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A spirit that is not afraid

Auburn Esports hosts Georgia in first ever on-campus tournament

<p>Jordan "Dex" Jones (3) celebrates a round win during a Valorant match against the Georgia E-Sports team at Auburn's first LAN Tournament on Oct. 23, 2022.</p>

Jordan "Dex" Jones (3) celebrates a round win during a Valorant match against the Georgia E-Sports team at Auburn's first LAN Tournament on Oct. 23, 2022.

As Aubie hoisted the Deep South Clash trophy over his head, the raucous cheers of roughly 100 students and community members in attendance filled the room.

On Sunday evening, Auburn Esports drew Georgia Esports in its first-ever on-campus local access network tournament in the Melton Student Center Ballroom.

The Tigers split the series with the Bulldogs by winning in Rocket League, a vehicular soccer game, 2-0, and losing in Valorant, a five versus five first-person shooter, 3-0.

Dalton Counter, senior in business management and president of Auburn Esports, expressed appreciation towards all the students and community members that attended the tournament.

“We just wanted to prove a point that Esports could actually get some viewers,” Counter said. “I was actually really pleased with the amount of people that showed up and wanted to see what everything was about, especially since I mean, this is their first time doing it.”

When Steven “Umma” Lin, Coleman “Poison” Ivy, Joey “Roo” Lusk, Carson “Schmoovin” Smith and Jordan “Dex” Jones were presented before playing Valorant, they received a hero’s welcome.

The adoration and sound of shakers that greeted them were not unlike what athletes from other sports at Auburn would receive before a competition.

As each Valorant game began, the crowd even uttered a hearty, drawn-out “War Eagle” as Auburn fans do prior to every kickoff at a football game.

For Esports members such as Lusk, that show of support meant everything.

“This is more than I could have imagined coming out for this,” Lusk said. “If you look at some of the other colleges, they don't get anywhere near this whenever they've tried it. So, this is great. It's wonderful to be part of.”

The constant chatter amongst both teams underscored the complexity of competitive Esports and the importance of communication as with traditional athletics. 

“That first map, we had issues with Dex, our chamber player. His mic didn't work at all, and we had no idea what was going on the other side of the map half the time,” Lusk said. “Communication is everything, it's how we went half the games.”

Behind the scenes, the process to prepare for the tournament was intensive.

According to Connor Lamm, fifth-year senior in finance and assistant director of video games for the University Program Council, the process to see the event come to fruition required months of preparation.

“We've been working on this since April or May with the Esports club here at Auburn,” Lamm said. “They [Auburn Esports] did such a great job getting together all the tech and all the casters, the commentators and producer to mix everything.”

After an entire week that included scouting where stages, tables and chairs should be placed, tech setup, erecting a nearly 10-foot-tall video screen, setting up 10 PCs, and last-second soundchecks, the process was well worth it.

“I'm extremely proud, but I was very nervous because this is a first here at Auburn. We've never done a live Esports event, and give credit to the guys from Georgia for coming all the way down here,” Lamm said. “It was really cool that we got to do that, and I'm just very proud of the way that both us and eSports were able to pull this off. It feels very rewarding.”

Over the years, Esports has consistently grown in both popularity and participation.

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According to Newzoo, a video game and esports analytics and market research organization, there were 397.8 million combined occasional and enthusiast esports viewers globally in 2019.

By 2021, that number had increased to 465.1 million, a roughly 14.5% increase over two years.

Newzoo has also predicted that the global audience will continue to grow, with 577.8 million expected viewers by 2024.

For those in attendance, the experience was a validation of that growing global popularity and what Esports mean to those that do not follow traditional sporting events.

To Maynard Marlow, freshman in chemistry who has been following Esports since middle school, the experience was almost surreal.

“Seeing it get all this [attention], seeing it be taken so seriously, it's just so cool,” Maynard said. “You know, I feel like it's finally getting the respect it kind of deserves.”

While his twin brother Christian Marlow, freshman in software engineering, has not followed Esports as closely as Maynard has, it was still validating to see Esports have the stage at a university known more for its traditional sports teams.

“I'm not much of a football guy, so it's nice for me to have some sort of like competitive thing where I understand it and I care about it,” Christian said. “I really feel like I can get hyped for Auburn.”

While there are currently no plans for another in-person event in the near future, the success of Sunday’s tournament showed that Esports is here to stay on Auburn’s campus.

Daniel Schmidt | Assistant News Editor

Daniel Schmidt, senior in journalism, is the assistant news editor for the Auburn Plainsman. 

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