When the COVID-19 pandemic forced the shutdown of schools, businesses and sports leagues across the country, video games and eSports seemed primed to take a step forward into the spotlight. Not only did they provide a chance for family and friends to play together virtually, they helped satisfy so many Americans’ desire for competition — a desire usually filled by collegiate and professional sports leagues. ESPN even went so far as to air live-streams of current NBA players competing head-to-head on NBA 2K 20.
The world of competitive gaming was around long before this pandemic, though, with a diverse catalog of games for participants to choose from. Utah Valley University’s eSports team has been steadily gaining in popularity, offering both intramural and recreational teams for students. The team recently transitioned from a club team to a recreational team, which allows them to directly represent the university and compete in larger tournaments.
“For us, it was game changing, because we got to get into so many new places with it,” former club president, Ethan Overbaugh said of the change. “We actually represent an organization as opposed to being just a group of kids participating in a tournament. It gives a more professional appearance to the club, which is really important.”
They have not been immune to the pandemic and have been forced to scale back some of their activities this year.
“Unfortunately, we have had to disband a few teams because of COVID-19,” said Caleb Probst, the team’s current president. “A lot of the tournaments aren’t happening, and there aren’t a lot of students on campus, so that makes it really difficult.”
While many games can be played easily online, some games can’t be duplicated without participants playing in-person.
“A lot of fighting games are having a huge issue adapting to this situation that we’re going through,” said Overbaugh. “Most of the others, like Overwatch or Starcraft II are online. With fighting games there is a huge issue with latency online — sometimes it takes a long time for the input you select on your controller to actually go through on your opponent’s end, and vice versa. Fighting games are meant to be really precise, you have to do it in-person, on the same computer, usually.”
“The online platform that Nintendo provides is not the best,” Probst added, making it difficult to play Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, one of the team’s popular games.
Despite these difficulties, UVU eSports is going out of their way to make sure that competitive and casual players alike have a place to compete and connect with other gamers. They are always trying to add to their list of teams, which includes Rocket League, Starcraft II, Overwatch, League of Legends, Fortnite, and many more. In addition to their competitive teams, UVU eSports offers events and intramural teams for students.
More information can be found by visiting the UVU eSports page on Facebook, or going to their Discord channel.
(Photo courtesy of UVU eSports)
Bridger Beal-Cvetko is a junior at Utah Valley University where he is studying journalism. He has been with The Review since 2019, where he has covered the UVU men’s basketball team and the softball team before becoming the Sports/Valley Life Editor. Bridger also covers the BYU football and basketball teams as a writing and producing intern for ESPN 960 Sports on KOVO 960 and espn960sports.com. Aside from sports, Bridger is an ardent cinephile, and writes reviews and commentary on films for his personal website.