eSports growing in popularity at GSU

William Price

The night of May 11, 2012, Robbie Switts stayed up late and even stood up a date to win an all-expense-paid trip to a national video game tournament.

The tournament was organized by the game developer, Blizzard Entertainment, and is hosted in Anaheim, California with a prize pool of $30,000. Switts took the win in the qualifier and was off to California.

“I didn’t think I’d do as well as I did in the qualifier, so I planned to have a date with a girl I just met. Turns out the qualifier lasted until late that night so I completely missed it. Needless to say, she wasn’t too happy,” Switts, semi-professional Starcraft II player, senior marketing and logistics major at Georgia Southern University and the founder of the eSports Association, said

Starcraft II is a real-time strategy game developed by Blizzard Entertainment.

This past week Switts played in the qualifier for the 2013 edition of the same tournament, the World Championship Series. He placed in the top 64 out of more than 2,000 participants, losing to a professional player from Scotland and barely missing out on qualification.

This tournament and many others like it are part of a new wave of competition called “eSports” or professional gaming, where a player shows his or her skills with a keyboard or controller instead of a bat or ball.

Formerly known as just the Starcraft II Club, the newly formed eSports Association at Southern was founded by Switts with the goal of expanding to more eSport videogame titles like League of Legends, Counter Strike: Global Offensive and DotA2.

Out of more than one million active players in North America, Switts is ranked within the top 200 players for Starcraft II.

“To be that highly ranked in a game that requires so much skill and with so many players is impressive,” Michael Zborowski, officer of the newly formed eSports Accociation at GSU and junior electrical engineering major, said.

Athletes were once thought of being big, muscular guys, but now there are athletes competing in a new field where they compete virtually with a mouse and keyboard, Zborowski said.

Switts said, “Anybody can pick up a copy of the game and play with the same tools that the pros do. Everyone is on the same playing field. That’s what I love most about competitive gaming.”