For the newest sport at McPherson College you need to have quick reactions and make smart decisions, but not on a field or court. This sport is played on a computer keyboard.
McPherson College is introducing eSports to its co-curricular activities in fall 2018 and is currently recruiting students for the team. Richard Martin, co-owner of VillageGeek in McPherson, is the team coach. The college will field two teams that will compete in some of the largest games in eSports and anticipates 15 matches per year. A club team is being formed this spring to assist with tryouts and begin practicing for competition.
Joshua Hoerner, a freshman from Lindsborg, Kan., who has been playing competitive video games since elementary school will compete on the new team. Hoerner said eSports was an important factor when looking for a college and is excited about being part of the new program at McPherson College.
“Like any team, one of the main benefits from joining is meeting new people and bonding together,” Hoerner said. “I’m also looking forward to watching the program grow. We have so much potential to be an amazing eSports program.”
The college team is a member of the National Association of Collegiate eSports (NACE), the equivalent of a sports conference like NAIA. The NACE develops the structure and tools needed to advance collegiate eSports at a varsity level. The association is laying the groundwork in areas such as eligibility, competition and scholarship. It is the only association for varsity eSports programs at the college level in the United States.
The McPherson College team will compete in the two largest games in eSports – Overwatch and League of Legends. Competition will be very similar to other sports with scheduled matches, seasons, and league standings. There is no travel required for this sport; all matches and practices will be held at the VillageGeek in a space that includes computers and a spectator area with four big screens for viewing.
“Last year at the Intel finals in Poland nearly 200,000 people attended to watch and 46 million people watched online,” Coach Martin said. “We hope our venue downtown will draw in people to watch the McPherson College team compete. Maybe not as many as the Intel finals, but hopefully the team will get a good fan following.”
Just like other sports, players will try-out for positions on the team and have the opportunity to receive scholarships. Martin anticipates recruiting 10 players for the first year. The only other college in the surrounding area to offer eSports is Kansas