May 8, 2020

Game on

Esport league at UW-Superior takes intramural sports online

UWS student Shandon Sutherland

The University of Wisconsin-Superior offers students dozens of clubs, organizations and campus recreation opportunities for any interest. Yet, as the COVID-19 pandemic sent many students off campus and classes transitioned to online, much of those extracurricular opportunities were forced to pause.

For one group, the game continued thanks to a newly formed intramural sports club on campus.

“At the start of this year, I knew that esports was a trending area and that it would continue to grow and become more popular,” said Shandon Sutherland, a senior majoring in exercise science with minors in coaching and sports management. “I saw that universities around the nation were starting to offer intramural esports, esport clubs, and even competitive esport teams.”

The esport league at UW-Superior was set up like more traditional on-campus intramurals and by offering a verity of events.

“We began by offering one-night esports tournaments for Fortnite, NHL20, and Madden 20 video games,” said Sutherland. “Students would sign up to play just like any other intramural sports we offer. I set up my Xbox in a classroom in the Marcovich Wellness Center and projected it on the screen. I brought the game and asked participants to bring their own controllers.”

The league saw growth in the first semester on campus and additional plans began to take shape.

“We were looking to continue to build off our one-night in-person tournaments,” said Sutherland. “If we were able to recruit and gain interest from enough students, we were looking to start esports leagues that would play out weekly like our other intramural sports.”

As the coronavirus hit and social distancing went into effect on campus effectively ending any in-person gaming tournaments, Sutherland knew there would still be interest in continuing the esport league.

“We have been forced to be creative in continuing to offer students programs,” he said. “I wanted to bring esports leagues online during this pandemic because I knew, like myself, some students would be spending a lot of their free time playing video games. I thought, ‘Why not create something that piggy-backs off something we already know students are doing?’”

Sutherland, who also serves as the intramural student program manager, was able to rely on his experience scheduling leagues and tournaments, and programming other events on campus to take the league online.

The Chaska, Minnesota, native has found the transition has gone better than expected.

“It has been a smooth process,” he said. “Luckily, a lot of our typical programing and promoting is online-based. So moving intramurals, or at least esports, online has been easy.”

The group has also embraced social media to share news and help attract more students.

“We use social media and email to promote and the programing software, IMLeagues, to set up the leagues, open registration for students, and for students to contact or challenge each other, report scores and view standings,” said Sutherland.

The esport league, which currently includes ten students, has been holding tournaments in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, Madden 20 and MLB The Show 20. Leagues are offered for PC, Xbox and PS4 users. While the league envisions moving back to in-person gaming when campus opens again, the online experience has proven beneficial.
 
“I have learned that using online resources, even when you don’t have to, makes things easy,” said Sutherland. “But being familiar with online resources and having them in place for unprecedented times like these is crucial.”
 
Information on the esports league can be found on the UW-Superior Campus RecreationFacebook and Instagram accounts.

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