Athletics launches CyBears as eSports teams become rage on college campuses

Athletics launches CyBears as eSports teams become rage on college campuses

OLD WESTBURY, N.Y. — Elieser Duran loved video games for most of his life, so he joined NYIT's Game Club upon arriving on campus. However, he aspired to take his interest to a more competitive level. He found a willing partner in athletics director Duane Bailey.

With Bailey's backing, NYIT launched an eSports team in January.

"I was absolutely thrilled when our students approached me about starting an eSports team," Bailey said. "I'm a firm believer that there can be a place for eSports and traditional sports in college. ESports opens more possibilities for us, with a whole new audience to engage, and to extend the NYIT brand."

Duran, a senior graphic-design major, hopes to one day have championship banners hanging in Recreation Hall alongside titles for more traditional sports such as basketball and volleyball, although he recognizes that day may come after he graduates in May. 

"I know I'm probably not going to see it, but I want to put eSports on that wall," Duran said. "I want to win one."

Although not an NCAA-sanctioned sport, eSports is taking campuses by storm. Clubs from Big Ten schools now have an eSports league televised by The Big Ten Network. Cal-Irvine christened a 3,500-square-foot gaming arena last fall that includes 80 computers.

NYIT's CyBears have participated in two competitions so far. Their most recent competition allowed them to compete in "Dropzone," which is in beta testing and not yet available to the public. They have now applied to compete beginning March 25 in "Training Grounds: Overwatch," which has been named best game of the year.

Drawing from the seven-year-old Gaming Club, the eSports team currently has a dozen members, including Duran and fellow officers Sophia Ahmad, Timothy Moses and Richard Rostum. The group is looking to increase awareness across campus and significantly grow.

They recently launched a Twitter account — @NYIT_eSports

"Game Club is more for socializing and just having fun without pressure," Duran said. "It's an escape from classes."

Said Sophia Ahmad: "This is a competition."

The team currently competes in the lecture hall in Room 130 of Harry J. Schure Hall. They soon will transition to sophisticated facilities in the rec room on the second floor of the athletic complex.

Bailey's athletic 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. Because the powerful machines are being built in-house, they cost roughly $600 apiece in parts. 

"You get to customize them a whole bunch more," Sophia Ahmad said.

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. 

"Our team members are mostly viewing this as a hobby or something fun to do on the side," Duran said. "Time will tell if the freshmen on our team would like to pursue eSports as a career. Me, personally, I would really love to pursue a career in eSports whether it be from a gaming or a management aspect."