Michael Stemmler, The Miami Student

These athletes do not wear numbers – they have gamertags. These athletes do not practice in a gym –they spend hours sweating over a mouse and keyboard. These athletes do not play goalie, quarterback, point guard, or shortstop – they play tank, attack damage, or support. These athletes are the latest addition to Miami University’s varsity athletic program, and they are the varsity RedHawk’s E-sports teams.

E-sports or “electronic sports” is simply competitive video gaming at the highest skill level possible. E-Sports does not just refer to one game but covers all areas of computer or console gaming. This phenomenon is taking the “sports world” by storm. With its rapidly growing popularity and wide range of available games, watching E-sports is fast paced and exciting for any spectator.

Earlier this year, Miami made history being the first D1 school to offer a varsity E-Sports program. In the fall, potential athletes went through a weekend of tryouts conducted by the specific team analysts (graduate students or alumni who coach each team) for the chance to compete at the collegiate level for their desired game. The varsity program currently consists of four main games: Overwatch, Counter Strike: Global Offensive, Hearthstone, and League of Legends.

Overwatch, released in May, 2016, is the latest game from Blizzard Entertainment. This fast-paced first person shooter pits two teams of six players against each other. Using 23 unique characters with their own special abilities and weapons, each team picks a composition of two attack characters, two tanks, and two supports to attack or defend the objective.

Through the varsity program, junior team captain Jarod “Jirryus” Haney gets to lead his team in the game that suits him well.

“I really love to play Overwatch because I used to play a lot of League of Legends-style games that have a lot of skills and unique heroes, and I hadn’t found a first person shooter game that I could use my aiming skills,” he said, “Having that ability to impact the game with skills and abilities, as well as just being able to generally aim and help your team to strategize in such a grand way, Overwatch kind of culminates all of those together.”

The Miami Overwatch Team competes in the Tespa Collegiate League and will resume competition in the Spring.

Counter Strike: Global Offensive, also known as “CS:GO”, was released in August, 2012 by Valve Corporation, and remains as one of the most popular e-sport games today. The tactical first person shooter pits two teams of five players against each other in a modern terrorist (“T”) and counter-terrorist (“CT”) setting. For each round, the objective of the terrorists is to plant and explode a bomb in one of two bomb sites, or to eliminate all the counter terrorists. The counter terrorists aim to defend both bomb sites, eliminate all the terrorists, and if the bomb in planted, they must defuse it before time runs out. The game is played until one side wins 16 rounds and the two teams switch sides once 15 rounds are played.

Lead by senior team captain Bradley “eLTee” Hurst, the newly formed team is not as experienced as many of their opponents, but that motivates  them to work even harder.

“As a collective, we are rather inexperienced in competitive play, but we have structured practice so we can strategize,” Hurst said.  “We try to play in our free time at a competitive level just to get more experience.”

Currently competing in the Collegiate Starleague tournament, Miami is 0-2 with both games being close at 13-16.

They will compete for four more weeks in groups, where they plan to qualify for regional playoffs. The Hawks’ next matchup will be at 3:00 p.m. Saturday, February 4 against the University of South Carolina.

Hearthstone, another game by Blizzard Entertainment, was released in March, 2014. Hearthstone is a virtual card game where two players utilize custom decks which are full of different spells and minions to defeat their opponent. There are nine available heroes which give access to special cards and abilities. Each player starts the game with 30 health points and the game ends when one person reaches zero life or concedes. In competition, three players control one deck to discuss what moves they should make and to anticipate the plays of their opponents.

Being no stranger to competitive play, senior captain Adam “Schmigly” Darwiche is a strong advocate for e-sports.

“It’s been so exciting for me. Competitive gaming is something I’ve been doing for a couple of years now with Hearthstone. Traveling to tournaments with friends, it’s been such a fun experience and, for me, it’s exciting to see the growth it has had and that’s what I think the varsity esports program means,” Darwiche said.  “It is that Miami is recognizing the excitement and energy within the e-sports scene and it’s been a phenomenal thing to be a part of.”

The Hearthstone team finished in the top 16 of their region during the Tespa League fall tournament and start regional play for the Tespa spring tournament at 10:00 p.m. on Tuesday, January 31 against the Western University Mustangs. They will be competing on Tuesdays at 10:00 p.m. for the next seven weeks before playoffs begin.

League of Legends, or “League” for short, has the world’s largest player base, which numbers over 10 million. Released in October, 2009 by Riot Games, League has defined modern E-sports; the world championships have sold out the Staples Center twice and attracted attention of news organizations such as ESPN.

In League, the five players on each team players pick from 134 unique characters to fit certain roles on the battlefield. In the game, players and their opponents push down three main lanes which are defended by turrets and computer controlled minions called “creeps” to get to the enemy’s base. As players are pushing their lanes, one player on each team called the “jungler” goes around to aid or disrupt certain lanes to help their team. The first team to destroy the home base of their opponent, called the “nexus”, wins the game.

As a late addition to the RedHawks’ team, Paul “Iceberg Slim” Goldberg, uses his love of the game and long experience to bring an excellent jungler to the Hawks.

“I’ve been playing League since season three [2013], and I’ve always just been in love with strategy games. There is no more in-depth strategy in any other game that I’ve found than there is in League. It fascinates me,” Goldberg said. “I’ve put in days and days on the game and I don’t get tired of it, because I can always learn a new thing or see a new thing that just blows my mind. It’s just a satisfying game to play well.”

Miami League is currently competing in the Collegiate Starleague League of Legends tournament, and their record is currently 2-1. Their next match is at 3:00 p.m. on Saturday, February 4 against the Olivet Nazarene University Tigers.

To support and watch Miami University Varsity E-Sports, go to Twitch.tv/MiamiUniversityOH. Each game will be streamed with helpful commentary from the team’s analysts. Hearthstone, League, and Overwatch will always be streamed at their allotted game times. You can also find information about teams and players on www.redhawkesports.com.

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