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Miamians embrace video game culture

By Laura Fitzgerald, For The Miami Student

Miami University's gaming community thrives as gamers compete and play against each other.

Participants enjoy the entertainment value of gaming and being able to follow along with others as they play, said Matthew Carter, president of the League of Geeks. The League is an umbrella organization with nine gaming organizations under it.

"Why do people like watching basketball? It's entertaining," Carter said.

Esports, Miami's online gaming club, hosts gaming tournaments every other week in a residence hall. Each tournament features a different game. The last tournament drew about 175 people, Carter said.

In addition, Esports has servers called teamspeak that allow players to sign in at any time and play with other club members, said sophomore Matt Samuelson, game lead for League of Legends' Esports.

Popular games include League of Legends (LOL) and Dota 2, games in which two teams battle each other to capture the other's base. These games are called a multiplayer online battle arena, or MOBA. There is also Hearthstone, a card game, World of Warcraft (WOW), an extended role-playing game, and Counterstrike (CSGO), a first person shooter game, Carter said.

Esports also has competitive teams that play against other teams in the area, Samuelson said. Teams take part in the North American Collegiate Championships (NACC). The team that makes it through a qualifying round is then awarded a spot in the national playoffs.

There are 16 spots in the playoffs, one from each region, and teams compete in a bracket until the finals, in which the final two teams spar off in a televised event. The winners receive scholarship money.

There are also professional teams, tournaments and players for the online gaming community. Some players are paid like professional athletes. The chances of making it to the professional level are very slim, Samuelson said.

Samuelson said he enjoys the challenge of competing against others and thinking critically.

"I enjoy being competitive," Samuelson said. "And it's a good mix for me of thinking strategically but also using raw skill to win the game."

There are monetary prizes at some tournaments, Carter said. Many gamers also make money by streaming, meaning online followers watch the player as they play the game. If a gamer has enough streamers, they can even make a living off it.

Gamers that stream can make money off of advertising and donations from their followers, Carter said.

There can be an unhealthy side to gaming if the gamer spends too much time sitting alone in front of a computer or console, doing damage to physical and mental health, Samuelson said.

And since gamers cannot talk to each other in person, it can be easy for them to bully other online users.

Still, Carter said it is a way for friends to come together and meet new people with the same interests.

"So a lot of them you play with your friends," Carter said. "But it's just one of those things that just playing a game with someone else is fun, and you can talk and you can bond over that shared experience."

Carter said the rules of each game can change every season or every few weeks. This keeps the game fresh and interesting, and levels the playing field so that no one team stays ahead.