Photo of Esports Club members at UW-Eau Claire. About 500 people are in the five-year-old club, with about 50 members participating in competitive leagues against other universities.

Students competing in the game of Rocket League during the E-sports tournament hosted by Recreation at the Hill Top Center.

Video gamers of all skill levels are finding competition and camaraderie in the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire Esports Club.

“I would say that if you are interested in video games, even if you haven’t played too much, there is a spot for you in the club,” says Anika Rix, a club member and fourth-year student from San Jose, California. “Whether you want to just get better or you’re in the top 1% of players and want to compete against some of the best players in the country, there are a whole variety of options. If you love the game and want to practice and get better, we have the way to do that. There are a lot of people here to help you out and to teach you things and to support you and your own goals.”

Esports, or electronic sports, is organized competitive video gaming featuring team competitions. UW-Eau Claire’s Esports Club competes in the lab in Room 112A of Hilltop Center, where the most popular games are Valorant, Rocket League, League of Legends, Overwatch, CS:GO and Super Smash Bros.

About 500 people are in the five-year-old club, with about 50 members participating in competitive leagues against other universities. Club advisor Nate Garvey, who says he was a gamer growing up, loves to see bonds grow among students playing side by side.

“As someone who was in traditional sports, and knowing that teamwork and that team atmosphere, seeing that get built within gaming and esports is awesome,” Garvey says.

The Esports Club and Blugold Marching Band are two primary reasons third-year marketing student Jacob Polanski enrolled at UW-Eau Claire. Polanski, of Rosemount, Minnesota, is a trombone section leader in BMB and a competitive team member in the Esports Club.

“It’s very surreal,” Polanski says of the esports competition atmosphere. “Everyone is sitting next to one another competing for the same goal. It’s an absolute blast to be able to work with your teammates, create and execute strategies that you’ve done in practice to the fullest extent that you possibly can inside of the game. It’s a lot of fun to just work together and execute.”

Discovering the Esports Club was a pleasant surprise to Rix, who left California to attend UW-Eau Claire because she could participate in undergraduate research while pursuing a double major in applied physics and applied mathematics. A friend suggested that Rix look into the Esports Club and she says the experience has exceeded her expectations.

“It’s been very nice finding a group of people who have the same goal and we can work together, help each other, push each other to be better players and better people in general,” Rix says.

In addition to playing, students also can be involved in the club by creating content, streaming competitions to viewing audiences or broadcasting games in the club’s new broadcast booth.

“If students don’t want to play but want to be part of the more cinematic part of esports, broadcasting and hosting is a great way to do it,” Polanski says.

Rix and Polanski say that international students have found the Esports Club to be a comfort zone for them as they meet new friends and enjoy a familiar sport.

“They already feel more at home because they’re doing something that they already know they are good at, and they’re also learning the language at the same time,” Polanski says.

All the club’s social links are available here. Students can get involved by joining Discord or following the club on Twitter and Instagram, where updates and more information about the teams are available. The club plans to livestream on Twitch and YouTube starting in the fall semester.

Written by Gary Johnson

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