Harrisburg U esports team preps for first season

//August 31, 2018

Harrisburg U esports team preps for first season

//August 31, 2018

The season officially kicks off next month.

As competitive gaming becomes more popular, especially among college and university students, the esports team represents a new way for HU to reach and recruit prospective students.

The esports market is a budding billion-dollar industry with millions of competitive players and money pouring into professional esports leagues featuring franchise teams and sponsorship deals.

The Storm players at Harrisburg University arrived on campus July 31 to begin practice. They recognize the industry’s potential and their role in taking it to new heights at the collegiate level.

Their first big test will be a major tournament as part of the Harrisburg University Esports, or HUE, Festival at Whitaker Center for Science and the Arts.

“For us, the pressure is on,” said Titus Bang, a 21-year-old interactive media major from Florida who plays on the university’s team for League of Legends, a multiplayer battle-arena video game.

The HUE Festival will be the biggest collegiate esports tournament to date, with $50,000 in prize money available to the 32 teams competing in League of Legends and Overwatch, a team-based multiplayer video game.

Bang and his teammates, including Overwatch player Adam Stanley, said they want to win the hometown event. But even if they don’t, they hope the event and future Storm matches will help show more non-gamers what esports is all about.

Like traditional sports, some high-level esports players can make a career out of video games. For others, esports may open other professional doors after college.

Most of the Storm players are majoring in computer science or interactive media, while others are pursuing degrees in areas like cyber security. Stanley, a 24-year-old from Missouri, said he wants people to see collegiate esports players the same way they see football players.

“We’re not much different. We just took a different path,” he said.

From console to competition

Stanley grew up playing Mario Bros. and Sonic, but never thought about playing competitive video games. Then he entered a Halo tournament at a local GameStop. He began playing Call of Duty on a professional level for about three years before switching to Overwatch after it was released in 2016.

When HU announced its esports program, Stanley was one of more than 500 people who applied for tryouts. His story differs little from those of other collegiate esports players who now have the opportunity to play video games every day, but with a scholarship.

But it is not all fun and games. For Storm players, a typical day is actually not that much different from what people who work in an office might experience.

Players may sit behind a computer screen for up to eight hours per day, maybe 40 to 60 hours per week.

If they are not practicing in game strategy sessions with teammates and coaches, players might be playing other games to work on muscle memory. Some play other games with friends to relax, much like a business professional might do with Madden to blow off steam after work.

Physical training is another big part of the routine for the students, who must also find time for classroom work. The university hired a personal trainer to work with the team about three or four days per week.

The workouts usually last about an hour, sometimes longer.

The goal, said personal trainer Taylor Marie, is to keep the players physically active through weight training and other high-intensity cardio work. They also do a lot of team-oriented sessions around sports like dodgeball.

“It’s not only to stay fit, but to keep the mind stimulated,” she said.

Mental fatigue can occur during hours-long matches. A normal physical fitness routine can help players maintain their mental focus.

Players said the workouts also help them with their reflexes and overall energy during games. In addition, the trainer also has been giving the players nutritional advice on healthy eating while they play.

With classes getting underway this week, HU officials stressed that the players are students first and that the esports program was built to support that priority. In addition to ongoing physical training, the university also has regular academic check-ins with players as well as mandatory study halls and peer tutoring hours.

But once Sept. 21 arrives, the Storm players will be unleashed at the HUE Festival. After the festival, the Storm players will compete in league play under the National Association of Collegiate Esports (NACE). In addition to League of Legends and Overwatch teams, the university also has a team playing Hearthstone, a video game involving collectible digital cards.

The three HU teams will play in tournaments connected to those games throughout the school year.