Esports elevates at SUNY Morrisville

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The term “esports” may be unfamiliar to some, but it has quickly become a buzzword on the SUNY Morrisville campus.

Esports (electronic sports), which has taken the nation and globe by storm over the past decade, is an organized sports competition featuring multiplayer video games, where gamers from around the world can compete individually or as a team. According to an analysis from Statista, the esports industry is booming, expecting to top $1 billion in worldwide market revenue for 2020. 

Esports has quickly gained popularity on campus since it emerged through Morrisville Competitive Gaming (MCG), a Student Government Organization (SGO) club which provides the campus community an outlet to appreciate and enjoy video games. When Spencer Herring, an information technology: network administration B.Tech. student, became club president in the fall of 2019, his first order of business was to help elevate esports from casual interest to serious competition. 

“When I first joined (MCG), it was just a club where kids would come and play games, so I started a Smash team and have tried to blossom it into a legit esports program,” said Herring, a passionate Nintendo Super Smash Brothers Ultimate player. 

Herring pushed to create a large team of competitors, reaching out to peers from other institutions to hold scrimmages. His vision meshed with that of MCG co-advisors Angela Rhodes and Jamal Verity, who helped organize and host the club’s first esports scrimmage against Bryant & Stratton College last fall.

The duo continues to advocate for esports through various avenues on campus. 
 
“Our challenge right now is for our esports program to be fully recognized by administration as an official team,” said Verity, assistant professor in the Computer Information Technology (CIT) Department. “Angela has been making great strides in this area, and we as a group will continue to work forward to this goal.”

They got one step closer to that goal this past semester when they were awarded grant money to purchase equipment and official team jerseys. 

“When we unboxed those jerseys at the beginning of the spring semester, the students' faces just lit up, and they were definitely excited to be recognized as college competitors,” said Rhodes, the college’s Systems & Electronic Resources librarian. 

The COVID-19 pandemic brought everything to a sudden halt by mid-semester, until the State University of New York (SUNY) announced a three-week, systemwide SUNY Chancellor Esports Challenge to help support student emergency funds. 

“All of the sudden, the whole esports scene erupted and some campuses, including ours, that didn't appear to outwardly have much of an esports scene, came out of the woodwork to compete on a SUNY-wide scale,” Rhodes said. “It's never been done before, and now there's this whole community that I'm in communication with.”

Herring quickly signed on for the tournament and found some fresh competition to keep his skills sharp. “I was very excited to hear about this, and it was fun to play with people from all over the state,” he said. “I found more people I can play friendlies with now to help me improve.”

Following the tournament’s success, the University of Buffalo and SUNY Canton partnered with LeagueSpot software again to coordinate the SUNY Summer Esports Tournament, which will be held throughout August. It is open to all SUNY students, including incoming freshmen. 

Herring, of course, has already registered. Catch him in action as the tournament is live-streamed through the Morrisville Gamers Twitch channel