Esports teams help students embrace their passions

Scott Hamilton

Overwatch player Eve Sullivan, left, has found a passionate community with RIT Esports, the university’s competitive video game group. RIT Esports has won eight national championships.

Overwatch player Eve Sullivan loves the climb to become the best.

“Every victory is knowing you outperformed the opponent, and every defeat is an opportunity to learn and come back better the next time,” said Sullivan, a fourth-year web and mobile computing student. “But that’s only the surface level of why I play esports. I stay because of the great friends and connections I’ve made.”

Sullivan has three matches a week and spends four nights practicing as part of RIT’s Overwatch esports team. The practice sessions can vary from happy-go-lucky to serious, as the team analyzes plays and looks for strategies to improve its game.

Sullivan has also had success on the national stage, playing in Blizzard’s Calling All Heroes tournament created specifically for marginalized genders.

“While education had come first, esports was one of the larger reasons I applied to RIT,” said Sullivan. “In high school, I made a lot of friends through esports and I’m passionate about it. I wanted to make sure I was in a place where there were other people with that same passion.”

RIT has one of the largest and best collegiate esports programs in the nation. With around 250 players and more than 2,300 community members, RIT Esports is bigger than many college athletics programs.

RIT Esports currently competes in 17 video games, including Rocket League, Hearthstone, and OSU! Due to the excess of talent at the university, there are 36 different teams and nine Academy teams.

“We introduced Academy teams to help provide newer/less experienced players with a competitive experience along with coaching them to help them become better players,” said Sam Burgoyne, a fourth-year game design and development student and president of RIT Esports.

RIT Esports has brought home eight national championships, and students have won more than $100,000 in prizes.

Playing competitively isn’t the only way for RIT students to get involved with esports. The teams have coaches and managers, while elected student administrators run the club. There are also support teams that do everything from designing the jerseys to running events. A broadcasting team produces live-streamed matches, and students take over the microphone to cast each game.

The club even has a student-led development team that creates tools to make managing teams easier and to provide teams with a competitive edge—gathering publicly available stats on opposing teams.

This academic year, a new squad playing the indie game Omega Strikers has been climbing the ranks in a growing collegiate competitive scene. RIT’s Counter Strike 2 team also won the 2023 National Association of Collegiate Esports varsity premier championship.

In the future, Sullivan hopes to join many of the other RIT alumni who have started careers in the esports industry.

“I hope to be able to combine my two passions and work on websites and apps for esports organizations,” said Sullivan. “I think websites are a lot of people’s first introduction to something, and I want to make websites that bring people into the awesome world of esports.”

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