St. GEORGE – Beneath a floor of treadmills, climbing walls, pools and weight racks, a different competitive scene has found a new home in Utah Tech’s massive Human Performance Center: eSports, or sports.
The new club room is equipped with four side-by-side widescreen TVs, a Nintendo Switch, an Xbox One and 12 powerful gaming PCs provided through the university’s partnership with Dell. Two multi-monitor computers officiate the club’s online streaming platforms, where club members can join remotely.
Danny Finnegan, club president and a senior studying interaction design, spoke about the club’s purpose and how Utah Tech is tackling the highly competitive esports scene, where video game players can earn millions of dollars a year.
“With games, there’s a lot of depth to almost every new game that comes out,” Finnegan said. “In sports terms, you can put in hundreds and thousands of hours and get new experiences, meet new people and improve your game.”
“A lot of our players are this unreachable audience, the people who don’t show up to the big campus events, the sporting events. They are like hermits, but here they can find a community that shares all their interests, and they can find school spirit with us.”
Growing up playing video games like “Pokemon,” Finnegan began competing in buy-in tournaments for “Super Smash Bros” when he was 16.
Finnegan said his first tournament was one to remember. He went to a small gathering of gamers at Game Haven in St. George, not knowing any of the other players. The tournament was double elimination. Finnegan quickly lost both of his matches.
“Yeah, they totally slapped me, but I also met some of my potential longest friends.”
Despite being “slapped” in defeat, Finnegan continued to go to local tournaments, honing his own playing skills by analyzing his playing style and the matches of other players, noticing mistakes that could be exploited. Finally, Finnegan consistently won first place in tournaments.
His success led him to organize the tournaments himself and join the sports team at Utah Tech, where he coaches “Super Smash Bros” players and runs the club.
The sports club has “open lab days” where any member can come into the club room and play any games they want. However, most of the club’s activity revolves around its six competitive gaming teams, one team per game: “Overwatch 2,” “Valorant,” “Call of Duty,” “Rocket League,” “Super Smash Bros : Ultimate” and “League”. of Legends”.
Each team has different spots on a team’s roster, usually with one alternate “bench” player per team. Each team has tests at the beginning of the semester.
“We have established coaches and managers for each team that schedule schedules among the busy college students in order to have practice regiments,” explained Finnegan. “We educate coaches on different strategies they can use to manage their team and encourage them to research the meta-game and watch professional play.”
Similar to the world of sports, Utah Tech’s athletic trainers put their players through drills and matchups in video games that isolate and develop specific skills unique to each game. Coaches emphasize the importance of clear communication between players in order to adapt the game to match-by-match competition.
Teams follow along as coaches go through past games and analyze the mistakes and strengths of the team and competitors, like a football coach analyzing film of previous games.
“We have to practice twice a week, three times a week. We usually don’t go over it because it’s usually college students with jobs and we don’t want to cause burnout,” Finnegan said.
Team practices depend on the video game. “League of Legends,” for example, has an average match length of 30 to 40 minutes, making practices even longer.
Finnegan said Utah Tech sports plays and competes with other universities such as Utah Valley University and Southern Utah University for large-scale tournaments, and Utah Tech sports hosts weekly tournaments for “Super Smash Bros.” at the Atwood Innovation Plaza.
Depending on the size of the tournament throughout the year, cash prizes can range from $20 to $1,000.
While there are some comparisons between physicals and sports, Finnegan said, he likes to think of sports as their own entity. One strength esports has over many physical sports, he said, is its accessibility.
Utah Tech Esports had about 200 members last semester, and about 600 people follow the club’s Instagram page and Discord server. Finnegan hopes the club will continue to expand. Once the Students’ Union building on campus is completed, the sports club will move again to further expand its available membership space
On Nov. 11, Finnegan said, Utah Tech will host an open game event with sponsor Utah Ken Garff Sports.
The event will aim to give high school and college students an opportunity to play, network with other players and learn more about competing in high-level sports.
Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2022, all rights reserved.
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