By Dmitriy Kizhikin, Staff Writer
Last Friday, a meeting took place in a Laws Hall conference room, a room massive enough for a general Biology course. Unlike most monthly meetings held by Miami's eSports club, this meeting's topic filled the seats of the room. People lined up around the door to hear the news.
The team of passionate gamers, students and faculty alike, announced that they will be competing at a varsity level. Miami University's varsity eSports program is officially holding tryouts starting this Saturday.
Varsity eSports is very different from regular collegiate eSports, offering possibilities in the professional scene and a chance to bring money and recognition to the school. Competitions will be streamed live on websites like Twitch.tv -- the most popular video game streaming website. The Miami community can show support and watch from anywhere.
A large issue in the eSports scene, especially at the collegiate level, is which games to pursue. Since the industry is so new and increasing rapidly, only a select few eSports are solidified as core games "We wanted to make sure that we picked games that were going to be played," said Dr. Glenn Platt, head of the varsity eSports program and professor of Marketing at Farmer's School of Business. "So while our initial three games are 'League [of Legends],' 'CS:GO [Counter Strike: Global Offensive]' and 'Hearthstone,' we are open to any large game as long as it has enough support."
The main factors one must consider when deciding what games to choose are the future popularity and practicality of the games. Some games, like "Super Smash Bros. Melee," have a lot of traction on campus. However, "Melee" requires the student to be at an event in person, while most games only need a stable Internet connection.
"I was really hoping for 'Smash' to be part of the varsity program," said Reno DiFonzo, a sophomore tournament organizer of Miami's Smash Club. "But I think I get why it isn't. It would be too much of a hassle to send players to tournaments."
The eSports program consists of players and possible substitutes. Games like "League of Legends" and "CS:GO" are team-based, and holding scrimmages with other players inside Miami makes practice easy and productive. The players will be committing around the same amount of time as regular varsity athletes. The hope is to practice as similarly to professionals as possible -- every day, for hours at a time.
"I am a little worried that it will take over my life," said Robert Ritchie, a sophomore looking to try out for the "League of Legends" team. "But if I get a scholarship for it, I am completely willing to devote my time to it."
Dr. Platt has confirmed that there will be scholarships for the players. The exact number is being negotiated, but the program is becoming as close to a regular varsity sport as possible.
There will also be analyst positions for each game. An analyst is basically a strategist for the team. It is someone who will study replays of games and help work with the players to relay information. The analysts for Miami's team have not yet been named.
"We have an analyst that will work with the students, but we also will have student analysts who will work with the main analysts," said Dr. Platt. "We want to involve the students as much as possible, maybe giving them experience for something in the future."
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King Library has offered a large room in the center of the first floor as a type of headquarters for the varsity team. Once it is finished being touched up and improved, it will be the main place for practice, discussion and improvement.
With the announcement of the varsity eSports program, as well as the introduction of one of the first eSports classes this semester in the IMS department, Miami is committed to immersing itself in the growing world of eSports.