eSports Club members bond through love of gaming

For some students, nothing beats cracking open a cold Mountain Dew, turning on their gaming console and playing the latest version of Call of Duty with their online friends. Video games are a rapidly growing industry with esports, the competitive side of gaming, having around 454 million fans worldwide.

According to Statista, an online database, the worldwide esports revenue is estimated at around $1.1 billion. This is a 27 percent increase from 2018’s revenue of $865 million.

With so many worldwide gaming fans, many colleges are starting to form competitive gaming teams and clubs.

Augie’s eSports Club provides a place for gamers to set up their gaming systems, eat pizza, meet friends and get their game on.

According to its constitution, the Augie eSports Club’s purpose is to promote a healthy gaming culture at Augustana University. It aims to create bonds among the student members through the shared love of gaming.

The club was founded in 2018 by Taha Afzal, who now serves as vice president, after he saw a demand for it by gamers.

“Esports is a growing industry around the world, and I did not see contribution by Sioux Falls and by Augustana in particular to that worldwide growth of the field,” Afzal said.

“I saw this need on campus my freshman year and wanted to start a healthy gaming culture on campus.”

Ironically, Afzal doesn’t play video games.

“I do not play video games, but I enjoy when students on campus are socializing, playing games in a great environment, making friends and having the best time of their day at the game nights,” Afzal said.

Although Afzal isn’t a gamer, he did find the perfect person for the role of club president.

Benjamin Muhlenbeck, whose gamertag is nicknamed “Demon” on Augustana’s eSports Discord server, is currently the club president.

Muhlenbeck is a hardened gamer who constantly streams the newest games on his Twitch channel. Muhlenbeck and social media coordinator Nolan Ocander even performed a 24-hour livestream of the video game Escape from Tarkov last October.

Video Gamers
Members of the eSports Club play a game at one of the club events last year. The team often sets up in the Froiland Science Complex. Photo by Pawan Subedi.

As of the 2019-2020 school year, the eSports Club already has over 40 active members. The club meets in person to decide upcoming events. Most events are casual game nights where the club sets up in a lecture hall in the Froiland Science Complex.

Students are encouraged to bring their gaming consoles and computers and can play any game individually, in teams or against friends.

In the future, the club is looking into using golf carts to bring gaming supplies from building to building without the fear of dropping an expensive TV or console.

Some of the more popular games played during the casual game nights include: Call of Duty, Battlefield, Mario Kart, Super Smash Bros, Fortnite, Rocket League and many more.

The atmosphere during these casual gaming nights is electric. The lecture hall is filled with the sound of controllers vibrating and TVs chirping as club members look over each other’s shoulders and cheer on.

An Apex Legends tournament for a cash prize of $50 was also hosted last April by the club. Apex Legends is a popular battle royale video game with the objective to be the last person surviving on an island full of weapons and special abilities hidden for the player to find.

The tournament was scored with each kill counting as one point and each game won counting as five points. It lasted an intense three hours with Max Stevenson coming out victorious.

Gamers and people interested in joining the club are welcome to join the Discord server, which is an online chat room dedicated to connecting people through the love of gaming.

On the Discord app, students can find info about the upcoming meetings and talk to fellow gamers through the chat room.

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