A group of inaugural MU eSports athletes train before competition.
Photo by Ashlynn-Kay Brooks

Manchester eSports to Host HS Tournament

Carly Greaves

High school gamers from all over the Midwest region will be coming to Manchester University on Feb. 29 to compete in the Spartan Smash Invitational, a video game tournament hosted by the Manchester eSports team.

The competition will take place in Flory Auditorium within the Science Center and will last from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. While there are currently only 11 players registered, the eSports teams of several high schools, such as Ben Davis, Connersville, Kokomo and Southport, have expressed interest in signing up their members. The players will compete individually in a double-elimination tournament, with the winners being decided by best of three until the finals, where the victors are determined by best of five. The top four high school players will not only receive a $3,000 eSports scholarship to Manchester but will also get the chance to challenge the top four players of the Manchester eSports team in a friendly mini-competition. Manchester’s team will be helping with the tournament by checking players in, giving tours of the arena and commenting on the games through a Twitch livestream.

The tournament has a greater purpose than allowing high school gamers to have some competitive fun and show off their skills. Jim Manis, information technology project manager and director of eSports, hopes to use the competition as a recruiting event to attract potential future players into joining the eSports team at Manchester. Manis wishes to show the competitors and their parents the value of eSports, citing their use of critical thinking skills and the companionship it can form. “eSports builds a community with an audience of students that might not have found such a community,” Manis said. “You think of the stereotypical gamer, alone in a room, [but] with eSports you all come to the arena and there’s community, camaraderie.”

This competition will be one of the first big events that the relatively new Manchester eSports team has put on. The proposal for an eSports team at Manchester was granted only this past summer. Due to Manis and some other staff members noticing how other universities were forming eSports teams, they knew they wanted to get in on the action. Before this, the Manchester University Gaming Society was the only official on-campus organization for video game players who wanted to test their abilities with each other––but now, they have the chance to prove their skill on a competitive level.

The members of the eSports team take full advantage of this chance, practicing daily to hone their abilities. There are 19 players who are separated into three groups, each focused on a different game. One of these groups focuses on “Super Smash Bros,” a fighting game series that features characters from multiple video game franchises. The nine players on this team are devoted to the game and their ability to play it. “I’ve been playing since I was 5 years old,” said Max Etter, senior. “I really got into the game. I wanted to get better and better at it, so I did.”

Fellow sophomore teammate Alex Stefanatos agreed. “Smash just stuck out to me,” he said. “I love the game. I love the competitive part. I love the community that’s grown out of it.”

The other two teams concentrate on “Rocket League” and “League of Legends.” “Rocket League” has players use incredibly fast cars to direct a ball into the opposing team’s net, similar to soccer. “League of Legends” is an online video game where players battle each other with various characters whose appearances range from something out of a fantasy book to something out of a science-fiction movie. The game requires a lot of calculated thinking, making it rather difficult to learn, but the team still enjoys playing it. “It’s fun to challenge yourself in a strategic game,” said Aubrey Neuzerling, sophomore.

While it’s only just begun, the team is already planning to grow in the future. The tournament is hoped to help bring in some new players for the team. In addition to this, the team is exploring options for additional games to add to its roster, such as “Fortnite,” “Overwatch,” “Madden” and “NBA 2K.”

Their sport might not be as physically taxing as others, but the Manchester eSports team is ready to challenge the next generation of gamers to be the best players they can be.