OLD WESTBURY, N.Y. — The NYIT eSports team is ramping up for its first full season.
Although not an NCAA-sanctioned sport, eSports (professional video gaming) is taking campuses by storm. Clubs from Big Ten schools now have an eSports league televised by The Big Ten Network. University of California, Irvine christened a 3,500-square-foot gaming arena last fall that includes 80 computers.
When NYIT student Elieser Duran (B.F.A '17) came to NYIT in 2012 he immediately joined the school's Game Club. However, he wanted to take his interest to a more competitive level. He found a willing partner in Duane Bailey, who was the athletics director at the time. After some hard work and planning, NYIT's eSports team launched in January 2017.
Since then, the NYIT CyBears, as the team is called, have participated in three competitions: "Dropzone," "Training Grounds: Overwatch," and "Heroes of the Dorm."
"The team competed in select tournaments last spring to mainly get our feet wet," said Dan Vélez, director of intercollegiate athletics and recreation. Vélez has high hopes for the CyBears. "This will be the first full year that the team competes. I expect them to compete at the highest level possible, just the same as I expect from the traditional sports teams. They are a part of our department and my expectation of them is the same as the rest our programs."
The team launched with a dozen members, but interest is quickly growing. At this year's Student Involvement Fair, held Thursday at NYIT-Old Westbury, 38 students signed up. "A significant improvement from last semester," said Rob Isme, recreation supervisor and faculty advisor for the CyBears.
"ESports are selling out professional arenas like Madison Square Garden and Key Arena in Seattle for professional events," said Vélez. "The fact that this segment of sports is able to sell out arenas in a way that some traditional professional teams cannot meant we had to pay attention. At NYIT we talk about being trailblazers in everything that we do. That 'the Future is Ours.' Well, this is the future, and we need to be a part of it."
The team is in the process of creating a schedule for practices which will be held at the Student Activities Center. "We will be following a structure similar to the other athletic teams for a certain amount of hours that have to be put in every month," said Isme.
The NYIT Athletics department is funding the team's computers, which members are building themselves to have optimal processing power, graphics, game-loading times, and frame rates for competition. Unlike traditional sports, the eSports team competes remotely. So while it has played against college teams—including from Rochester Institute of Technology and Assumption—it does not face its opponents in the same room.
"We want to provide an atmosphere for NYIT students to play on a competitive level while also getting a top notch education at NYIT," Isme said.
And what of recent graduate Duran who got the team off the ground? He will be back on campus to help coordinate the eSports teams for the upcoming season. "I decided to come back to help organize the team. I started the team during my senior spring semester and I was not only playing but coordinating. I didn't have enough time to set a stable foundation for future players here at NYIT, so I came back to make sure everything is running smoothly through the upcoming season," he said.
In the meantime, he continues to search for a job in eSports. "I look to get it started right here at NYIT. I'm happy to be starting and coordinating the eSports team at NYIT and I'm excited to see where it will go."
Follow the CyBears on Twitter @NYIT_eSports.