Competitive gamers making splash at NMU

+SMASH+%E2%80%98CATS+SMASH%C2%AD%E2%80%94The+NMU+Esports+Club+primarily+plays+Super+Smash+Bros.%2C+and+have+had+success+in+competition+just+recently+with+three+players+finishing+in+the+top+five+of+a+tournament+in+Wausau%2C+Wisconsin+on+Saturday%2C+Feb.+15+and+Sunday%2C+Feb.+16.+Upcoming+for+the+Wildcats+is+The+Blizzard+III-Revival+home+event+on+Saturday%2C+March+21.+Photo+courtesy+of+NMU+Esports+Club.

SMASH ‘CATS SMASH­—The NMU Esports Club primarily plays Super Smash Bros., and have had success in competition just recently with three players finishing in the top five of a tournament in Wausau, Wisconsin on Saturday, Feb. 15 and Sunday, Feb. 16. Upcoming for the Wildcats is The Blizzard III-Revival home event on Saturday, March 21. Photo courtesy of NMU Esports Club.

Josh La Gorio

TV monitors sit atop every table. Cheerful voices converse over various things. The resounding and countless clicks of controllers. From 7-9 p.m. on Monday and Saturday nights in 132 McClintock, practice begins and the sounds and sights it entails fill the once empty classroom. 

They practice to improve. Practice to win. Practice to rise above being a simple club for people who enjoy video games.

They’re Northern Esports Gaming: a new student organization that is now under the Physical Education Instructional Facility (PEIF) umbrella as a club sport. While many similar clubs before have taken root in the past, this is the first one dedicated to being a team that goes to competitions. This will be taken a step further, as the NMU Board of Trustees voted to establish a varsity Esports team and new facility beginning in the 2020-21 season.

It all began in 2019 as the idea for a club was redeveloped at a conference for the PEIF to discuss future plans and to develop ways to be innovative and for more students to be involved. Club Advisor and PEIF Intramural Director Christopher Smith said that Esports was a big topic.

“Colleges are starting to create Esports teams, so we want to go that route too,” Smith said. “I’ve always wanted an Esports team. I’m a gamer myself, and I enjoy seeing other people play games. It’s just a great tool to get people out of their dorms to play with other people.”

The idea came to fruition when sophomore computer science major Jordy Guillen attended one of the Esports interest meetings that were held after that conference by PEIF faculty. Becoming the student representative until recently for Northern Esports Gaming, his job was to handle business related emails, reach out to teams and scholarships, plan events and keep info about the present and future of the team. Currently, sophomore computer science major Mark Kirkendall has been passed the torch as student representative now.

The team currently runs four games: Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, Super Smash Bros. Melee, League of Legends and BlazBlue Cross Tag Battle. Both the Smash Bros and League of Legends side of the club have been to at least one tournament, with the most recent tournament being held at Northcentral Technical College in Wausau, Wisconsin on Saturday, Feb. 15, and Sunday, Feb. 16. The Smash Bros tournament saw three NMU members of the six person team finish in the top five.

The first League of Legends tournament was hosted by the recreational Esports league, GGLeagues, and they reached out to the team directly. The event was held at Western Michigan University on Saturday, Nov. 16. Guillen said that, while the League of Legends team was beat pretty badly in the semi-finals, it was a good learning experience for those who had never been to a tournament before.

“Not everyone has been on stage before with tons of spectators and others teams gathering,” Guillen said. “Playing online is way different than playing in person. You can’t back out then.”

However, when hard core practicing isn’t going on, the group likes to sit back, host their own in-club smaller scale tournaments, or play a bit more casually. At any of these, for an attendance price of $5, people can visit, ask questions, and play with the other members of the team. Full time members pay an entrance fee of $25.

Senior business management major Tyger Howat is just one of the several members of the club. Simply word of mouth and the fact that he likes to play smash is what brought him to the team.

“It’s a good group of guys, and we have some good laughs here,” Howat said. “Despite the competition, it’s nice to have some comradery twice a week.”

Whether it’s serious business or just simple fun, Northern ESports Gaming is all about the more competition focused games out there, and are thinking of adding some others to the repertoire, like other arena type games such as Rocket League, Apex Legends and Overwatch.

NMU has another tournament coming up, as it is hosting The Blizzard III- Revival in the PEIF at 11 a.m. on Saturday, March 21 The event is a collaborative effort between NMU, Michigan Tech University and Lake Superior State University, and it will feature most of the games played by the ‘Cats.