As the University of Georgia’s many intramural sports attest, a spirit of competition flourishes in the institution beyond its Southeastern Conference teams.
However, this zeal also exists outside of what most would consider traditional sports. As competitive gaming, also known as esports, has gained popularity worldwide, it has attracted dedicated participants at UGA.
Many of these competitors belong to the student-run eSports at UGA, an umbrella organization of gaming teams that compete in a certain title, such as “Overwatch” or “Paladins.”
As community manager of eSports at UGA, Emily Morrow, a senior English major from Marietta, is responsible for explaining the organization to those outside of it.
“Each game has a coordinator,” Morrow said. “For example, one of my friends, Dawson, is the coordinator for ‘Overwatch,’ and what he does is run the tryouts for teams. He puts the teams together and then each of the teams has a captain, who organizes scrimmages and runs practices.”
From her own experience as a competitor, Morrow elaborated further on the organization’s process.
“I am a support main for our ‘Heroes of the Storm’ competitive team ... We have people organized based on what role they perform the best, and we practice two or three teams a week,” Morrow said. “We have games on Sunday evenings, and our coach organizes scrimmages with other schools about once a week.”
eSports at UGA co-founder and president, Annie Lian, a senior graphic design and computer science major from Duluth, feels it’s useful for the university’s individual gaming teams to exist under a single alliance.
“All [the teams] have one thing in common, which is gaming, and most people nowadays don’t just play one game, so it’s easier if we just combine all of them to make a gaming community on campus,” Lian said.
For Morrow, this communal aspect is the purpose of gaming. After UGA announced it will install a gaming center in Tate Student Center, she stressed this comradery to those who questioned the necessity of the facility.
“[eSports at UGA] did receive a few comments of people saying, ‘Do we really need [a gaming center]? What’s the point of gaming?’” Morrow said. “I responded and I said the point of gaming is it’s something that brings everybody together . . . I feel as though it’s important to emphasize that in a world where people are focusing on their differences.”
eSports at UGA competitor Aaron Chamblee, a senior management information systems and risk management and insurance major from Dacula, recognizes a sense of community not only among participants but also between them and their audience.
“I think that [eSports] is a unique experience from the spectators’ point of view because it’s something you can go home and you could play yourself,” Chamblee said. “I think it really ups the level of interaction when you can see someone playing something and then know, ‘I can go back home and do that same thing and strive to be on that level.’”
Though Chamblee believes this accessibility makes eSports stand out among other competitive activities, he said it requires the same amount of “work” and “time commitment.”
“[eSports] is not something you just do in your free time where you sit down and you think, ‘Oh, I like to play video games,’” Chamblee said. “No, it’s, ‘Oh, this has a strict regimen that you have to follow day in and day out.’”
During his time as a competitive gamer, Chamblee sees this diligence pay off.
“I first joined [eSports at UGA] back in 2015, when I was a freshman,” Chamblee said. “I was on . . . the ‘Heroes of the Storm’ team that year. We made it to the round of 32 in the Heroes of the Dorm tournament, which is a big, national tournament [the game’s publisher] puts on. We also made playoffs in 2018.”
Lian oversaw other successes and anticipates more.
“This year, our ‘Paladins’ team is really good, and they’re set to win [$40,000] from DreamHack Atlanta,” Lian said. “Our ‘Brawlhalla’ duo is very good too. They’ve always won quite a bit of awards at competitions at MomoCon.”
Despite the high skill level of these teams, Lian said eSports at UGA is open to beginners.
“Anyone can play a game,” Lian said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re good or bad. We welcome anyone and everyone.”