CLOSE

In the spring of 2018, Lebanon Valley College launched one of the first varsity Esports teams in Pennsylvania. Learn about this new gaming phenomenon.
Cameron Clark, York Daily Record

These players get coaches, training regimens, tournament dates, and top-tier equipment.

Coulson Miller has always been a gamer.

He enjoys the rush of overcoming the odds and fighting for victory match after match, facing opponents that might not even be in the same hemisphere.

And he’s good at it.

Miller fondly recalls spending hours playing Multiplayer Online Battle Arena, or MOBA, games with his friends throughout high school at Northeastern in York County, and continued into Lebanon Valley College, where he studies Business Administration and Computer Science. 

Miller was happy, but he never expected what would happen next.

In the spring of 2018, his junior year, the young but experienced gamer was recruited to join LVC’s new varsity Esports team –one of the first in Pennsylvania.

In an instant, Miller went from playing alone in his dorm room to playing with teammates in an Esports facility. He had coaches, training regimens, tournament dates, and top-tier equipment.

“I never thought I would be playing seriously like this,” Miller said. “I always just played on my own and I thought that was fun, but I never saw myself doing this.” 

LVC recruited more than 20 other athletes to join the team.

Esports is a billion-dollar industry

The popularity of Esports — or competitive gaming — is on the rise. Professional tournaments are being filmed and streamed through Twitch, YouTube and other websites. The worldwide market itself is projected to reach $2.17 billion in 2023 according to gamesindustry.biz.

More: Is Fortnite ripping kids off? FTC to investigate micropayments, loot boxes in video             games

Many universities around the United States, such as the University of California, Berkeley and Boise State University, already formed varsity Esports programs after realizing how big the sport had become. And LVC wanted in on it.

According to David Shapiro, director of LVC’s Esports program, top administrators including the athletic director decided that a varsity team would bring a lot to the school and began raising money.

A little under $50,000 from donors went toward setup and the recruitment of players and coaches. They secured sponsorships from Candoris and Alienware, technology companies that could ensure players would have access to the same equipment as pro gamers.

LVC began scrimmaging other schools and the team hasn’t looked back since.

But not everyone understood LVC’s decision. 

“My parents thought it was odd at first,” Miller said. “They were like, ‘What? How is that a sport?’ I had to explain to them how it’s more like a team experience. You just have to play together and grow together.”

Those unfamiliar with the sport believe that competitive gaming is synonymous with casual gaming, a common misconception, but according to David Shapiro, Esports is so much more.

“It takes a lot of time and effort to practice, it’s a lot of strategy, it’s lot of video review, it’s a lot of communication, it’s a lot of team building. It sounds just like soccer and football and any other sport we would play,” Shapiro said. “It’s just not the physicality. We’re not hitting each other obviously, but the heart rate is still there, the mental awareness is still there and the prep time is still there.”

As months went by, the team repeatedly saw success. Their Hearthstone squad is ranked top 10 in the nation and their Rocket League team competed in a recent championship series. The college’s consistent winning has gained them notoriety in the Esports world and at LVC.

Now, approaching its one-year anniversary, the program has grown substantially. It features 41 men and women, including students who play other varsity sports at the college.

The team competes in six or seven games a year and plans to add up to two more.

The season itself is year-round, meaning they have the opportunity to challenge schools across the nation in tournaments and matches whenever possible.

LVC has also worked to help other schools in Pennsylvania launch programs. Since they were one of the first to have a varsity Esports team, they’ve given tours to around 20 colleges and 15 high schools to show and explain how to build a successful one.

Of the colleges that visited, about five have programs launching. This will allow LVC to finally play other schools in their region.

On the student level, LVC is beginning to see a pipeline forming, according to Shapiro.

High schoolers are looking at the college specifically for Esports and high ranking gamers around the world are seriously considering the Division 3 school, which is rare.

“It’s fascinating to watch the process of students coming into LVC with the hopes of getting on the starting roster of an Esports team, which is very unique and different,” Shapiro said.

Lebanon Valley College offers Esports scholarships

To further entice would-be athletes, LVC offers scholarships of up to $10,000.

Shapiro sees the Esports program continuing to expand. He expects to play more schools, big and small, in the United States and around the world. And he looks forward to turning out pro-Esports gamers one day.

As for Miller, now a senior quickly approaching his final semester, he’s something of a veteran. He’s been there since the beginning, and often shares his expertise with newer members.

“At first people think that they might know what’s right, but you have to accept that this is a new setting, there’s going to be new rules, this is going to be a new experience,” Miller said. “Everyone has to be in the same mindset, and believe that each person adds value to the team.”

He proudly wears his jersey around campus, looking forward to the next practice, scrimmage or tournament. He savors every second with team, but still looks to the future.

Upon graduating, Miller plans to become an information analyst, but wouldn’t be against becoming a pro-gamer

“Anything with computers would be nice,” Miller said.

Autoplay

Show Thumbnails

Show Captions

 

Read or Share this story: https://www.ydr.com/story/news/2018/12/04/lebanon-valley-college-invests-online-gaming-varsity-sport-egames-esports-candoris-alienware/1989841002/