A lecture hall in the Alexander D. Creek Building on the College of Eastern Idaho campus is one of the last places you’d expect to see an epic fight.
But once a month competitors gather there to guide fictional video game characters such as Captain Falcon and Falco Lombardi — apropos given the campus’ Falcon mascot — to fight it out in the CEI esports club’s “Super Smash Bros. Ultimate” tournament.
Kazuya Mishima, a character from Nintendo’s TEKKEN fighting game series, joined the “Super Smash Bros. Ultimate” game in June. This past weeke…
About 30 competitors attended Saturday’s tournament, which was open for CEI students and interested community members. The tournaments are held on the last Saturday of the month.
Esports, or competitive video gaming, is a growing trend worldwide and at the college. CEI started its esports club in 2019 and it has received support from students and college leadership with the club now creating a varsity team to compete against other college teams in various games including “Apex Legends,” “Call of Duty” and “Rocket League.”
“I’m excited to be one of the schools in Idaho to move forward with esports,” said club president Tucker Cooper. “There’s not a lot of opportunities for people here locally to pursue competitive gaming, so if we can provide that, then that’s awesome.”
Esports has grown to offer the world’s best competitors cash prizes that are comparable to salaries of some of the major U.S. athletes. In 2019, the competitive esports “Dota 2” team OG took home $15.6 million in the game’s annual world championship. The total prize pool was $34.2 million, which is the largest that has been offered for an esports tournament.
The college is one the few in Idaho to offer a robust competitive gaming program for students, with Boise State University also having a varsity esports team.
Cooper said this year the club will be competing in the Apex Legends Global Series and the 2021 NACE Starleague for “Call of Duty” and “Rocket League.”
Dean of Student Affairs Mike Walker said the student senate voted to upgrade the club’s lounge, allocating funding from student fees for the club to acquire more gaming consoles and computers, uniforms for the varsity team, couches and decorative items for the lounge. The club also received a grant from the college and its foundation to assist funding and it is seeking corporate sponsors.
The club started with offering games on the Nintendo Switch. Walker said the college anticipates the club to grow more in 2022 and 2023, as it has now added PC gaming for students and will soon acquire Xbox and PlayStation consoles.
“We support casual and competitive gaming and find that it sparks interest in several programs, including I.T., cybersecurity, business management, general studies and other programs,” Walker said in a text to the Post Register.
Cooper said it meant a lot to him to see the support coming from his student peers.
“Some days I wonder does anyone care, but I know that they do because there is that support there,” Cooper said. “They’re willing to allow us to have that money so we can do this the right way. Without them and their support, none of this would be possible.”
The varsity team will be practicing at the club’s lounge throughout the year. Interested students can come by Tuesday through Friday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. to check out the club and play on any of the available devices. Cooper said the club also has a Discord server and is inviting local high school students and CEI students to join.
“But since its launch in 2015, it has branched out to include communities from all over the internet …”
Its popularity has soared during the pandemic with more people spending more time online and as of March it had more than 140 million active monthly users.
“There are a lot of negative connotations that come with gaming,” Cooper said. “I believe there are positives that can come out of gaming. Teamwork, communication and there are even leadership opportunities within gaming.”