Esports program launches at Northwestern State

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By Brad Welborn

Assistant Director of Communications

Natchitoches Wood

NATCHITOCHES –The world of video games and esports is moving at a blistering pace across the country. The same can be said for the newly launched Northwestern State University Esports program offering students of all skill levels the chance to play and compete in some of the most popular games in the country.

At its core esports is the world of organized, competitive games. Players from around the world compete in various leagues, on teams or individually, and face off against one another. Games like Fortnite, Call of Duty, Overwatch and Madden are played in front of millions of fans in both live events and through online streaming services like Twitch.

The industry has exploded over the past several years, and NSU has taken the lead in esports in the state with its new state-of-the-art facility.

Located inside the Friedman Student Union in the former campus bookstore, the NSU Esports arena is home to one of the largest gaming experiences in the state. The 3,500 square-foot lounge holds 24 fully-equipped computers, multiple consoles and plenty of room for students to dive headfirst into a wide array of gaming worlds. The space is designed with the students in mind and made for both competitive and recreational gaming.

Chance Creppel, coordinator of competitive sports and long-time gamer, heads up the competitive side of the program, coordinating competitions for the NSU teams and the tournaments that will be held on campus in the near future.

“We’re giving these players a platform to play these games at a competitive level and earn scholarships in the process,” Creppel said. “To say you are playing a game you love for a varsity club team and earning a scholarship is something that the students will always remember.”

NSU is one of the newest members of the National Association of College Esports, a nonprofit association that has award $15 million in scholarships and aid since its formation in July 2016. With the new facility and ever-growing interest from students, NSU stands to be a contender in tournaments right away.

“Competitive esports is what the students make of it, and that’s the most exciting part,” Creppel said. “We have top of the line equipment for them, and the space to practice. The top players dedicate a lot of their free time to practicing their respective games. Some come in and play with their teammates, while some practice on their own. It all depends on what they are trying to improve on.”

Nathanial Rachal, or Hollow as he’s known in the gaming world, a music education major from Lafayette, is one of the first members of NSU Esports’ competitive teams. He plays Rocket League, one of the 11 games currently available for students to play on a competitive level.

The creation of the esports program provided the perfect avenue for him to take his love for the game to a different level.

“I’ve been playing Rocket League for three years,” Rachal said. “Nothing feels better than working well with a team. So, I am really looking forward to working with the team, working on plays and just developing relationships in general.

“It’s definitely exciting to take the skills that I’ve developed over the last couple of years and have an opportunity to showcase them with NSU esports.”

Rachal and his teammates, Jackson “Mathews175” Mathews and Todd “Weebie” Landry, will make history as the first players to compete for NSU Esports. The 3v3 Rocket League Southland Soccar Qualifier awards the top team a $1,000 cash prize and a new gaming headset for each player. The top two teams earn an automatic spot in the Collegiate Esports Invitational: Rocket League Championship.

Teams are constantly forming in all the games currently offered through the NSU Esports competitive avenue, with more game options on the horizon.

“I’m always looking forward to the competition,” Mathews said. “The nerves before a game or in big times during games when you have to clutch up or comeback. Whether it’s real life sports or esports the competitiveness is what I love about it.”

Like any sport it’s the competition that fuels players. Competing against their opponents and themselves with the hopes of winning and the intention of getting better each time. The unique part of esports and NSU Esports is with so many games to play the potential for any student to join is there.

“While many consider gaming to be super casual, for a lot of younger people that’s far from the truth,” Landry said. “Esports are among the most accessible and exciting form of competition nowadays. Being able to compete for and represent NSU while playing a game that I love is an incredible and fulfilling opportunity.”

There are currently 27 gamers, with more added almost daily, across 11 games committed to building the foundation of NSU Esports and launches the program.

Free to all NSU students, the NSU Esports venue is open weekdays 1 p.m. – 9 p.m. and on Sunday from 5 p.m. – 9 p.m. Students interested in joining a team should visit www.nsula.edu/esports or contact Creppel at creppelc@nsula.edu.

“It’s awesome that NSU is putting actions behind their words for the students,” Creppel said. “They told the students they were going to build an esports venue and program, and they did not disappoint. NSU is truly interested and invested it just makes you excited to give students this avenue to pursue.”

Creppel also thanked many of the people that were integral in getting NSU Esports up and running – NSU President Dr. Chris Maggio, Director of University Recruiting Van Erickson, WRAC Director/Assistant AD for Special Projects Patric Dubois, Assistant Director for Intramurals Dr. Jason Stelly, Director of Student Union Life Alan Pasch and the NSU Department of Information Technology Services.