By Jason Parker
December 10, 2019
I still lament that my only option for esports in college was a League of Legends club that played against a few other colleges in the UNC collegiate system. I may have been a scrub, but at least I wasn’t the worst on campus. With tryhards, toxic jerks and no funding from the school, it was doomed before it began.
Thankfully, not all colleges see esports in this light. The University of Montana is another school going all-in with esports: Enter the Grizzly Esports team! They’re coming to U of M this fall.
Like many other schools, the University of Montana is taking this incredibly seriously. It’s not just “sign up, be good, win matches.” Students must adhere to a conduct code and GPA requirement.
You can’t forsake your studies to pretend you’re practicing. You must put serious work into both your education and practice time. This past Sunday, the Grizzly Esports team made its campus debut at an exhibition at UM’s new Innovation Factory.
Most teams I see show up have anywhere from 12-20 players, but the University of Montana has 90 members, with 60 competing regularly. There are some (evidently) seasoned gamers on the squad, but they welcome anyone who wants to try.
Inclusion is so important, but you want your squad to win. But fostering a positive environment with people that want to grow and work together? They could do just that. It’s important to work together and practice without having to stress about people acting as jerks.
Michael Cassens, the University of Montana esports director, discusses this:
“They have created this community organically, you know they’re joined together because of gaming and I think that’s something universal to everyone regardless of whether it’s an in person board game or video game. They come together and create this really safe place for them to know one another which I think is wonderful.”
The school also has a new degree program with Interactive Media and Game Design. This just the next step in that direction by having an esports program. It shows that the University of Montana understands that electronic media and esports are the future.
I’m glad to see more schools embracing this as a lifestyle and path for their students. Perhaps this could reduce bad decisions on campus (drugs, heavy drinking). You aren’t going to screw around with stupid stuff if you want to stay on the team.