Austin Peay’s esports team expanding quickly after first year on campus
(Posted Sept. 21, 2020)
Last September, Ranked-Up Esports President Austin Stewart expected 13 or 14 Austin Peay State University students to show up at the team’s first-ever interest meeting. More than 80 people showed up.
“We were blown away,” Stewart, a business senior, said. “We had 10 pizzas, and we quickly ran out of those.”
Ranked-Up Esports quickly had more than 100 members attending team meetings and competing in local and area esports tournaments. Still in its infancy, the team is quickly ramping up in hopes of competing against established esports teams in the region.
“We’re very new, very fresh out of there,” Stewart said. “Most teams have about three or four years before they actually really compete, and we are trying to catch up. We don’t want Austin Peay to be behind the curve.
“You see schools like the University of Tennessee and Murray State having a lot of resources, so we’re trying to push ourselves up and try to meet them,” he added.
Ranked-Up Esports has several recruitment events for Austin Peay students coming up as the team launches into 2020-21 and hopes to enter more tournaments following a slowdown during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic.
What is esports?
Simply put, esports is competitive video gaming. Competitors from leagues or teams face off in games such as Fortnite, League of Legends, Call of Duty, Overwatch and Madden NFL – games that are popular with everyday, play-at-home gamers.
The biggest esports tournaments, however, draw millions of fans who watch live events or follow along on television or online streaming. The tournaments also bring in billions of dollars a year.
“This encompasses Twitch and YouTube streaming, which is the bulk of it,” Stewart said. “Esports has grown exponentially in viewing and in money.
“It used to be a backroom, GameStop tournament where you played Halo,” he continued. “Now it’s something much more.”
Dr. John Nicholson, a computer science professor at Austin Peay and one of the team’s advisers, said esports has all the hallmarks of football and basketball.
“It takes lots of practice and professionally brings in a lot of money, but instead of taking place in a place like the Dunn Center, it happens in a suped-up computer lab,” he said.
Ranked-Up Esports has teams that play Super Smash Bros., Call of Duty, League of Legends, Overwatch, Apex Legends and Rocket League.
Bringing organized esports to Austin Peay
The idea to start a team at Austin Peay came to Stewart one night as he played some friends at Harvil Hall.
“We had a little friend group in my dorm, and we played games every now and then, we even had a little YouTube channel going,” Stewart said. “One day when we were recording and playing, I just said, ‘We should start an esports group.’
“‘We have this, and it’s so much fun for us, why can’t we expand it and let the whole campus participate?’” he wondered.
And so, it started.
Stewart quickly established the club, and Dr. Timothy F. Winters, director of the Honors Program, introduced him to people who could help, such as Nicholson.
Regrouping during a pandemic
Ranked-Up Esports enters the 2020-21 academic year with a new partnership with Tespa, which runs official leagues for collegiate-level play of Blizzard and Activision games. The team should be able to play in Tespa-run leagues starting next spring, Stewart said.
The ultimate goal is to compete against schools nationally.
The club’s Smash Ultimate team has been playing in recent tournaments, and the Overwatch team is gearing up for a tournament later this month.
Stewart also plans to make a push for a permanent room on campus to host meetings and tournament play.
Stewart and Nicholson think Ranked-Up Esports is a strong recruiting tool for the university as well.
“Around the country, there’s a lot more students coming in to esports, even in middle school and high school divisions,” Stewart said. “It’s a way to engage kids, and it can pull people in from even farther reaches. Esports will have an impact.”
Nicholson sees proof of that on campus.
“I’ll see students eating lunch on YouTube watching somebody playing a video game,” he said, “and I think, ‘They’re looking for tips, just like somebody who plays basketball for fun watches to see how the professionals do it.’”
Upcoming recruitment events
You can join Ranked-Up Esports by trying out for its teams at one (or more) of these dates (the team had a Super Smash Bros. and Call of Duty meetings last week):
- League of Legends, Sept. 21-22, 5-7 p.m., SSC Room E208.
- Overwatch, Sept. 23, 5-7 p.m., SSC Room E208.
- Apex Legends, Sept. 24, 5-7 p.m., SSC Room E208.
- Rocket League, Sept. 25, 5-7 p.m., SSC Room E208.
Ranked-Up Esports is open to casual and hardcore gamers and has varsity and junior varsity teams.
To learn more
For more about Ranked-Up Esports, visit https://apsu.campuslabs.com/engage/organization/rue.
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