More Milwaukee-Area Universities Are Adding Esports To The Lineup

Apr 29, 2019

There was plenty of sports action over the weekend, with the Milwaukee Bucks and the Brewers playing games. Another intense battle took place Sunday at the Milwaukee School of Engineering, where teams from MSOE, Marquette University and UW-Milwaukee competed in esports — playing team-oriented video games on computers.

Esports has been growing nationally, and that's true locally, as well. 

MSOE recently set up its esports program as a club sport, meaning there will be scrimmages and sanctioned tournaments involving other schools. In competitive computer gaming, there are typically no marching bands, cheerleaders or fans in luxury boxes. But there are determined players, sitting at keyboards, headsets on, playing games that battle monsters or other strange creatures.

MSOE student Chet Witte (foreground) is one of about 80 players on the school's esports club team.
Credit Chuck Quirmbach

First-year student Chet Witte is one of the gamers. Witte used to play football, and wrestle at Oconomowoc High School. Now, he's majoring in computer science and is one of about 80 MSOE students playing on an esports club team. Witte says it fills his need to compete.

"I've played video games since I've been about 5 years old. So, when I heard about an esports team here, it kind of combines the competition of sports and the games that I love together to form something," Witte told WUWM.

Witte says there's even some school spirit involved. "It's definitely kind of good to be playing for something, for a team again. Because the game is fun, but when you can have that extra competitive edge that you're trying to win, for an organization and some pride for your school, it's definitely interesting," Witte explains, adding that esports are in line with the university's mission.

"Sports are a part of this school, but MSOE is kind of a nerd school. And this is like our culture in a way — video games. So, it's just what we do here," Witte said.

Nerd school or not,  MSOE has leased about 25 desktop computers and put them in a room at its recreation facility, the Kern Center, in downtown Milwaukee. Dean of Students Kip Kussman says unlike other club sports, esports players are not charged a fee, as the university is trying to offer video gaming in a more developmental way.

Kip Kussman (left) and Erick Johnson, of MSOE.
Credit Chuck Quirmbach

“It's very true students that are playing these competitive games are really relying on each other for cooperative learning, for communication skills. This is not just kids playing video games by themselves in their room for hours on end. This is students connecting with people around the world," Kussman said.

Kussman says MSOE does try to make sure students don't play too often, closing the room overnight, and requiring — just like with traditional sports — that the esports gamer has at least a 2.0 grade average.

"We may decide to set that a bit higher. We're sorting through how that's all going to look and work. We'll look at the students that have started. Obviously, they're all in good standing. Grade checks have been completed," Kussman explained.

Kussman says MSOE doesn't allow games that depict people being killed, or that have a sexual theme.  

Sunday at the Kern Center, it was all about the competition with the two other Milwaukee schools. MSOE staff adviser Erick Johnson got the event underway:  "All right everybody, quit your friendlies, we're going to start the crew battle," he announced.

UW-Milwaukee senior Ryan Weiss is president of an esports team called Smash Club. Weiss says UWM has had esports for at least six years. He's glad MSOE has now created club teams. Weiss says playing esports should help players eventually get a job.

“Being able to come in, interact, make friends, stuff like that. That contributes to a very important social aspect that you need when going to interviews, being able to relate to someone," Weiss advised.

One of the computer games played by the MSOE esports club team.
Credit Chuck Quirmbach

Marquette University has also added an esports club team this academic year. Club President Patrick Glogovsky says by this fall, Marquette will have a varsity team, making it the first major conference Division I school to do so. A big deal, says Glogovsky.

"Playing across the nation. All of that exposure is going to bring light to that Marquette has a varsity program and could get people to go to Marquette specifically for that," Glogovsky said.

Glogovsky also hopes employers someday look favorably on the college student who played the varsity sport of video games.

On Monday, MSOE's Erick Johnson reported to us the results of Sunday's "crew battle."  Johnson writes, "UWM went 2-0, Marquette went 1-1, MSOE went 0-2."

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