eSports is on a fast rise in interest on campus. In four years it has grown from casual meet-ups in the dorms, to winning a regional competition.
The club finished first-place in the ECAC Fortnite tournament last spring.
The popularity of the sport led to construction of a new game room in the Adanti Student Center on the second floor.
Southern has since built a room for the eSports club. The space consists of five IBUYPOWER desktop PCs, and Razer mice, headsets and keyboards at the PC table setups. In addition, the room also has a PlayStation 5, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch consoles on hand.
President Miles Bagoly, senior biotechnology major, started the eSports club in 2019 with his then-roommate Brian Harner. Harner, a former student, was then the club’s vice president.
What started as two friends looking to play “Rocket League” more competitively in the dorms evolved into a competing powerhouse in the ECAC eSports scene.
“When we first started we were just trying to reach as many students as possible,” says Bagoly. “We were placing flyers all over campus, and initially we didn’t get the draw we wanted.”
Bagoly and Harner started the club by hosting multiple “Super Smash Brothers Ultimate” tournaments across the dorms.
In addition to getting students to join the club, the pair also faced a logistical issue of space to host its meetings.
“There was a lot of pushback from where we could be. I ended up having to pick random open classrooms because it was difficult early on to gauge how many people would show up and if we had the right space or not,” says Bagoly.
The solution to this was that the club was to be self-sufficient in its infancy. Club members along with Bagoly and Harner would bring their Nintendo Switch consoles, docks, Joy-Cons and controllers to the meetings.
The retail price of a Nintendo Switch, Pro Controller and Super Smash Brothers Ultimate is $460. Bagoly knew that it would not be possible for the club to be completely funded and supplied only a year into the club’s existence.
“It was 100% student-driven,” Bagoly says. “I didn’t want to dip into the resource pool we had because we didn’t have a dedicated space, and I didn’t want to be responsible for housing hundreds of dollars worth of gaming equipment in my dorm room.”
As the club continued to grow, it passed through the provisional period on campus and became a permanent organization.
“The first table I had at the club fair, we did incredible numbers. In about an hour, we had about 45 to 60 people sign up,” says Bagoly. “It felt good especially because I did have some doubts about how it would go for us.”
In 2020, after the club had become officially recognized on campus, it could then participate in ECAC eSports events.
“We had challenges finding students to join the club, but after we had joined the ECAC, we were able to get more and more people to come on board and join,” Bagoly says.
Bagoly cited an “Among Us” gaming event held in partnership with the eSports club and Residential Life in the Fall 2020 that helped boost the club’s existence. “Among Us” was, and still is, one of the most popular games to play. It reached peak popularity during COVID-19 and the 2020 election cycle, when U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., played the game on Twitch to promote her campaign.
“While COVID-19 impacted other clubs, it didn’t hurt us, but we also didn’t gain many members either when we came back to school,” says Bagoly.
After spending time on campus bouncing between classrooms, rooms in the student center and the challenges of COVID, the club received dedicated space to house equipment and train for events.
The new room has also drawn the attention of students interested in what the club is up to on campus.
Students Monev Carson, senior business administration major, and Arianna Cruz, junior chemistry education major, are excited to have a club on campus for students who like to play video games.
“eSports is starting to be taken more seriously,” says Cruz.
Carson says he had “no idea” that eSports management was offered as a major on college campuses. At SCSU, eSports management is offered as a minor.
“Once I knew we were getting a room along with the new top-end stuff, faculty had no pushback against my requests for the equipment and that was a great feeling,” says Bagoly.
While Southern may not have the 40 PC eSports facility that Central Connecticut State University has, this doesn’t bother Bagoly at all.
“I also figured that we needed PCs but not something crazy like the eSports room Central has. We don’t need 40 PCs now to compete. But if the club continues to grow perhaps down the road we may need that many,” says Bagoly.
As for the future of the club, Bagoly has high hopes.
“Obviously, we didn’t have an impact on people right away, but with the new facility we have I believe we can make a dent in the ECAC events other than just ‘Fortnite,’” says Bagoly.
“I could easily see us expanding the room or getting another space if we continue to win tournaments and cement our club as a premier eSports club.”
“Just wait and see, I think people are going to be surprised with what we can do in the coming years,” says Bagoly.
By Bradley Robidoux