by Lauren Schuster, Senior Writer
When you think about attending a Manhattan College sporting event, there is one thing that probably does not come to mind: video games. Starting this semester, however, Manhattan College is looking to change that. During a general interest meeting for the newly conceived Manhattan College eSports team, recreation coordinator Deanna Hewlutt proudly announced the school’s plan for getting the team up and running.
The school’s goal is to give the team the same treatment as other sports teams, including having them participate in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) this upcoming March. Like MC’s basketball team, the eSports team will travel to Atlantic City, N.J. to compete against other MAAC schools. Looking to the future, they even have hopes to eventually set up scholarships for the program.
“In the spring we’re going to start out competing in Rocket League and Super Smash Brothers, and the goal is in the fall to expand to at least two or three other games that other MAAC schools are participating in,” Hewlutt said.
Beginning in February, the eSports team will hold practices and play against other MAAC schools in virtual competitions for six weeks, all leading up to their big weekend of in-person competitions in Atlantic City.
“If I’ve read correctly, the MAAC is actually the only conference that is doing their eSports competition in conjunction with their basketball tournament,” Hewlutt said. “Also, if we win the MAAC conference there’s the opportunity to go compete in the National Conference, which is also an in-person tournament as well, so that would definitely be awesome if our first year that we get up and running we’re able to go and compete nationally. Whether we win or not, people would know that we’re here and people would know who Manhattan College is.”
Freshman civil engineering major Isaac Regalado is among the students looking to join the new team.
“Currently, with the two games they have, I am leaning more towards Smash than Rocket League, but I do hope that in the fall they add Overwatch and League of Legends, because Overwatch is my favorite game,” Regalado said.
For Regalado, being a part of the gaming community started out as simply a way to escape everyday life and have some fun, but it soon snowballed into something bigger.
“As I grew up, I saw that it was getting bigger and bigger and I enjoyed it, it connected me with a lot of friends I know now and a lot of friends that I know online,” Regalado said. “It’s great to hang out with them and goof around sometimes by playing video games. It’s a really cool connection to have with people. It really crawled into my life I guess, and made it better.”
Graduate student J.T. Taylor was also in attendance at the interest meeting. For Taylor, this is not the first time that he has been a part of bringing together the gaming community within his school.
“I did tournaments at my undergraduate school and I was one of the founding members of my undergraduate school’s games club too,” Taylor said.
For Taylor, the new eSports team is an opportunity to bring together a subgroup of the Jasper community that might not necessarily find each other in the same way otherwise.
“More broadly, I think it’s important for all colleges to kind of move in that direction because it’s just an attractive thing for colleges to have, people want to do that,” Taylor said. “But for Manhattan College specifically, I think eSports taps into the team community nature of what traditional sports has too, and inclusive community is one of our values as a Lasallian school, so having that community in the tight knit way that competitive sports can bring I think is a cool thing for people who are interested in video games as well.”
For Hewlutt, bringing together the MC gaming community is a great new way to both showcase students’ talents and bring out Jasper pride.
“In terms of why I think it’s important, eSports, it’s a growing market, from literally the small competitive league all the way up to the professional,” Hewlutt said. “The students on campus, they’re playing it. We have a Games Club, if you walk by, you see students playing some of the same games that we’re playing all the time. Kids are playing in their dorms, so it’s an opportunity for that community to get together, play together as a team, and also represent Manhattan within our conference and hopefully nationally.”