After years of unsuccessful attempts, the UCM Gaming Network is getting in the game with the debut of its first esports team.
The Gaming Network hosted a showcase Nov. 3 in Morris 210 to celebrate the launch of the UCM “Overwatch” team. The showcase gave the team a chance to display their skills to students and simulate a competitive environment. Players took turns competing in one vs. one and three vs. three scenarios before students in attendance got a chance to take on some of the players themselves.
The team will start traveling to tournaments and competing against other schools next spring. Until then, they hope events like this will help sharpen their skills and get them as prepared as possible for a true competition.
Brett Wampler, UCM Gaming Network president, said the organization has been trying to get an official team together for quite some time, but a mix of interest within the team and funding have kept them from doing so. When they had the opportunity to organize a team, he said they settled on “Overwatch” due to its popularity within the group.
“Up until now, the extent of us being an esports team was us just hosting casual tournaments,” Wampler said. “We decided on ‘Overwatch’ because it was the game most people on the team wanted to play.”
Wampler said he hopes the debut of the “Overwatch” team will lead to an expansion into other games such as “League of Legends,” “Rocket League,” “Fortnite” and “Super Smash Bros.”
“As long as there is interest on the team, we’re open to anything,” Wampler said.
According to ESPN, collegiate esports has grown to include around 50 scholarship-sponsored programs, 11 of which are in Missouri. Wampler said he hopes the launch of its first team will move the organization in a direction where they could be a scholarship-sponsored program as well.
“As far as us becoming a program that can offer scholarships and receive university funding, I don’t see it happening during my time on the team, but it’s definitely the direction we are hoping to head,” Wampler said.
Jeremy Phillips, UCM Gaming Network manager, said the growth of esports around the country could spark interest in the team as well.
“With esports becoming more mainstream and it being aired on ESPN and TBS and other channels, people are becoming more aware of it,” Phillips said. “People see the money that can be made and the opportunities it can lead to and it’s a motivator.”
According to Forbes, esports is projected to be a $1 billion industry by the end of 2018, with leagues such as the Overwatch League awarding millions of dollars in prize money and attracting more than 10 million viewers from around the world.
The UCM Gaming Network meets 6-9 p.m. every Thursday in Morris 210. Anyone who is interested in joining the team can contact Brett Wampler at firstname.lastname@example.org.