esports

Colors and characters dart across screens as students are planted in gaming chairs with complete focus. The trance gamers are in draws viewers’ attention towards their screens, where everything happening inside the player's heads is coming to life in the Florida Tech’s Esports Center. 

“I probably spend about 10-15 hours a week playing video games, including practices,” Brooke Vetzel, a junior varsity Valorant esports team member, said. “I would say that competing in esports is a way to get a bit of relief from schoolwork, but also will motivate me to get it done.”

Gaming has become a multimillion-dollar industry and college campuses are on the frontline of esports’ success. At Florida Tech, 600 students walked in the front doors of the esports facility within the first two months of it being open, according to Florida Tech esports. 

Vetzel was 10 years old when she began getting into gaming. The 18-year-old gamer from Flowery Branch, Georgia, was inspired by her neighbor to play a variety of games. She currently competes on the Florida Tech Valorant team, which is a five versus five person game where an attacker defends a point in order to eliminate all defenders on the opposing team.

“This program has opened up a whole new aspect of gaming for me,” Vetzel said. “I believe it’s going to continue to grow every year.”

With esports beginning to grow across the country and attract gamers, Florida Tech offered Dana Hustedt, the Florida Tech esports director, the role to revolutionize the sport at the university. The idea of bringing esports to Florida Tech had been in the works for several years prior to Hustedt’s offer, but she practically built the program from scratch.

“I got involved with esports when I was in college,” Hustedt said. “I saw esports as a business opportunity and we started a program at my school, Grand View University in Iowa. We were one of the 10 to 15 programs in the nation that had scholarships and had a building dedicated to esports gaming.”

 After getting the opportunity to turn one of her passions into a career, Hustedt continues to create an open environment to all students - whether they are willing to compete or just have fun. With 80 players across teams and 200 members in the esports club, students are becoming more and more interested in gaming competitively.

“It’s really fun to see students the first day they come in the door and see their confidence rise compared to when they leave at the end of the semester,” Hustedt said. “I think a big reason behind their growth is because of what we try to implement into our culture.”

Whether it’s traditional sports or esports, every student has the opportunity to compete and be on a team at Florida Tech. Devyn Glassgold, a student athlete on the volleyball team at Florida Tech, has another perspective of the impact esports is making on her school.

“Even though I have never been a gamer, I think esports tremendously impacts Florida Tech because it gives the school a whole new aspect,” Glassgold said. “Almost any school you go to will have traditional sports teams to play on, but our school is great because it has opportunities for gamers with esports.”

The purpose of esports is not only to give students interested in gaming an opportunity to compete, but to people like Hustedt and Vetzel, it’s a way to meet friends and share their love of gaming. 

With the esports industry continuing to grow and create opportunities for students across the globe, Florida Tech is one of the few schools that has the resources to share a piece of it with other gamers.

 

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