UC Berkeley eSports takes 1st in national video game tournament

Blizzard Entertainment/Courtesy

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UC Berkeley’s eSports team claimed first place in a national video game tournament Sunday, winning $42,000 of the $100,000 total in scholarships and other prizes.

The team of six campus students made up of team captain and senior Kyle Feng, senior Jeremy Chow, juniors Geoffrey Cao and Kevin Royston and sophomores Daniel Lee and Gandira Prahandika defeated both Rutgers University and University of Toronto in the final round, claiming victory in the five-month-long Overwatch tournament. The team competed in the popular video game Overwatch in the tournament held by Tespa Collegiate Series, a network connecting college gamers across the nation.

“(The tournament) started in October of last year, and they played pretty much every week up until early December. It was a weekly thing, and they spent between four to six hours a week doing scrimmages against other teams,” said co-coordinator of the campus’s Overwatch Team, Tiffany Tsai.

eSports teams at UC Berkeley are no strangers to national championships, as another campus team also took home first place is Tespa’s Heroes of the Dorms tournament in 2015. Tyler Rosen, head of college eSports efforts at Blizzard Entertainment, praised UC Berkeley teams’ efforts.

”These two back-to back championships show how well-developed the team at Cal really is,” Rosen said. “Cal ranked supreme and is one of the strongest eSports teams out there.”

According to Rosen, eSports is an “intersection between technology, sports and entertainment, taking the best of the realms and taking it to competitive and entertainment experience.” He said the industry has the same structure as most traditional sports, with salaries, teams, large events and live broadcasting.

Comparing the virtual world of eSports to traditional college sports, Rosen said he believes that in three to five years, eSports will rival traditional sports in popularity, citing engagement on college campuses. Lee agreed that eSports are gaining popularity.

“eSports is gaining traction. Games like League of Legends and CS: GO are comparable to actual sports in terms of viewership and fan base,” Lee said. “A lot of people play, a lot of people watch it. People are on a broadcasting platform called Twitch watching it live. It is very convenient.”

With more than 1200 campuses taking part in the college video gaming league, the participation in eSports is growing, according to Rosen. Within the past year, the number of players participating within the Tespa league has increased from 100 campus chapters to more than 220.

Having played shortly for the professional Overwatch team before competing for UC Berkeley, Lee said he enjoyed his experience with the school team this past semester.

“It’s fun — a way to relieve stress,” Lee said. “The money doesn’t matter. Shoutout to our team manager and to Tespa for working really hard to provide a really great experience.”

Contact Sunny Tsai at [email protected].