MNSU Welcomes First eSports Varsity Program

Ashley Opina ® Staff Writer |

Anna Lillie loves gaming. But when she heard there were gaming clubs on campus, she hesitated joining.

Despite its growing numbers of girls and women, the gaming world has a checkered past when it comes to girls and women feeling welcomed in the gaming community.

So, despite having played League of Legends for seven years, she wondered whether she’d be accepted in the various gaming-related clubs at Minnesota State University, Mankato.

Then she wandered through the Centennial Student Union, where she saw two women with a display set up for a League of Legends registered student organization. After speaking with the women at the table, she decided to join.

“I have made some of my best friends and best relationships through here,” Lillie said. “Even after joining, I didn’t get treated differently because I was a girl. Everyone is treated equally and it’s super inclusive.”

Now, it seems the gaming presence on campus is about to get not only more inclusive, but more robust and possibly sanctioned for competition by the university.

The MNSU eSports and gaming community has successfully advocated for the first eSports Varsity Program on campus and unveiled its new training facility at a live ribbon-cutting ceremony last Friday. 

An eSports tournament followed the day after with about 150 tournament participants nationwide, including 14 states and a team from Canada. MNSU was home to one of the fastest growing events in the community, both in person and online. 

The nine-hour event included five games available to players, including: League of Legends, CS:GO, Call of Duty, Smash Ultimate and Tekken. Only MNSU students were allowed to play on campus due to COVID-19 regulations. The rest played remotely. 

Regardless of location, all players competed for monetary prizes, which included an Alienware laptop, a backpack, a bluetooth speaker, and more throughout the event. Spectators were welcome to watch in person, or by streaming it online through twitch.tv.   

The eSports Varsity Program is now actively recruiting a varsity League of Legends team and a varsity CS:GO team. Registration for both can be found at esports.mnsu.edu. More information about the gaming community at MNSU can be found at mavgamers.com. 

 Varsity head coach, Jaquie Lamm, a recent graduate of MNSU with a masters degree in higher education, thanked those who made the eSports Varsity Program possible.

“I would like to take this opportunity to thank IT Solutions for giving the eSports Varsity Program a spot within Minnesota State, Mankato,” Lamm said at the ribbon-cutting ceremony. She also thanked the eSports RSO Clubs, specifically the League of Legends RSO, the CS:GO RSO, and the Maverick Gaming Community RSO. The advocacy of the gaming community at MNSU about the creation of an eSports Varsity Program paid off, she said, along with the support of the program’s ambassador, Greater Mankato Growth.  

According to Lamm, “eSports is one of the number one growing programs within universities right now and it is a perfect time for our program to be up and running.” 

Following Coach Lamm’s speech was lead coordinator and member of the Maverick Gaming Community RSO, Andrew Weinzierl. 

“The main purpose of the Maverick Gaming Community,” said Weinzierl, highlighting what was most important, “is to connect people who play video games.” 

Since eSports is virtual, finding an in-person community can be a challenge, especially in a college environment during times of social distancing due to COVID-19. The creation of two collegiate varsity eSports teams brings students with similar interests together and promotes the different gaming communities at MNSU. 

When asked if she would be trying out for the new League of Legends varsity team, Lillie humbly said that she would try but that she expects others to be better suited. She will, however, continue to compete on the side.  

As for Weinzierl, on the topic of competition, he said he does not play professionally. 

“I play games for fun, as most people do, to just relax and take a break from everything else going on in the real world,” he said. 

Header photo: Students play a video game during the MNSU eSports Tournament held in the CSU Ballroom Saturday, Oct. 3, 2020 in Mankato. (Photo courtesy of Sam Tran)

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