This summer, 16-year-old Pennsylvania native Kyle “Bugha” Giersdorf became the first Fortnite World Cup Champion, earning the $3 million grand prize.
The three-day tournament was the first of its kind for Fortnite and a sign of what’s to come in the esports world.
This year, Goshen College has hopped on the esports train, as a newfound student-run club has gained the attention of students on campus.
Last year, Hugh Birky, a junior, found himself spending countless hours with other GC students playing Rocket League, a growing game in esports. He saw the value in his time spent playing Rocket League and wanted to establish a club.
“Through our common interest, I was able to make a ton of new friends while playing a game I like,” Birky said.
“I wanted to give that opportunity to other people at [GC].”
The Rocket League team of CharlieGrape (Birky), Dr. Leucine (Martin Gerig) and Khamul
(Kyle Snyder) has already seen success in competition. After joining the Indy Gaming League (IGL) this fall, the trio haven’t lost a match and are now 5-0. Their next match will be against one of the top content creators for Rocket League and 2015 GC alumnus Jared Zook (SunlessKhan).
Starting out solely as a Rocket League club in the spring of 2019, esports moved to an all-encompassing club this fall because of expanded interest around campus.
Once Birky established interest from dozens of students, the next step was to find a
faculty sponsor to make the club official.
Jeanette Shown, associate professor of computer science and information technology at GC, answered that call. A game developer since 1999, Shown has a decorated history with video game development and a passion for the games themselves.
“And yes, I play games also,” she said.
Seeing the potential of scaling the gaming scene at GC, Shown hopped on board as advisor of the club. Due to her efforts, the club now meets in the basement of the Union Building.
Shown also wrote a grant for six gaming PCs, which were built by Digital Eve, a female-based tech group, last year.
And just this fall, a head coach for the club was hired to run practices in order to get players more familiar with the games they’re playing and eventually take the different teams into competition.
With the group rising in numbers — there are over 30 members this year — the variety of games has seen an influx as well. Rocket League remains the most popular game of choice by members of the club, but League of Legends, Overwatch, Super Smash Bros and Minecraft all have their own subgroup.
The inflated interest and recent success has Birky wanting more for the club in the future.
“My hope is to eventually get official teams for the games we can play,” he said.
This ambition isn’t as far off as it may seem.
The market for esports at colleges and universities around the country has leveled up over the last five years. According to the National Association of Collegiate Esports (NACE), since the first college varsity esports team made its mark in 2014, over 170 teams have joined the party, now granting more than $16 million in scholarship money
nationwide to esports student-athletes.
NACE, the only association of college and university sponsored esports programs, recognizes 14 different games at their events, giving institutions like GC plenty of opportunity to compete and excel.
Unlike other sports, Shown says there are really no set divisions. “[Schools] are put together by skill and how much they’ve won,” she said.
If the club were to turn into a varsity sport, GC could potentially play schools like Notre Dame, Purdue and other Division
The future is bright for esports as GC makes its way onto the scene. And who knows? Maybe the next “Bugha” will be a Maple Leaf.