You may have heard of eSports. Sweaty teens pounding away at keyboards playing computer games for next week’s lunch money. Or at least, that’s what eSports used to be in its infancy.

The literal definition of eSports is simply “a multiplayer video game played competitively for spectators.”  The first organized eSports event was in 1972 at Stanford University.  Students competed playing the Star Wars-inspired game “Spacewar.” 

It was eight years later that Atari organized over 10,000 players to participate in their Space Invaders Championship. The eSports scene has only grown since then. Companies in charge of titles like “Overwatch” and “League of Legends” started up franchised leagues this year with players earning salaries rumored to be up to one million dollars.  As competitive video games gain legitimacy and take notes from established sports leagues like the NBA, the next step seems to be supporting the growth of collegiate competition to create leagues and tournaments where players can develop and get scouted.

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Enter the Madison eSports Club. Originally founded to organize and field the best gaming talent this school has to offer for national competition in “Hearthstone,” “Heroes of the Storm” and other games, the club is also now focusing on making eSports accessible to anyone interested.

Benjamin Starfeldt, the club’s social chair, spoke with us about where he sees eSports going in the future and his hopes for Madison’s eSports club.  

While he notices an increasing number of people saying “wait a second, this is for real,” when looking at eSports leagues and prize pools, Starfeldt still “would like to see a future where eSports are not questioned as far as legitimacy and I think we’re getting closer to that.”

In the past Starfeldt competed with club organized teams in “Heroes of the Dorm,” a tournament Blizzard organized for their game Heroes of the Storm where the winning team gets their tuition paid in full, placing in the top 32 teams, as well as placing in the top 64 for Hearthstone’s largest collegiate tournament. Other successful teams from the club include the League of Legends team which participates in the uLoL series, a league for college teams from across the country.  

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uLoL games between Big Ten teams can be seen on BTN and the players receive scholarships from the network as well. UW’s uLoL team is currently third in their division and only one game behind the first and second teams.  As a competitive gamer, Starfeldt was happy to tell us about the club’s League of Legends, “CS:GO,” “DOTA,” “Rocket League” and other teams but was maybe even more excited to share with us the club’s goals for growing their social side.  

While some complicated games like League of Legends may seem intimidating to newcomers, Starfeldt assured us there is space in the club for people who want to play more casual games like Mario Kart and just unwind.  

Starfeldt sees the club as one of the only places gamers can go on campus to find community and said “We, as a club, want to provide a space for gamers on campus to find other people to play their games and learn new games with.”

The club regularly organizes events for gamers on campus to meet and participate in some friendly competition.  Their next event is March 18 and features a March Madness themed Fortnite tournament.