Esports utilizes Open House to recruit new members


Sean Marty / The Sunflower

Lane Pywell, a sophomore member of the Esports varsity team, prepares to play a game during the program’s Open House on Tuesday, Aug. 17 inside the Heskett Center.

The Esports club hosted its first in-person event in over a year, with an Open House inside the Esports Hub at the Heskett Center. The event allowed students to interact with other members of the team and get a taste of what it’s like.

Joe Mazzara, the Interim Director of Esports said that it was encouraging for them to return to more in-person events like on Tuesday.

“Everybody thinks that it’s hanging out in your basement and not seeing other people but this just proves to everybody that it’s
a social environment, this a social thing,” Mazzara said. “People are meeting new people right now, it’s great.”

Mazzara said that he has seen the program grow substantially since it was a found a couple of years ago.

“When I joined there were about 12 people in it and then over the past three years it’s gone from 12 to 40 to over 100,” Mazzara said. “Every fall, all the freshmen, all the transfer students, there’s always tons of interest. So it’s just growing, I don’t see it stopping anytime soon.”

Esports added a varsity team back in 2018 and is still trying to gain awareness of it around campus.

Samara Arnold, the President of Shocker gaming, said that a return to in-person like on Tuesday will gain recognition on campus, for the program’s club as well.

“Our biggest problem is getting freshmen into our clubs and into our teams because we’re still fairly new, we’ve only been around for a couple of years,” Samara Arnold, the President of Shocker gaming said. “So trying to get the word out there – that every university has a basketball team, every university has a soccer team – people don’t realize that the games that they play could compete here with the school.”

The event was held at the Esports Hub, which is located inside of the Heskett Center. The hub features around 20 desktop gaming computers with games preloaded on them. It also gives the varsity team an area to practice, while giving them space to recruit even more for the program.

Mazzara said that the hub has been a great addition to the program.

“People have been coming out of the woodworks that play any sort of game, all sorts of interest in the varsity program. There’s tons of interest in the club because that’s the most inclusive environment for people that are playing games on campus. It’s been a huge boost for in-place recruiting, it’s just fantastic.”

Unlike some sports clubs around campus, esports was able to continue to have events but Arnold said that COVID impacted the club’s growth as well.

“The majority of the people that we had participated over the last year were the majority of members that we already had,” Arnold said. “Being the gaming club, it was easier to continue some of our things online, whereas a lot of other sports clubs didn’t have that option.”

Lane Pywell, a sophomore member of the varsity team, said that these events allow students to get a hands-on experience about what joining the team or club could be.

“Events like these definitely spread the word around campus and definitely gets more people who may have not heard of esports or know what it is, it lets them experience how it all works,” Pywell said.

Alex Bellinger recently joined the varsity team as a freshman and said that these in-person events can help the program continue to grow moving forward.

“It’s honestly really important especially as we are just now starting and getting back into the wrap of things, finding new players to try out and new staff members,” Bellinger said. “It really gets us going and it really helps us get back on a roll.”