More than 60 million people watched the League of Legends 2017 Championship, streamed online from China, in November 2017. Easy access across the globe to millions of fans has led to explosive interest in esports — multiplayer video games often played by professional gamers competitively for spectators.
At the beginning of 2018, University of Utah students formed the Pacific Alliance of Collegiate Gamers (PACG) with student video game groups from 10 other Pac-12 schools. The PACG is hoping its formation and competitive matches will put collegiate esports on the map. The matches for all games started in February and will conclude with a championship at the end of the season in April.
The U’s sponsored esports program is a part of the PACG, and Utah Esports is the only school-sponsored group in any Power Five conference. The goal of the alliance is for colleges to start recognizing esports as legitimate varsity programs.
Utah’s first esports team was announced in 2017. Since the PACG is unsponsored, competitors will not be able to win any sort of prize money nor will they be participating for scholarships. This is unlike already established esports associations for colleges, like TESPA or AVGL. The group will be self-governed by representatives that each school selects.
The center of gaming and esports on campus is Crimson Gaming, which boasts over 600 registered students. It describes itself as, “the leading amateur and collegiate gaming organization within our state.”
Crimson Gaming hopes the U will set an example for other schools across the country.
“… [A]s an excellent model for collegiate esports organizations recognized nationwide, the coordinators at the University of Utah continually strive for excellence in further pioneering the local esports scene and fostering an inclusive gaming community for all students and locals alike,” the organization continued.
Crimson Gaming seeks to cover every facet of games available, including “communities ranging in interest for anything, titles such as League of Legends, Overwatch, Hearthstone and CS:GO, to general and tabletop gaming.” As part of the Students Esport Association, Crimson Gaming has joined forces with the U’s nationally-acclaimed Entertainment Arts and Engineering (EAE) studio to sponsor the school’s first esports teams to compete around the country.
The U now has 33 students enrolled on the varsity teams, and they play titles such as Overwatch, Hearthstone, League of Legends and the most recent addition, Rocket League.
“The fact that these students were able to come together to form their own league speaks volumes about their desire to represent their schools in this space, and athletic departments and school administrations everywhere should take notice,” said A.J. Dimick, who runs the U’s esports program, in a press release. “I can’t wait to watch these Pac-12 esports teams compete for a championship.”