Next up in the Inside the CEC series are some reflections from a few members of Grand Canyon University (GCU). These responses come primarily from Justen “Ninjacat” Johns who is the student club president of GCU Esports and the captain of the 2018-2019 GCU Varsity Overwatch team. These are supplemented with thoughts from Albert Lee, Coordinator & Head of Esports for Grand Canyon University, and Oscar “OzzyWhiskers” Esquer, another member of the starting GCU Overwatch roster.
Combined, these give a great insight into what the CEC experience was like for the team as a whole and what it all means moving forward for GCU esports.
First off, what was your favorite part about attending the CEC event?
Justin: My favorite part of the event was playing on stage in front of over 20k people on a Twitch live stream and many more in-person at the venue. Being able to look back and say that I have represented Grand Canyon University on ESPN is something I never dreamed I thought I would be able to say.
On the flip side, what was the biggest challenge along the way?
Justin: The biggest challenge was beating both UC Irvine and UCSD in the Round of 32 and Round of 16 portions of the bracket in order to get to the LAN event. The match against UCI was an insanely close match, we definitely were the underdogs since the beginning but we earned our place here.
Having spent much of your collegiate esports career playing remotely, what was it like playing in front of a crowd and right next to your opposing team?
Justin: Playing right next to the opposing team was a bit nerve racking – we have played in front of an online audience before but not on this scale. Being able to look into a crowd of people and realizing they were all rooting for you IN PERSON was an experience that none of us have experienced before and it felt amazing.
This event aside, how has your time at GCU prepped you for your future?
Oscar: I do believe that GCU can properly help me with my future plans for my career, especially considering how the classes I took related to my career path were actually pretty good learning experiences. Furthermore, I enjoy my time at GCU, giving me more incentive to do good in academics and I enjoy the environment provided by the school and would like to keep attending.
What has the entire experience done to bond your team? What does it mean to have made it to the final 8?
Justin: This experience was more than just going to play Overwatch for us. We were representing our school at a North American ESPN event. We were proud and excited to represent GCU in the final 8 collegiate Overwatch teams in North America.
After this, what’s next for you and what’s next for GCU?
Oscar: I’m going to tryout once again for the team, hoping to improve even more as an individual to increase our chances to go to LAN again. As for GCU, I hope that this event will provide incentive for even more support and publicity for the Overwatch team.
Justin: For me, I plan on still staying around and helping out as much as I can. Since I graduated, I cannot play, unfortunately, but I can still help out the team as much as I can since I will be returning to GCU to get my Masters.
What does this event mean for collegiate Overwatch, and esports in general, moving forward?
Albert: I believe that this event has further broadened the scope of collegiate gaming across North America. While esports has been gaining significant traction at the university level for many years, ESPN’s direct involvement this time around will have a ripple effect: Colleges and universities that were uncertain about investing into esports, or their existing student gaming communities, now have a familiar organization metaphorically announcing to them that esports is here to stay and should be given careful consideration. Overwatch, as well as the other games hosted at the Collegiate Esports Championship event, should find itself seeing more interest from not only non-STEM focused schools but non-endemic brands and potential investors alike.
Justin: ESPN hosting the Tespa collegiate events puts esports in the spotlight of the nation. Getting picked up and hosted by ESPN shows that collegiate esports athletes are students worth recruiting into your university, and it shows colleges that collegiate esports has the potential to be as big as pro-level esports as well as collegiate baseball, basketball or football.
To those deciding between pursuing Open Division and Contenders tryouts versus collegiate esports, what advice do you have?
Oscar: Be more active in the Overwatch community. Make connections with people who have influence and participate in pick-up games as well as local and online tourneys. All of these can get you noticed in the community if you’re seeking to reach Contenders.
Justin: For players deciding between Open Division/Contenders Tryouts and collegiate esports, I would recommend looking into which schools offer scholarships for your game. Some schools are even offering full rides to their players for playing, so now is the perfect time to get into a collegiate team and get a free college degree. Not to mention how well the ESPN LAN finals went, collegiate players are now getting a significant amount of recognition.
Lastly, any parting words or people you want to thank?
Justin: Now is the time to hop on the “esports train” if you are a college or university. It has an extremely low-cost of entry to build a competitive esports facility compared to basketball or football arenas and can net a large audience of potential students who are interested in esports or gaming in general.
Also, a big shout-out to Grand Canyon University for supporting the team and the community that cheers us on. GCU invested into the community by providing a training and community “Esports Arena” for use, and without them many of our players wouldn’t have had access to the necessary equipment. The community itself is fantastic and we’d love for anyone interested to come and check us out on Twitter!
To keep up with GCU Esports, join their discord server and follow them on Twitter! Stay tuned for continued coverage from the Inside the CEC series here, at The Game Haus.
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Featured Image Courtesy of GCU Esports
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