Fresno State goes digital with esports program

A sign in front of the soon-to-be esports arena inside of the University Student Union. (Larry Valenzuela/The Collegian)

A new competitor in the Mountain West is on its way to Fresno State, bringing new opportunities for students.

A varsity esports program is currently in development. The esports program will first out with a League of Legends team, and if there is enough student interest, the program will expand into more video game franchises such as Rocket League and Overwatch.

“We will more than likely, depending on interest, expand our varsity team,” said associate dean of Student Involvement Dr. Colin Stewart. “We have a process in place for that.”

If everything is on schedule, Stewart says that the process of assembling the team will begin sometime in October with open tryouts for all positions such as coaches and players.

Nexus Club vice president Johnathen Marin has high expectations for what the team can accomplish in the Mountain West. 

Marin acknowledged that there will be some growing pains at first, but he says he’s confident the team will have the ability to compete at a high level among other varsity teams in the West.

While the creation of a team is the first item on the agenda for Student Involvement, Stewart is looking ahead to the future of the program as a whole. Stewart says that the varsity program will allow students opportunities off the sticks.

“There is a whole bunch of stuff when it comes to video games beyond from just playing the game,” Stewart said. “There’s leadership. There’s teamwork. There’s production… we are just starting at the tip of the iceberg with the varsity team.”

Alongside the launch of the varsity program, Fresno State intramurals will be hosting a program for video games at the Fresno State Recreation Center. 

The intramural program will allow students who are not committed to being extremely competitive to play in a welcoming space with other gamers at Fresno State.

It’s been a long time coming for a program such as this. according to recreation programs manager Lerin Winchester. The Recreation Center has been pushing for this program since 2012. However, some legal logistics got in the way, as well as funding.

“It is important for us to get to where the gamers are, because we want them to come play and we want them to have an outlet,” Winchester said.

The intramural program will be tournament-based and played on the Playstation 4 and Nintendo Switch consoles. Some of the games featured will be Super Smash Bros., NBA 2k, Mario Kart, Overwatch and more. 

Alongside the tournaments will be PlayStation VR headsets for students to try out. 

Tournaments are set to begin in mid-September with an “unlock party,” and the choice of game will be Super Smash Bros.

“I hope [the intramural program] brings fun and excitement to the people who partake in it,” Marin said, “while also helping spread the word about esports to students.”

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