By Jeffry Willadsen, WSU Global Campus Senior Writer

Washington State University Esports Club is entering the world of national collegiate competition for the first time by participating in the Electronic Gaming Federation (EGF) inaugural Power Five Esports Invitational Tournament in New York City, Jan. 18-19, 2020.

Along with enthusiastic participation of club members, the club’s ascension to national-level competition has been made possible by a partnership between WSU Student Affairs and Global Campus. 

“We’re very happy to work alongside Student Affairs to promote this club and give them the support they need to succeed,” said Global Campus Chancellor Dave Cillay.  “The Power Five tournament is a very exciting opportunity for the club, and they’ve worked hard to get to this level.”

Rocket League is a sports‑action hybrid video game where players pilot cars on a virtual soccer pitch.

During the tournament, three members of WSU’s Esports Club will compete head to head against teams from Florida State University, University of Illinois, Louisiana State University, and Ole Miss. Tournament participants will compete by playing the Rocket League gaming title.

The tournament is a precursor to EGF’s 2020 esports competitive season, which kicks off in Feb. and culminates in a championship tournament in April.

“I originally got involved because I wanted to be a part of a community of people that love playing games just like me. Then, when I found out we could compete competitively, I just had to be a part of that,” said James Madamba, a management information systems major and one of the three club members competing in the tournament.  “I really enjoy improving as a team and seeing all of our competitive teams succeed.”

From left to right, James Madamba, Bobby Belter, and Glen Bennett will be representing WSU in the Power Five Invitational.

Though the Esports Club at WSU has existed since 2015, it was recognized by WSU University Recreation as an official sports club in fall 2019. The Power Five invitational will be club’s the first national-level gaming event.

 “I think that the university’s efforts to get students involved is so important because it helps the esports community grow,” said Madamba. “It gives the players a chance to represent their school doing what they love the most.”

WSU Esports Coordinator and Coach James Hoplin, who works as a classroom support technician for Global Campus, will also be travelling to New York for the tournament.  

“From the Global Campus perspective, it’s one of our main goals to open up the opportunity to participate in esports to every student across the WSU system, regardless of their campus,” said Hoplin. “Student Affairs and the club members themselves have been great partners in helping us achieve that goal.”

Interested students from all WSU campuses, including its online Global Campus, are encouraged to join a club and get the opportunity to compete in future tournaments. Currently, the WSU Pullman Esports Club has a reach of roughly 400 students, with five organized Rocket League teams consisting of three members.

Other WSU campuses, including WSU Tri-Cities and WSU Vancouver, are exploring the possibility of providing esports opportunities to their students as well.

In the future, Global Campus is looking to foster more esports opportunities for students, including the creation of an official varsity team and, eventually, esports scholarships.

“We are happy to be working with Global Campus in offering esports so that we can involve a greater percentage of our campus community,” said Joanne Greene, WSU’s director of university recreation programming. “Participation in student clubs helps students to feel more at home at WSU and to get more from their college experience.”

Esports is one of the fastest growing activities in the world, with industry analysts estimating that over 2 billion people worldwide currently play or watch esports across all gaming titles. By 2022, the growth of esports from a competition and viewer standpoint is expected to exceed 300 million participants. According to the EGF, the number of collegiate competitive esports programs has risen to more than 150.

“The Cougs in our Esports Club are very grateful for WSU’s support and for the exciting opportunities we see coming in the future,” said Hoplin. “Most of all, they get to do what they are passionate about while representing the crimson and gray, and what can be better than that.”