Some students have formed a group to expand their passion for gaming into what they hope will become a varsity sport at the University of Iowa.
Student organizations involving e-sports, multiplayer video games played at a competitive level, have been prominent at the UI for a few years. Now, the student organizations Esports at Iowa and UI League of Legends Club will soon team up to form a larger organization inclusive of all competitive gaming.
Chase Sommer, the president of the Esports at Iowa, said the group’s overall goal is to establish e-sports as a varsity sport — similar to the D-1 athletics at the UI — with a large arena, practice facilities, and state of the art technology for the members to compete with colleges all over.
“We want a large arena where people would fill it up like they would a football game,” Sommer said. “We have developed it as our five-year goal and are making the moves to establish it at Iowa.”
The group has begun to meet with key decision-makers, Sommer said, including various UI faculty members who want to make gaming prominent at the university and develop strategies to increase the audience for gaming here.
“It really is about the competition at the college level,” said Ryan Skrzypek, a co-captain in the game Overwatch for Esports at Iowa. “We can do that from the comfort of our own apartment or homes. It’s about increasing everyone’s knowledge about us and bringing it to a more local level.”
The group of gamers has played many college e-sport teams, including University of Cincinnati and Boise State. Both groups have traveled to various gaming facilities to play at a competitive level.
Skrzypek’s co-captain, Dylan Montigney, a UI Esports community manager, said the group tends to travel as much as possible to compete with other gamers.
“Back in September, we traveled to Davenport to a gaming facility called Paradigm,” Montigney said. “We played a showcase against Iowa State before the football game.”
Krishna Gandikota, the president of the UI League of Legends Club, said many of its players already participate on a college level. Unfortunately, Gandikota said, the Big Ten Network conference players do not receive enough funding to be consistent enough with their gaming.
“We compete with varsity programs that give their players full scholarships, new equipment, whereas our players who are expected to play at that level don’t have that,” Gandikota said. “Rebranding allows us to talk to faculty members and say, ‘Here are our assets, here are the games we perform really well in,’ and in turn, we can give the university name recognition.”
Together, the various groups of gamers have developed the Strategic Esports Initiative Committee, which comprises 12 faculty members and hopes to continue the momentum for e-sports at the UI. The engagement from famous figures’ investments in e-sports, such as Michael Jordan or Drake, has caught the committee’s eye.
The group said Division-2 and Division-3 schools have funded e-sports more than Division-1 schools, which group members believe to be the key to success for these schools.
Currently, Iowa’s e-sport scene focuses primarily on League of Legends, Overwatch, and fighting games.
“This sport is growing immensely and getting recognition from stations like ESPN,” said Nathan Charles, the vice president of Esports at Iowa. “People will accept it if you get it out to them.”
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