Source: Ben Spicer - Daily TimesJordan Hyland of Complex eSports discusses professional gaming.
Video games have come a long way from the arcade and Atari.
Over the past decade, a significant increase has been seen in professional video gaming, or “eSports.” In recent years, eSports have grown at a pace comparable to the actual sports industry.
For example, a report from IHS Markit in May 2017 found that in 2016 viewership for competitive gaming increased by 19 percent, totaling over six billion viewers in the year.
It looks as though the growth isn’t stopping any time soon, and eSports could be an Olympic sport just in time for the 2024 Olympics.
Gamers have even found communities and tournaments in Scioto County. Earlier this year, Shawnee State announced that they would add an eSports team that would begin play officially in the fall of 2018.
SSU athletic director Jeff Hamilton sees a bright future and a potential for growth in competitive gaming at the school.
“As you look at our success in academics with our gaming programs, it’s a real nice get for Shawnee State,” Hamilton said. “Being known nationally as a designing school coupled with the opportunity to compete should attract more students.”
The efforts of Hamilton and staff members in athletics like Kyle Trapp helped bring the idea to fruition.
“I’ve been working on this since June, and at that point it was just a rumble of can we bring this to Shawnee State,” Trapp said. “We reached out to schools like Pikeville and Miami of Ohio, and they were detailing a lot of things that they did, and things that we could do.”
Now, Shawnee State students could be competing against those schools down the road as the sport continues to gain momentum among interested students.
“I can just tell you from working on it since June, the amount of growth I’ve seen is insane,” Trapp said. “We’re on pace to have a really good season starting in 2018.”
As the Bears look to field teams for several different games, Hamilton hopes that by jumping on the opportunity early that Shawnee State can stand out to prospective recruits.
“It’s one of those things where I like Shawnee being one of the early schools to get involved,” Hamilton said. “Hopefully we can get a jump on a lot of the other schools that are going to end up in the same genre.”
With a game design program at Shawnee State that has consistently been nationally ranked, there’s already a buzz being generated from current students.
Earlier in November at the Shawnee 17.0 Gaming, Simulation and Immersive Technology Conference that interest was on display.
“We had so many kids stop by our table asking if this was really going to happen,” Trapp said. “They had heard rumors about it.”
Even professors within the university are enthusiastic about what eSports can offer.
“I’ve talked to Greg Lyons and a couple of professors over in the game design program, and they’re so happy to have it coming,” Trapp said. “It’s really great for Shawnee State and the expansion that we’re having.”
Shawnee State alum Jordan Hyland, who is also a co-founder of Complex eSports in West Portsmouth, thinks the addition can benefit his former school as well.
“I think it will give the university as a whole a lot of attention,” Hyland said. “It’ll put [Shawnee] on the map as an eSports friendly university, and I think it will help attract attention and expand the student body and get more students here.”
Hyland never anticipated that he would be involved at this level with gaming, especially here at home.
“A few years ago, I just casually played video games and met some people online that played these things called game battles,” Hyland said. “I heard this, and my first instinct was this is kind of dumb, you’re playing video games competitively.”
“But then, as I got into it, I realized there are millions and millions of people across the world that are involved in it. It’s actually booming right now, the industry in the last couple years has doubled, maybe even tripled at this point.”
It was then that Hyland and his friend Tyler McGraw got the idea to bring competitive gaming to Portsmouth.
“In 2015, I ran a soccer league at The Complex,” Hyland said. “We had an adult soccer league that summer, and at the same time they were renting shops out to people around the community who want to start their own business.”
“One of the guys that opened up the shop was an old classmate of mine, Tyler McGraw. We were childhood buddies.”
From there, talk began as to whether or not something like eSports could be successful in the area.
“The conversation came up “Hey have you heard of competitive gaming and eSports? Why don’t we try this out,” so in December we held our first two versus two Call of Duty tournament,” Hyland said. “I believe we had 10 teams show up, and from there everyone came back and it’s just blown up since then.”
Hyland will be hosting perhaps the biggest tournament in the history of Complex eSports on Saturday in a double elimination Call of Duty: World War II tournament that offers 2000 dollars to the first-place team of four.
“It’s going to be the second event of its kind to my knowledge in the entire country,” Hyland said. “There’s a pretty big scene behind it. We have people that travel as far as New York, Chicago, Canada, Washington DC.”
As players pile in, the atmosphere is unmatched according to Hyland once the Playstation consoles are powered on.
“It’s not something you’d expect,” Hyland said. “You see in professional sports, people get angry at each other and get in each other’s faces. It’s the same thing, honestly people will get up and scream at each other.”
“If someone makes a big play in the game, they let you know about it. They’ll tell you how bad you are, how much better they are than you, it’s intense.”
The stakes will be high on Saturday, and if the trends continue for competitive gaming, this won’t be the last time you hear a discussion about eSports in Scioto County.
Hopefully your thumbs are ready for battle.
Reach Benjamin Spicer at (502)264-7318 on Twitter @BSpicerPDT or at Facebook.com/ReporterBenSpicer