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TAMIU esports takes competitive gaming to next level

TAMIU esports takes competitive gaming to next level 

By Dulce Castellanos
Bridge contributing writer

Originally published in the print edition on Friday, Nov. 19, 2021

Several of the esports teams on campus are taking it to the next level—not Level 2, but the national level.

Call of Duty Esports team member Ivan Larumbe said, “It is a big deal.”

TAMIU esports competitors in action
Leonard Gonzalez | Bridge
An unidentified esports player live streams on Nov. 2 at the Dusty’s Den Game Room near the Student Center.

The National Association of Collegiate Esports, the largest membership association of varsity esports programs at colleges and universities across the U.S., added Texas A&M International University organizations to its ranks.

Competing at a varsity level in competitive gaming comes with perks, besides national recognition. They include scholarship opportunities and cash prizes.

“With NACE, we are legitimate,” TAMIU esports founding member Pablo R. Merelo, who currently manages a team and creates content, said. “We actually award players with money.”

TAMIU competed in NACE for the first time back in April 2021. Ivan Larumbe, current esports member and kinesiology major, competed last year in Rocket League and ended up winning the championship.

Following this win, Merelo said, “More eyes were on [TAMIU] esports,”

Larumbe said that after his championship title win, TAMIU esports teams saw an increase in interest at the school, based on the incentives the teams received.

“Because of my participation in the championship, [the University] approved two more PCs for the game room,” the champ said. Esports teams were even going to travel for a playoffs competition the prior semester, but the pandemic cancelled the trip.

TAMIU’s NACE involvement includes two varsity teams: Rocket League and Call of Duty. The University also has a junior varsity team competing in League of Legends. All three of those also include challenger teams that compete in all three video games.

NACE organizes all of its competitions. Participants stream gameplays through Twitch, an interactive streaming service for content sharing. On Sept. 22, TAMIU competed in Starleague Call of Duty against Texas A&M University—San Antonio, beating them 6-0. This landslide win showcases how TAMIU esports teams begin to make their mark in NACE, despite being relatively new to the program.

“When we get to the playoffs, hopefully we do well enough so the school can recognize that we are a legitimate organization,” Merelo said. “We are trying our best and our players are putting in the work and the practice. Maybe the next step is to create actual scholarships for our esports athletes.”

Now that TAMIU esports competes through NACE and prepares for the playoffs in November, old and new members alike take competitive gaming to a more serious level. Members communicate on social media app Discord, which serves to keep them updated about gaming news and to stay connected with one another regarding practice times, or other information.

Members of all leagues have scheduled bi-weekly practices. Merelo said that although they are very serious about competing, competitors are “students first, before a player” and “We want to see them succeed in the future.”

As this program continues to grow, members hope to create new varsity teams that will compete through NACE also. Merelo said they hope to partner up with TAMIU’s Super Smash Club, possibly bringing about an opportunity for developing a new varsity team that will compete nationally.

“In the future, we definitely want to see where [NACE] take us,” Merelo said.

Interested persons may find more information on TAMIU gaming by contacting Ivan Cano, Rec Sports specialist, at ivan.cano@tamiu.edu.

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