Allegheny College Esports Team Enters the Online Arena of Competition
Senior Jacob Walters and junior Tito Mazzucchi concentrate on the action unfolding in front of them on their computer monitors. Their fingers fly across the keyboards as they call out instructions to each other. Their screens are a blaze of colorful, animated action as they team up for a game of “Overwatch” in an esports arena in Allegheny College’s Murray Hall.
Walters and Mazzucchi are among a group of about 20 video gaming enthusiasts who make up the new esports club team at Allegheny. The team has competed in scrimmages and tournaments against intercollegiate competition, and they hope to join a competitive college league for “Overwatch” and other titles in the fall of 2021.
“We’ve had good support from the Allegheny administration,” says Mazzucchi, a philosophy major and art, science and innovation minor, “and I know I’m excited about the future of esports here.”
Esports is a booming competitive initiative among colleges. Allegheny’s esports program started three years ago when Walters distributed posters to gauge student interest. He says that many students were passionate about starting the program — and willing to put in the work to do so.
“It feels great to start seeing a product of all that work and have something to be proud of. When we started this conversation about esports at Allegheny my freshman year, I had no clue it would turn into the network of dependable and hardworking people that it is today, and we only plan to grow from here, even after I leave,” says Walters, who is from Hamburg, New York.
Walters, an environmental science and sustainability major and a geology minor, also found support for starting the program from the College’s administration. In 2018-19, the College converted a computer lab in Murray Hall into an esports arena with state-of-the-art computers and supporting equipment installed. The team has been practicing twice a week and has a “starting five” ready to compete.
“It takes a lot of strategy, creativity, communication, adaptability and teamwork” to be successful in the esports arena, says Walters. Players must be nimble as well, since split seconds can spell the difference between victory and defeat in esports, he says.
The team has been sanctioned by Allegheny Student Government and the Department of Athletics and Recreation, so it is considered a club sport at the College.
“Esports is one of the fastest growing sports right now, and we are thrilled to officially have it as a club sport on this campus now,” says Jared Luteran, director of recreation and facilities. “Esports will not only be a great benefit to our current student population, but we anticipate that it will be a popular attraction for prospective students from around the world.”
Ian Thomas, assistant professor of ceramics and sculpture in the Art Department, is a competitive gaming enthusiast and has volunteered to coach and be the team’s faculty advisor. “When I caught wind of the team, I figured they needed an advocate on campus and jumped at the opportunity,” he says. “There’s massive growth in the collegiate esports arena now. I think we’re getting in at the right moment.”
Although there is limited physical activity, the esports team functions like other sports, Thomas says. “It’s highly competitive, it’s skill-based and there is coordinated team play. After a match, the team uses metrics to gauge their performances just like you’d watch after-game film in football to assess strengths and weaknesses,” he says.
The esports team recently competed in an intercollegiate tournament and reached the final round of 64 out of 500 teams, Thomas says.
The goal for the coming year is to expand the number of titles (games) that the team competes in, to compete in more tournaments, and to focus on growth and organization of the team, Thomas says. Those interested in finding out more information or joining the esports team can email Thomas at firstname.lastname@example.org