It's no surprise that many people use video games to have fun and connect with players around the world. Chances are, you know a gamer and recognize their focus and passion—even if you don't quite understand it. But gaming took a big turn to competitive play about 10 years ago, creating a booming industry worth billions of dollars and millions of viewers: eSports.
If you're thinking big brand sponsors, celebrity endorsements, and brackets, you're right. And just like traditional sports, colleges have entered the arena offering scholarships, team building, and career pathways into this massive industry.
That's why SPSCC is thrilled to join the world of competitive gaming with its newest team: Clipper eSports. And this fall, the competition begins as student recruits, led by eSports head coach Michael Nguyen, compete in video games such as League of Legends, Valorant, Overwatch, Halo, and more. Students who are passionate about video games or looking for the chance to get involved in the eSports industry are invited to join.
“Now is the best time for eSports in terms of it being viable for students to get into it as a career or profession,” said Coach Nguyen.
Leveling Up Skills
Clipper eSports is committed to helping players build a strong foundation of skills. Practice is tailored to the game the player is interested in. For example, players competing in first-person shooter games (a weapon-based combat genre) might focus on improving their hand-eye coordination, reaction time, tracking, and strengthening their muscle memory through aim training.
In addition to practice, Clipper eSports will bring in professional players and coaches who specialize in specific video game titles. While these practical skills are important for winning matches, Coach Nguyen also hopes to help players realize all the other aspects that go into eSports such as health and confidence.
“You can play 24 hours a day, but if you neglect your health and other areas of your life, that’s going to limit your growth. I want to focus on health, both the physical and mental wellbeing of the players,” he said. “If you’re regularly exercising, you have more energy in the long run and you feel more confident about yourself. That translates directly into how you play. There’s obviously skill and experience involved, but there’s also confidence.”
Another skill Clipper eSports players will develop is how to build their own brand and social media presence. Because the eSports industry is still new, the path to the professional scene isn’t as straightforward. Many of the players currently involved in eSports have created opportunities for themselves by climbing the leaderboards of games and livestreaming. When they catch the attention of professional teams and organizations, their careers are taken to the next level.
“A big part of it is self-networking,” said Coach Nguyen. “With the eSports industry right now, there’s still a lot of self-work involved in getting connected to the right people. If I could just help them save some time, hopefully they can get on that launchpad and succeed.”
Strategizing for the Future
To go far in any competitive team sport, everyone needs to be on the same page. Coach Nguyen highlights the importance of interpersonal communication and team chemistry in eSports.
“You can get five talented players and put them on a team, but if they don’t have communication, chemistry, or don’t take the time to build trust and teamwork, then they will be beaten by a team with a lesser skill level easily.”
Like self-networking, communication is a skill players in Clipper eSports can take with them wherever they end up in the future.
Other than going pro, there are many other opportunities within the eSports industry. “If you’re interested in marketing, you can get your degree and some experience. Then you can look at your favorite game developers or companies and apply there,” said Coach Nguyen.
“There’s also a big need in the industry for experienced coaches to help younger players develop," he added. "In traditional sports, you have 18 to 30 year old players being trained by 50 to 70 year old coaches. Since gaming has a younger demographic and hasn’t been around as long, there just aren’t that many people qualified to coach. Students can definitely go down that route, as well.”
While competitive play kicks off this fall, middle and high school players can join an SPSCC eSports summer camp and begin to build collegiate-level skills. The college will also host camps for international students visiting the US in hopes of expanding recruitment and college pathways to an even wider, more diverse audience.
“At SPSCC, we’re looking to build a program that focuses on equity, diversity, and inclusion,” said Coach Nguyen. “We’re really looking to include everybody and introduce eSports as an opportunity anybody can pursue.”