ashby Clark, junior accounting major at JBU and member of the men’s soccer team, said that the presence of an eSports tournament on campus would encourage student engagement and future tournaments. He said his hope for the tournament is that it will be “a starting point” for the intermural.
“It’s just starting out and not many people know about it yet, but I feel like once we get the word out, it’ll be a big turnout, and hopefully next year we can bring in more games – CounterStrike, DOTA, Overwatch. Hopefully it’ll grow,” Clark said.
Clark said that, while eSports are not often considered among the main vein of sports like basketball, baseball and soccer, they are just as valuable and viable as sports. “I’d say that, as a student athlete, I think eSports are sports. It’s growing and it’s going to be a thing in the future. The more people we can get into it now, the bigger it’ll be.”
“It’s a sport because it takes time, it takes dedication, it takes practice, it takes teams and team communications. It has everything a sport has. A goal, a way to tell if you’ve won, tournaments, prize money; it has everything every other sport has. It has as much mental aspect and physical reaction time that goes into a sport.” Clark said.
The tournament will be free, with all computers, hardware and software provided. The registration deadline is April 12, and the tournament will take place April 14-15 in Simmons Great Hall A.