You may have heard the term “esports” frequent social media and news headlines, but what is esports, and what does it mean to UCO? Long story short: think “sports, but video games instead.”
Esports has been around since the early 1970s, with games like Space Invaders, but rose to prominence in 1998 with Starcraft 2, owned by Blizzard Entertainment. Since then, esports has steadily gained momentum and developed into a multibillion dollar industry, even overshadowing many traditional sports such as soccer and baseball. Compared to traditional sports, esports viewership is higher. In 2019, there were 201.2 million esports enthusiasts in stadium audiences around the globe and 252.6 million digital viewers at home. According to a study by HitmarkerJobs, the amount of job opportunities in the esports industry grew 87 percent from 2018 to 2019.
Esports is a form of competition via video games and often takes the form of organized multiplayer competitions, played individually or in teams. There are varying types of esports, including:
- First-person shooters (FPS), such as Call of Duty, Counter Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO), Overwatch, Apex Legends and Halo;
- Multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA), like League of Legends and Dota 2;
- Fighting games (commonly referred to as the fighting game community, or FGC), like Mortal Kombat, Street Fighter and Super Smash Bros;
- Sports games, such as Madden, FIFA and NBA 2K; and,
- Other events like card games and real-time strategies.
Dozens of U.S. colleges and universities have offered varsity level esports competitions for years, but there a few schools who are taking it a step further by adding academic courses as the industry’s boom drives demand for professionals — UCO being one of them.
With this growing popularity, UCO entered the realm of collegiate esports in 2018 with a competitive esports club comprised of more than 350 members, credit-bearing courses in esports and the development of a gaming arena. While scholarships aren’t available for UCO Esports at this time, students around the nation are receiving scholarships and even full tuition coverage to play competitive video games for their universities.
Now, the newly formalized UCO Esports has seen impressive success within its short existence, growing to host several junior varsity teams in the game titles CS:GO, Overwatch, Super Smash Bros Ultimate (SSBU), League of Legends, Rainbow 6: Siege and Rocket League, and varsity-level teams in CS:GO, Overwatch and SSBU.
The CS:GO varsity team is composed of Hailey “Swan” Kelly, Ashley “Giraffe” Kelly, Brandon “NTS” Kelly, Nathan “SkillfulTrain” Coffman, Yi “Furious” Yao and Riley “Hitchboi” Grissom. The group competes in Division 1 of the North American Collegiate Counter Strike league and has beaten other top schools, such as Davenport, University of California Berkeley, University of Kentucky and University of California.
The UCO Overwatch team is made up of diamond- and master-ranked players and is composed of Nate “Axiom” Wade, Alex “Alex” Matos, Ethan “Creenis” Loder, Josh “Datadrainer” Denning, Ty “Halt” Wallace and Devan “Dravenslade” Wright. The group competes in the Tespa[SN1] Overwatch collegiate varsity league and has beaten other top schools, such as Clemson, Minnesota, Oklahoma City University, Rogers State University and Tulsa University.
The SSBU community at UCO is made up of two varsity players and seven junior varsity players. Unlike the other competitive titles, SSBU players often travel to compete; the Bronchos traveled within Oklahoma, Kansas, Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, Texas and Michigan to compete in 73 different tournaments. Varsity player Ben Staudt has competed against players who are sponsored and signed to professional teams in various tournaments, with the largest event being Frostbite 2020 in Detroit.