Level Up: Esports

Utah Esports competed in four well-known online video games during the past year, including “Rocket League,” “League of Legends,” “Overwatch” and “Hearthstone.” Around the world, people of all ages compete in tournaments featuring high-profile video games for thousands of dollars in prize money. Aside from prize money, students on the team receive a $1,000 scholarship for playing video games competitively.

The U was the first school in the Power 5 Conference to establish an Esports team. The team was unveiled in 2017, and nearly 200 students tried out for a spot. Thirty-three students from many majors were selected to play video games together competitively. Esports are multiplayer video competitions, generally played online rather than in-person, that feature professional players. Many of the team members have been playing their games of choice for years and were ready to step up to the plate with the new team.

“What makes this group so great is that we’re more or less the same. We laugh at the same things, make fun of the same things, and have one goal in mind: win,” said Joshua Shieh, a biology/chemistry student and one of the teammates. “Since we acknowledge that we’re all at the top, there’s a level of trust that we’ve built, and that has made our practices and hangouts more lively and fun.”

To compete, students must be full-time and maintain a GPA of 2.5 or above.

“Esports is massive at both a global and national level. In fact, the League of Legends World Championship gathers more viewers than the NBA finals, and giant corporations are sponsoring teams,” said Joshua Shieh, another teammate. “Honestly, this level is something I never would’ve thought possible. Esports isn’t well known on a local stage, at least in Utah. I believe the creation of this team in a Power 5 Conference is a stone’s thrown into a lake, a move that will cause ripples in this ‘movement.’”

During last year’s tournaments, the U came close to the grand prize: the team traveled all the way to the Top 8 nationally. This year, Utah Esports is prepared to play better than ever.

“I’ve been a part of this gaming community as a player for three years,” said Alex Zhu, an economics student and another team member. “To see Utah Esports come to fruition and for us to be recognized at this level is very satisfying.”

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Find this article and a lot more in the 2018 “Student Innovation @ the U” report. The publication is presented by the Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute to celebrate student innovators, change-makers and entrepreneurs.

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