By Garrett Martin
Texas State Esports, a recreational sports club, has been making strides in their effort to become an established sports program at Texas State University.
Texas State Esports began in late spring 2018. With the help of his four teammates from a club formerly known as Summoners of Texas State, president Micah Cavender established the organization on campus.
“The whole club’s mission is: we want to be in esports. Whether in spectator or in competitive play,” Cavender said. “So we can bring those who like watching but don’t want to compete, to those who play casually, to those that play competitively. That’s the whole purpose, to unite all three of those together.”
Over the past three semesters, the club has grown to 500 followers on their Discord server, an online chat room the club uses to organize and plan. With the organization thriving, Cavender has generated the interest from the university.
Esports organization faculty advisor and School of Journalism and Mass Communication (SJMC) professor Dale Blasingame is consistently surprised by the emergence of competitive Esports.
“The growth numbers that Micah mentions every time we talk…I wish I could get students that interested in everything else we do,” Blasingame said. “Obviously they’re hitting a chord with what they’re doing with this organization.”
Universities in the United States are hardly scratching the surface of the industry of competitive gaming, just like the professional scene. In Asian countries like South Korea, China and Vietnam and even in Western European countries, the professional atmosphere around competitive gaming is stout, established and rubs off on the youth.
America is now catching up to where the competitive scene is internationally, while the interest among children and teenagers is growing rapidly.
“Esports in the U.S. is growing, that’s fair to say,” Cavender said. “I think that in the future, high schools are going to be on board with it. Universities are already on board with it. Universities recognize there’s monetary value to it, and there’s ways to attract more students to the universities that way.”
Across the nation, universities are getting on board with it or have already established programs for competitive esports like University of Texas at Dallas and University of California Irvine.
The Vice President of Information Technology Ken Pierce said he believes the club becoming a competitive program should be the next step.
“At some point I’d like for us to become a member of NACE (National Association of College Esports),” Pierce said. “To be a member you have to be actively recruiting students to the university for esports and have a full-time person in charge of it. So, we’re not there yet, but in the future we hope to get there.”
Even though Texas State Esports is not ready to reach program status right now, the goal isn’t lofty. Other universities are starting programs with no precursor club like Texas State has, and Cavender is confident that the interest is there and the organizational structure is ready.
“I think we’ve done a good job organizing it,” Cavender said. “We promoted many people up to coordinator positions where they run the game titles in the organization. Some of them are freshmen, a lot of them are juniors that are coordinating it.”
Partnering with Pierce and his team at the Information Technology Division, Texas State Esports is now receiving a space to house them. The room in the LBJ Student Center, known as Boko’s Lounge, will be converted into a competitive esports room that allows the team to compete, practice and house viewers for events and competitions. Ken Pierce says the pieces are already falling into place.
“The folks in LBJ are already ordering furniture and already getting facilities to do some painting in the room,” Pierce said. “I’m in the process of ordering equipment, getting the networking and the infrastructure behind it set up so that we have a really good competition facility for Esports.”
Once the infrastructure for a program is in place, the university may look toward hiring a director to oversee the operations of the club until they start allocating funds for recruiting, scholarships and more.
Unfortunately, the university will be losing the driving force that allowed Texas State Esports to boom in the first place: Cavender. Cavender will be graduating from the SJMC in May and resign his office of Texas State Esports president to someone new. Dale Blasingame said he’s going to shift away from the faculty advisor position when Micah leaves, but also mentioned the kind of challenge the club will face replacing him.
“It’d be a real shame to get this built up so quickly and then have it all fall apart just because one student left,” Blasingame said. “That’s the downside of having a leader like Micah that get a lot of stuff done, but then in a college setting, they leave. So you have to find someone else just as dedicated and just as passionate to carry on and continue.”
Things will continue to change for Texas State Esports and the university over the coming months. It will be interesting to see how the club will continue to grow on campus at Texas State.
Feature image by Texas State Esports.