Beneath a floor of treadmills, rock climbing walls, pools and weight racks, a different competitive scene has found a new home in Utah Tech’s sprawling Human Performance Center: electronic sports or esports.

The club’s new room is equipped with four side-by-side, wide-screen TVs, a Nintendo Switch, an Xbox One, and 12 powerful gaming computers provided through the university’s partnership with Dell. Two multi-monitor PCs operate the club’s online streaming platform, where club members can connect remotely.

Danny Finnegan, president of the club and a senior study at Interaction Design, talked about the club’s purpose and how Utah Tech is tackling the massively competitive esports scene, where video game players can make millions of dollars a year.

“With gaming, there’s so much depth to almost every new game to come,” Finnegan said. “Esports-wise, you can sink in hundreds and thousands of hours and get new experiences, meet new people, and level up your game.”

“Many of our players are unreachable spectators, people who don’t come to big events on campus, athletic events. They’re like monks, but they can find a community here that shares all of their interests, and they You can get the school spirit with us.”

Growing up with video games like “Pokémon,” Finnegan began competing in buy-in tournaments for “Super Smash Bros.” at the age of 16.

Finnegan said his first tournament was one to remember. He had gone to a small gathering of gamers at Game Heaven in St. George, didn’t know any other players. The tournament was a double-elimination. Finnegan quickly lost both his matches.

“Yeah, I was totally slapped, but I also met some of my tallest friends.”

Despite getting a “slap” in the defeat, Finnegan continued to go to local tournaments, honing his playing style and his own gaming skills by analyzing other players’ matches, noting mistakes that could have been redeemed. . Eventually, Finnegan finished first in the tournament in a row.

His success led him to organize the tournament himself and join Utah Tech’s esports team, where he coaches “Super Smash Bros.” players and leads the club.

Esports clubs have “Open Lab Days” where any member can come into the club room and play the games of their choice. However, much of the club’s activity revolves around its six competitive gaming teams, one team per game: “Overwatch 2,” “Valorant,” “Call of Duty,” “Rocket League,” “Super Smash Bros.: Ultimate” and the “League of the Greats”.

Each team has different spots on the team roster, usually with one substitute “bench” player per team. Each team has tryouts at the beginning of the semester.

“We have coaches and managers for each team who set schedules among busy college students to have training regiments,” Finnegan explained. “We educate coaches on the various strategies they can use to manage their team and encourage them to research the meta game and watch pro play.”

Similar to the sports world, Utah Tech esports coaches put their players in video games through drills and matches that isolate and develop skills specific to each game. Coaches stress the importance of clear communication between players in order to adapt the game per sports competition.

Teams follow along as coaches walk through past games and analyze the mistakes and strengths of the team and competitors, just as a football coach analyzes a previous game film.

“We practice twice a week, thrice a week. We don’t usually go to that because these are college students with jobs, generally, and we don’t want to cause burnout,” Finnegan said.

Team practice relies on video games. For example, “League of Legends” has an average match length of 30 to 40 minutes, making practice even longer.

Finnegan said Utah Tech scrimmages and competes against other colleges such as Utah Valley University and Southern Utah University for large-scale tournaments, and Utah Tech hosts weekly tournaments for “Super Smash Bros.” at the Atwood Innovation Plaza.

Cash prizes can range from $20 to $1000, depending on the size of the tournament throughout the year.

While there are some comparisons between physical sports and esports, Finnegan said, he prefers to think of esports as its own entity. He said that one strength esports has many physical sports, that is its reach.

Utah Tech Esports had about 200 members last semester, and about 600 people follow the club’s Instagram page and Discord server. Finnegan expects the club to continue to expand. Once the Student Union Building is completed on campus, the Esports Club will move again to expand its available member space even further.

On November 11, Finnegan said, Utah Tech will host an open gaming event with Utah sponsor Ken Garf Esports.

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