Rise of esports at TAMIU
By Ruben Reyes
Bridge contributing writer
Published Monday, April 13, 2020
The TAMIU Smash Club is composed of students who play “Super Smash Bros.” for relaxation and competition.
Over the course of the semester, students formed bonds, thus enhancing the college experience for most. Management information systems major Luis Arriaga said his studies of networking exceeded his expectations in the TAMIU Smash Club.
“I want to have events that bring competitors from around the United States to [Texas A&M International University] and compete with our local Smash players,” Arriaga said.
Arriaga hopes to persuade TAMIU into looking at programs or scholarships for esports.
“TAMIU lags a little behind, but recently, the TAMIU [Recreational Sports Center] bought three gaming monitors and a Nintendo Switch … so there’s definitely support from the staff for gaming.”
Arriaga’s passion for gaming comes from his love for competition. In recent years, esports continues to grow all over the world due to famous titles such as, “League of Legends,” “Fortnite” and “Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.” These video game titles all share one trait in common: competition.
According to the Esports Ecosystems Report 2020, the esports market will likely surpass $1.5 billion in revenue by 2023. U.S. cities build esports arenas for tournaments. Esports gained mainstream media attention around the world. It’s an activity anyone can easily compete in, or spectate.
“As long as there are figureheads in the community, there is a chance that esports could grow into a prominent culture in any university,” Arriaga said.
Leonardo “MKLeo” Lopez is well known within the “Super Smash Bros.” community. Lopez is one of the notable players who inspires many people to enter “Super Smash Bros.” tournaments around the world. He is a player who continues to dominate the “Super Smash Bros.” competitive scene by consistently taking major tournaments with prizes ranging up to thousands of dollars.
Arriaga embraces the passion for the “Super Smash Bros.” community on campus and hopes more interest will come in the future. Arriaga hosted several tournaments, including a few approved by TAMIU. The club hosted the Battle at the Border tournament in late July 2019. The tournament was stacked with more than 120 players in attendance, including talent from Arkansas and Honduras, competing for a grand prize of $600.
The success of the TAMIU Smash Club inspired various students to create more organizations of their own for esports. Students voiced interest in creating clubs for other games, such as “League of Legends” and “Overwatch.”
The TAMIU Smash Club participated in a collegiate league in early 2019. Gavin “Cosmic” Gonzalez traveled with TAMIU Smash.
“Playing in the collegiate team was, honestly, a very fun experience,” Gonzalez said. “It felt just as if I was competing in another sport. Being able to represent my school along with traveling with good friends to these events—definitely something I’m going to remember.”
As one of the team’s dominant players, he eliminated nearly every member of Schreiner University’s team during the collegiate crew battles against other Texas universities.
“Having to come up with strategies and changing our lines up on the fly, to beat whoever we were up against, is something that I thoroughly enjoyed,” Gonzalez said. “Having your team and spectators cheer your team on was also a nice feeling.”
Arriaga hopes campus esports will take off to never-before-seen heights. Esports is something he believes should not be ignored or skimmed over and should be treated equally to traditional sports.
“Esports is easier to get into than many other sports but it’s just as hard to master, so we can see greater interest from people to enter esports at TAMIU due to the accessibility, compared to other sports,” Arriaga said.
Arriaga remains optimistic that TAMIU will continue to support the esports community and the TAMIU Smash Club for more semesters to come.