Oct. 11—The organizers of an "esports" tournament at Kansas State University said they're making plans for future events as the field of competitive gaming grows on a collegiate level.
On Friday, K-State hosted the inaugural WTC Fiber Cup esports tournament. Fifteen students participated in the tournament that was sponsored by WTC Communications of Wamego and broadcast live on streaming platform Twitch by Wildcat 91.9 FM. Students provided color commentary of the tournament, which pitted five teams of three people against each other in the game Rocket League — an arcade-style game combining elements of soccer and auto racing. K-State Esports Club Rocket League group director Chance Branson said it's a game that lends itself well to competition.
Branson, a junior majoring in management information systems, said playing video games has quickly become an international sport, with some gaming tournaments touting million-dollar prizes for the winning team. The top prize for the WTC Fiber Cup winners was $150 split three ways and a trophy for each team member. Even with a lower-than-expected number of registered teams, Branson said the tournament was a success.
"I'm so proud of this event," Branson said.
Branson said there are about 100 people in the K-State Esports Club, and interest in esports is growing nationally. About 175 colleges and universities across the country are members of the National Association of Collegiate Esports and offer varsity esports programs with scholarships and coaches. The esports industry has grown in the past few years, with a global audience of about 470 million and annual worldwide revenues from esports competitions topping $1 billion.
KSU Esports Club team officer Mithulan Paramanathan said the first in-person Rocket League event on campus will "quickly legitimize esports and showcase a growing entertainment industry." Paramanathan said he's never seen a college "do something of this caliber" in regard to streaming such an event live on Twitch with commentary.
"I think this is a fantastic stage to be at, where now we know the next time we throw this event, we know exactly how we're going to do it and what additional things we need to improve on," Paramanathan said.
Viewership of the live Twitch broadcast peaked with about 40 viewers, and about a dozen people came to watch the tournament in-person in Forum Hall. Established in July of 2018, the KSU Esports Club has a team dedicated to Rocket League, as well as other games like Counter Strike: Global Offensive, League of Legends, and Overwatch. The Rocket League team played a couple of exhibition rounds at the end of the tournament to showcase their abilities.
Jacob Holloran, junior kinesiology major, was one of the tournament-winning trio of players who called themselves "Getting Carried." Holloran said he's been playing Rocket League since the game was introduced in 2016, and his team wasn't expecting to perform as well as they did.
"We kind of did this on a whim," Holloran said. "My friend and I play pretty often, but we've never done anything like this before."
Along with teammates Corey Bowen and Seth Thompson, Holloran's team went 8-0 in the tournament, completely sweeping the field of competitors. He said the secret to winning a tournament is "just hard work."
"It's just putting time in the game," Holloran said. "Even if you're just training by yourself, that's all it really takes — repetition."
Holloran said he'll return to play in future tournaments. Branson said the esports club is planning on another tournament in the spring semester, and perhaps one during winter break. He said the club also plans on opening tournaments up to the broader Manhattan community to garner more participation.
Additional sponsors for the event included the K-State Student Union Program Council and the K-State Collegian. Wildcat 91.9 FM advisor and journalism professor Ian Punnett said the number of people "who stepped up to pull so evenly together on the rope" was the most exciting part of the tournament.
"Everybody who came along, maybe just when we were thinking we couldn't do this, kind of suddenly put their shoulder into it, and we got it done," Punnett said.