Waynesburg eSports gears up for “Activation Weeks”

By Robert Burkholder

The Waynesburg Yellow Jackets, known across campus for a multitude of teams including baseball, soccer, basketball, and most famously football, will soon be known for something else. eSports. A rising star in collegiate sports, eSports are taking many colleges by storm, including here at Waynesburg, where athletes are playing four games this season.

Waynesburg competes through NECC, the National eSports Collegiate Conference. NECC holds all of its brackets online, making it very accessible for all 100+ schools under the competitive bracket. Some have raised doubts about the quality of online connections for some games such as Smash Brothers, which operates on an infamously shaky peer-to-peer connection. Such doubts may have been validated during the Smash team’s first week of activation as an opponent disconnected twice during the set in two separate games. Whether it was intentional or a result of a bad connection was unknown, but it certainly threw a wrench in the team’s plans, as a referee had to be contacted for further ruling. Hopefully, such scenarios will become an unlikely occurrence.

They are slated to play League of Legends, a 5v5 competitive MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena) where your goal is to fight your way towards the enemy tower and destroy it using a slew of various abilities depending on your chosen hero. Along a similar vein is their next game, Overwatch 2. Yet to be released, Overwatch 2 is a 5v5 hero shooter similar to the previous release, but with a new focus on healers instead of shield characters.

Super Smash Bros Ultimate is already in session at the state-of-the-art “Arena”, where two players fight one-on-one using characters from a multitude of videogame franchises from Mario and Link to Bayonetta and Terry Bogard. Truly “Everyone is Here”, as watching the Smash team compete makes you truly feel the sense of community they have created bonding over a game.

The final game to be played is Rocket League, a twist on soccer where instead of a human kicking the ball, a car with a rocket strapped to the back does, hence the name. This high-octane game lives up to its name as cars take flight and take total control of the ball in gameplay that will literally drive you up the wall. Head coach Matt Pioch has hope for the Rocket League team to do great things. 

“We have a couple of individuals near the highest rank available in the game, and to be able to bring that skill to a competitive environment is good,” Pioch said. 

Pioch is looking for more people to join the eSports department and is putting in the work to get the word out. He cites having “around 300 potential recruits” and is starting initiatives to kickstart eSports not just on the campus, but in Greene County as well. Carmichaels High School will play in a Rocket League tournament at the University in May, and approximately 20 Xbox One controllers have been set aside for their use. 

When asked of his expectations for the season, Pioch replied with a well-thought line, as if he had mulled over this question for some time. He expects to “compete, learn, and grow through the season, with emphasis on establishing a community that values what can be done as a team here at Waynesburg University as opposed to alone in the dorm room solo-queueing.”The next set of “Activation” games is this Friday, Sept. 16. You can watch the Rocket League team at work on Twitch, a live streaming site, at https://www.twitch.tv/waynesburgesports. Here’s to hoping for a good season!