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Boise State raises esports profile at Mountain West Conference

Boise State eSports

BY: ANNA WEBB

Boise State’s Varsity eSports team recently traveled to Las Vegas, Nevada, to compete in a three-day series of matches against the University of Nevada, Las Vegas at the Mountain West Conference Basketball Championship Tournament.

The conference organized this inaugural event in support of the growing interest in competitive esports — video gaming — in the collegiate realm, said Brett Shelton. Shelton is a professor and department head in the Department of Educational Technology and general manager of the eSports team. Boise State launched its esports program in 2017.

Boise State’s team, led by Shelton as well as head coach Chris Haskell, a clinical assistant professor in the Department of Educational Technology, competed in three games: Overwatch, League of Legends and Rocket League. While the primary objective of the matches was to showcase eSports at the Mountain West, Boise State took home the championship title in the Showdown Match for Rocket League, a game that pairs soccer and rocket-powered cars.

The events were open to spectators. The matches attracted scores of fans, including a group of local students who on one day of competition filled the venue to capacity. Close to 4,000 additional spectators tuned in to watch via Twitch, the live streaming video platform.

eSports team

Boise State President Bob Kustra stopped by the competition and shared his thoughts about eSports at the university during an ESP Gaming spot.

The Nevada matches, said Kustra, were a “great recruiting tool, not just in Nevada and the American West, but how about from the Far East?” Boise State’s esports program opens “an opportunity to diversify our enrollment in ways we never could have done otherwise,” said Kustra.

Boise State, he added, is getting in early on the eSports trend. “We think it’s important to do it right,” said Kustra.

Watch the full interview online.

Fans of esports, or those who want to learn more about them, will have a chance to see some local competition up-close. Boise State will host the inaugural High School eSports Tournament in the Jordan Ballroom on April 21. High School students from across Idaho will compete in League of Legends, Overwatch, Rocket League and Super Smash Bros 4.

Organizers are also inviting faculty and staff to help out as volunteers. Sign up online.

The popularity of esports is a growing trend. According to a story, “Are esports the next major league sport?” in The Conversation, a site that publishes academic research, 12 million more people tuned in to watch the 2016 League of Legends World Finals, an esports competition, than watched the National Basketball Association finals that year.

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