MSU student eGamers want to win and make money playing their sport...and some are making it big.
EAST LANSING, Mich. – Their eyes strain, thumbs go numb, and their brain resides in another universe as they head into the game. These eSports players have a competitive side that seeps out in tournament settings.
Although eSports at Michigan State offer a community for the casual player, the quest for rankings and winning tournaments brings out the seriousness of the sport.
“The competitiveness is what attracts me,” said sophomore Ezekial Riley, an MSU Collegiate Counter Strike player. “It might be the pressure, but it makes you feel alive in a way. When you’re in the competition, you know your opponent is just as good as you, you're trying just as hard to win. We play for fun for the most part until it’s go-time. Then we all change our gears.”
Having over 10 different games within the MSU community of the eSports Association, there are many opportunities to play competitively. The biggest teams in which competition thrives are Super Smash Brothers, Counter Strike (CS: GO), and League of Legends.
“Counter Strike is fluttered with tournaments,” Riley said. “There’s huge ones every weekend for the professionals.”
The professional CS: GO players travel over 200 days out of the year to play in global tournaments. The money earned from sponsorships and tournament wins gives players the ability to make a living playing video games. That level of competition is a goal for many of the serious players at MSU.
“I want to keep competing,” Media and Information sophomore Kenshi Quist, Super Smash Bros player, said. “My goal is to be a sponsored player and actually get paid to play. That’s my end goal. I love it. I’ll keep doing it as long as I can.”
Quist, who goes by the player tag-name of Goma Kenpi, is ranked No. 1 at MSU within the Smash Bros team. Last season, Quist was ranked No. 12 in Michigan and is predicted to finish seventh this season. Quist just beat a top 20 player and is winning tournaments, putting him at the higher level where he has been able to earn money.
“Just yesterday I won $105,” Quist said. “I got second place out of 109, or so. I’m all right.”
Most of the local tournaments have buy-ins around $10 to $20. The idea of winning quick cash by playing video games is still unfeasible to most, but the facts don’t lie: eSports is growing.
“I hope that one day it sees better light than it does now,” said Riley. “There’s so much bad-mouthing because it’s not the same as having a ball in your hand. I hope that people can see that we are just as competitive in our own rights.”
Right alongside Quist in the Smash Bro rankings is Dylan Somoski, also known by his tag name, Dylster. He is an MSU freshman, predicted to be in the top 15 in Michigan this season.
“This semester I’ve won like $300,” said Somoski. “It can be stressful cause there’s a lot of factors going into it but overall it’s a very fun experience. Right now, I do just want to improve. Cause the rankings and the money is kind of a like a side thing for me, but right now I just want to keep improving.”
Players like Somoski and Quist use the resources and community found at MSU eSports to fuel their competitive side. MSU ESA provides its members with information about upcoming tournaments and events in Michigan, while also running its own tournaments.
“It’s definitely a path or a field of the world that a lot of people don’t know exists right now,” said Carter Prost. “We had a really big tournament, where we had like 130 people. We had a $500 pot bonus, and a $10 entry fee from each person. That end total for the winner of it walking away with about $1200.”