SMSU’s new esports team prepares for fall Season

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Benjamin Engels, Staff Writer

Esports is an emerging new athletic activity that is playing video games at a competitive level. The SMSU varsity esports team is on its way to compete for the fall semester. The team is headed by Coach Spencer Louwagie, who previously lead the “League of Legends” club.

The new athletic medium is rapidly growing popularity worldwide and is spurred on with coverage by ESPN at the professional level. For professional athletes, global sponsorship comes from companies such as Monster Energy Corp. and PepsiCo Inc..

“Esports is . . . ever-changing,” Louwagie said. “One game developer can release a game which becomes popular overnight, and the esports scene develops rapidly. Meanwhile, another game makes a bad patch and loses the interest of that player base, crashing the esports scene quickly.”

The team will be participating through the National Association of Collegiate Esports, which is commonly referred to as NACE. NACE organizes tournaments for the games that it can and helps teams register for the tournaments they do not host. However, the tournaments not hosted by NACE are hosted by the company that owns the respective game. The games offered for competition will vary depending on the semester, with “Overwatch” being offered for the fall semester and “League of Legends” for the spring semester. In addition, “Rocket League” will have competitions available for all semesters. Other games can be made available based on student interest, which means that more games could become available by the fall semester.

Photo courtesy of smsumustangs.com.

Louwagie, a 2016 graduate of SMSU, started the “League of Legends” club in 2014, leading it as head coach while an undergraduate. He competed in regional “League of Legends” tournaments until he graduated and was once ranked in the top percentile of all North American “League of Legends” players.

Louwagie will be coaching all of the games that are offered. He will look for students who prove themselves as great leaders to become student coaches in the future. He encourages anyone with interest to try out for the team. Louwagie will offer tryouts as soon as the arena is completed and the equipment is installed, he will choose forty-six players for the team. Any student with interest may try out for the team, which will be co-ed.

The participants will be using their personal gaming accounts for the games, and the games will be paid for by SMSU when necessary, as some of the games like “League of Legends” are free to play. In addition to players, the team will need recording and streaming staff. At this point, the proposed viewing platform is the popular game streaming service,Twitch. SMSU’s stream name has yet to be decided.

The team will operate out of their arena at SMSU instead of travelling to other locations and schools. This also alleviates the need to risk dropping the expensive equipment in transport, as well as allows them to save money on travel fares. Their arena, which will be located in science and technology 266, is still being built, but will include Alienware monitors and Dell computers. There will be twenty-three stations for practice and competition, as well as one coaching station.

The team will also take care of its members with at least one weekly exercise session for the team, as well as requiring proper posture. “I am working with Chris Hmielewski our athletics director, taking his suggestions for what he would like to see… and what would be helpful for us in esports.” They will also take care to avoid wrist injuries commonly seen in esports players, like carpal tunnel syndrome.

Scholarships will be available through both SMSU and NACE for potential esports players, with NACE hoping to provide. The team is bound by the same rules as other athletics for academic eligibility and intent to play.

Those who are interested in joining the SMSU Esports team should contact Coach Louwagie through his email [email protected], or through his work phone: (1)507-537-6424. You can also fill out the perspective student form under the esports tab at smsumustangs.com.