November 3 was a big day for the UConn Gaming Club (UCGC), as students interested in esports gathered to watch the Overwatch World Cup. The “viewing party” is one of many events the club holds throughout the semester, in addition to regular weekly meetings.
Founded in the fall of 2012, the UConn Gaming Club boasts one of the largest populations of students for a student-run organization — estimated at more than 500. Most commonly, esports takes the form of organized, multiplayer video game competitions.
Each week, students come to meetings with their laptops and desktops, or play on club-sponsored PCs. Within the club, individual students on the executive board run what are called “divisions,” where players of the more popular games can gather for tournaments, activities, and meetings.
I’ve seen many new friendships formed through [the Overwatch] community. — Ryan Marsh
Ryan Marsh, a junior majoring in engineering, leads the Overwatch division – a massively popular first-person shooter game developed by Blizzard Entertainment. Composed of teams of six players, each team selects specific characters to compete on various objectives on maps from around the world.
The game is played at a professional level year-round, with teams from every continent competing against one another. This past weekend, “all-star” teams were formed from players’ home countries to compete in the Overwatch World Cup.
At UConn, the Overwatch community, with 175 members, is one of the biggest gaming groups within the UConn Gaming Club. Events take place at weekly UCGC meetings, with some bigger events like the viewing party, five UConn teams compete every week in collegiate matches against other schools around the country.
“I’ve seen many new friendships formed through this community,” says Marsh, “and it’s always exciting to discuss the latest Overwatch news with our community.”
Marsh notes that the Overwatch World Cup and its franchised counterpart, Overwatch League, have taken steps over the years to make competitive Overwatch an enjoyable esport, even to those who may not know a lot about the game. Each match is viewed using a mix of player and overhead map perspectives to see everything that’s happening. And teams are color-coded, so viewers can easily distinguish between the teams in the heat of the action.
Many people enjoy supporting their home team, such as USA in the Overwatch World Cup, or New York Excelsior in the Overwatch League. Each team fosters and engages its own community through local pop-up shops, tournaments, meet-and-greets, and, of course, team rivalries – such as that between the Texas teams Dallas Fuel and Houston Outlaws.
“Here at UConn, fans of all teams get together and cheer their favorite team or players on during matches,” Marsh says. “It really feels like a lively and passionate community.”