Utah Tech builds new rec room for college esports teams – St George News

ST. GEORGE- Beneath a floor of treadmills, rock climbing walls, pools and weight racks, a different competitive scene has found a new home in Utah Tech’s sprawling Human Performance Center: eSports or esports.

Utah Tech Esports player competes online, undated photo, St. George, Utah | Photo courtesy of Danny Finnegan, St. George News

The new club room is equipped with four side-by-side widescreen TVs, a Nintendo Switch, an Xbox One, and 12 powerful gaming computers provided through the university’s partnership with Dell. Two multi-screen PCs run the club’s online streaming platforms, where club members can join remotely.

Danny Finnegan, club president and senior interaction design student, spoke about the club’s purpose and how Utah Tech is tackling the massively competitive esports scene, where video game players can earn millions of dollars a year.

“With games, there’s so much depth in almost every new game that comes out,” Finnegan said. “When it comes to esports, you can spend hundreds and thousands of hours and get new experiences, meet new people, and improve your game.”

“A lot of our players are that inaccessible audience, the people who don’t show up to big events on campus, sporting events. They are like hermits, but they can find a community here that shares all their interests, and they can find the school spirit with us.

Growing up on video games like “Pokemon,” Finnegan started competing in buy-in tournaments for “Super Smash Bros” when he was 16.

Finnegan said his first tournament was unforgettable. He went to a small gathering of players at Game Haven in St. George, not knowing any of the other players. The tournament was a double elimination. Finnegan quickly lost both of his matches.

“Yeah, I was totally slapped, but I also met some of my oldest friends.”

Utah Tech Esports players compete in a tournament at Atwood Innovation Plaza, undated photo, St. George, Utah | Photo courtesy of Danny Finnegan, St. George News

Despite being ‘slapped’ in the loss, Finnegan continued to participate in local tournaments, honing his own playing skills by analyzing his style of play and other players’ matches, noticing mistakes that could be capitalized on. . Eventually, Finnegan always won first place in tournaments.

His success led him to host the tournaments himself and join the esports team at Utah Tech, where he coaches “Super Smash Bros” players and runs the club.

The esports club holds “open lab days” where any member can enter the club room and play the games of their choice. However, the majority of the club’s activity revolves around its six competitive gaming teams, one team per game: “Overwatch 2”, “Valorant”, “Call of Duty”, “Rocket League”, “Super Smash Bros. Ultimate” and “League of Legends”.

Each team has different spots on a team roster, with usually one substitute “bench” player per team. Each team has tryouts at the start of the semester.

“We have coaches and managers set up for each team who schedule between busy students so we have training regiments,” Finnegan explained. “We educate coaches on the different strategies they can use to manage their team and encourage them to research the metagame and watch professional play.”

The Utah Tech Esports team competes in a tag team tournament, undated photo, St. George, Utah | Photo courtesy of Danny Finnegan, St. George News

Similar to the world of sports, Utah Tech esports coaches put their players through drills and matches in video games that isolate and develop specific skills unique to each game. Coaches stress the importance of a clear communication between players in order to adapt the game to match-based competition.

Teams follow as coaches go through past matches and analyze team and competitor mistakes and strengths, like a football coach analyzing a movie of a past match.

“We train twice a week, three times a week. We don’t usually go over that because they’re students with jobs, usually, and we don’t want to cause burnout,” Finnegan said.

Team practices depend on the video game. “League of Legends”, for example, has an average match length of 30-40 minutes, which makes training even longer.

Finnegan said Utah Tech esports competes against and competes with other colleges, such as Utah Valley University and Southern Utah University for large-scale tournaments, and Utah Tech esports hosts weekly tournaments for “Super Smash Bros. at the Atwood Innovation Plaza.

Depending on the size of the tournament throughout the year, prize money can range from $20 to $1,000.

While there are comparisons between physical sports and esports, Finnegan said, he likes to think of esports as a whole entity. One of the strengths of esports over many physical sports, he said, is its accessibility.

The Utah Tech Esports team competes in a tag team tournament, undated photo, St. George, Utah | Photo courtesy of Danny Finnegan, St. George News

Utah Tech Esports had about 200 members last semester, and about 600 people follow the club’s Instagram page and Discord server. Finnegan expects the club to continue to grow. Once the Student Union building is completed on campus, the esports club will relocate again to further expand its available member space.

On Nov. 11, Finnegan said, Utah Tech will host an open play event with Utah sponsor Ken Garff Esports.

The event will aim to give high school and college students the opportunity to play games, connect with other gamers, and find more information about competing in high-level esports.

Copyright St.George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2022, all rights reserved.

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