College of Coastal Georgia News
By Tiffany King
One of the newest student organizations at the College of Coastal Georgia this fall will be Mariners Esports, a competitive video gaming club. Electronic sports, also known as esports, take video gaming to another level with organized competitive gameplay between teams or individuals, and is governed by its own set of rules. Esports is one of the world's fastest growing sports and is now a billion-dollar industry with a combined projected global audience and devoted fan base of 557 million by 2021. Collegiate esports teams are also being created across the United States, with some colleges offering approximately $15 million per year in scholarships to have the best players join their teams. Through esports tournaments, students also have the opportunity to win scholarship money. Now this growing industry and popular pastime has found a home at Coastal Georgia.
Mariners Esports will be led by club president and senior Bryson Cole, 22. This won't be the first time Cole has set up an esports team at a college. Cole enrolled at Coastal Georgia last year after earning an Associate in Applied Science in Hospitality and Tourism Management degree from Finger Lakes Community College (FLCC) in upstate New York. He is now working towards his bachelor's in hospitality and tourism management. At Finger Lakes, he was instrumental in establishing esports as part of the college's athletic programming. While at FLCC, Cole was president of the video game club. He always enjoyed being a competitive player and wanted to host competitive events. One day he was approached by someone from the FLCC Student Life department about having an esports team.
"I didn't know much about it, so I did some research and found that you can run most teams with little money. I thought it would be a great opportunity for students," he said.
He brought his ideas and what he learned back to Student Life and was turned down. Although he felt defeated, Cole decided to approach the college's Athletic Department since the team functions like a sports team. The Athletic Department was receptive to the idea, and after educating them on the process, esports became a college sport at FLCC.
"Once it had been approved, a lot of colleges in the state started to reach out to me," he said. "They've been trying to do it for years but weren't able to get past the first stages. We were the first to do it in our region and the second in the SUNY (State University of New York) system. After that happened, high schools started to pick up esports."
Now at Coastal Georgia, with the guidance of club advisor and Assistant Vice President for Academic Student Engagement Dr. German Vargas, Cole wants Mariners Esports to be accessible to any student who wants to participate and build a sense of community among gamers. The esports arena will be located in the Student Activity Center's current video gaming room. The room was recently updated to accommodate new gaming PCs, gaming chairs, color-changing LED lights, and multiple flat screen TVs. The current games Mariners Esports has are League of Legends, Overwatch, Valorant, NBA 2K, Super Smash Bros., Call of Duty, DOTA 2, Rocket League, Street Fighter, and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. Each video game team will have one student captain and one student manager. All the teams will have regulated practice times during the week and will come together on a designated day to update Cole and the club advisor on their progress. During practice, players will also have access to an online homework corner for help with their studies.
Cole understands that some may view video gaming as nothing more than a pastime for people alone in their rooms, but esports is more than that. Like other traditional sports, competitive gaming involves critical and strategic thinking, leadership, teamwork and collaboration, communication, and sportsmanship. Esports helps build community not only amongst teammates but across the globe. Cole hopes to host on-campus events and tournaments with other collegiate and high school teams. According to Georgia.org, Atlanta is the esports capital of the United States. More than 5,000 students from Georgia have graduated with cyber or gaming degrees, and Georgia is one of the few states where esports is a sanctioned high school competitive sport.
"Hopefully, next semester we can host a southern collegiate event. It could be a one-day, on-campus event where we invite the region's colleges to participate and watch," he said.
Cole was pleasantly surprised with how receptive and supportive both staff and students have been to the club. Approximately 30 students have already expressed interest in joining the club.
"To get a facility within the first year is major—that's massive," Cole said. "My previous college doesn't have a facility and they've been doing this for a couple of years. It's amazing that the College has its own."
He believes the club should be "for the people." Any video game that has a collegiate league, and if there is enough student interest, Cole is happy to have that team be a part of the club. Currently, the club will compete only using PCs, but he hopes the College will be able to get different consoles in the future for the students who enjoy competing on different platforms. It's important to Cole that no one feels left out.
Mariner Esports will hold informational meetings at the beginning of the fall semester.
For more information about Mariners Esports and how to participate in the club, contact Bryson Cole at firstname.lastname@example.org.