Story reprinted with permission from The Forum's April 18 edition.
MOORHEAD — The inaugural season of the Concordia College esports team is officially in the books and the Cobbers have some hardware to show for it.
Concordia's "Overwatch 2" team defeated Florida's Keiser University Sarasota 3-2 in a best-of-five match Tuesday night to claim the East 7 conference championship.
The Cobbers finished the regular season of Overwatch with a 5-2 record before defeating Louisiana State in the conference quarterfinals and Marietta College (Ohio) in the semifinals. Tuesday's championship tilt was at The Harvest gaming arena at Park Region Hall.
Overwatch 2 is a first-person shooter game which pits teams of five against one another to compete for a series of objectives across various available maps.
Each team member selects a character known as a "hero," with each hero holding different responsibilities such as offense, healing or creating space for teammates. There are 35 characters to choose from, with each holding various skill sets and abilities.
The Cobber Overwatch team is Quinn Christianson, Brinn Donais, Dayana Ramsay, Brandon Marroquin, Kai Pierce and Carter Rogers.
Christianson is a second-year student from Halstad, Minn. studying education.
When Concordia announced the addition of its esports program last April, it was something Christianson immediately wanted to be involved in.
"I've always had a love for video games," Christianson said. "And while they were mostly handheld consoles, I had never had a chance to actually try computer gaming. And the fact that Concordia opened up a way for students to experience this, it's truly been phenomenal. It was a great idea and I know if not me, other students have really enjoyed this experience."
Quinn Christianson and Brinn Donais compete for the Concordia esports team on Tuesday, April 18, 2023. David Samson/The Forum
It's not as easy as picking up a controller and playing. Competition takes serious focus, communication and quick thinking.
"Having that teamwork and that camaraderie is really a certain key factor and also knowing what you're doing," said Rogers, a junior from Brandon, Fla., studying social studies education. "You can't just walk into a fight without knowing what you play and what your role is. You have to be aware of who does what and how they do it."
"We have practices every week," added Donais, a junior from Fergus Falls studying biology. "We do a lot of game strategizing within our player types. Working with the (damage per second) heroes, our damage-based heroes, our healers, comboing our ultimate abilities — a lot of strategizing and communicating is a big part of it."
Like traditional sports, the team even studies film on their opponent leading up to the competition.
"We scout broadcasts," said Cobbers head coach Lucas Campoverde. "So other Twitch streams and things like that where we prep ahead of time."
Twitch is a streaming platform gamers across the world use to broadcast to their audience. Campoverde, the former police officer-turned-coach, also does live play-by-play for each competition on Concordia's Twitch feed.
Lucas Campoverde coaches the Concordia esports team during competition at Concordia College on Tuesday, April 18, 2023.
David Samson/The Forum
Campoverde coaches the team on aspects such as positioning, awareness and decision-making.
"Our practices run twice a week," Campoverde said. "What happens is the players play matches and then I dissect the matches and help coach them about specific issues or things that they can improve on or that they're doing wrong."
Keeping composure is also important.
"We expect a higher standard of our participants," Campoverde said. "Where they can't rage or lose their composure. That's something we really harp on and try to teach."
The season kicked off in February. Along with Overwatch, the Cobbers also field teams in the ever-popular games "Rocket League" and "League of Legends." The team hopes to add other games to its lineup in the future such as "Rainbow Six Siege" and "Valorant."
Competition is facilitated by the National Association of Collegiate Esports, which oversees 254 member schools.
Kai Pierce competes for the Concordia esports team on Tuesday, April 18, 2023. David Samson/The Forum
The niche sport continues to grow. According to the National Education Association, more than $16 million in esports scholarships were awarded in 2020. Both high schools and colleges across the nation continue to add programs.
"I do see that esports is going to be something that just explodes," said Ramsay, a junior from Menahga, Minn. studying psychology. "It provides a sense of community. It's kind of hard to find people around that are just like, 'Yo, do you play video games, too?' I don't see a lot of people around me who play video games."
James Jehlik, associate director of Academic and User Technology Services at Concordia, played a key role in getting the school's esports program up and running, along with former student Noah Hanson and Lisa Sethre-Hofstad, vice president for Student Development and Campus Life.
Jehlik said it has been incredible to see the program have so much success in its first season.
"It is amazing to see the students," Jehlik said. "There have been some great bonds being built. Students are making some great friends. It's really fun to watch them compete, to be challenged and to grow. It's everything we hoped it would be, for sure."
Concordia esports team member Carter Rogers competes on Tuesday, April 18, 2023. David Samson/The Forum
Campoverde said it's been a long time coming.
"It's really awesome to see it come together," Campoverde said. "It's been in the works for awhile, but to see all of the pieces finally come together, it's pretty amazing."
Christianson said the team welcomes all, whether they're an amateur gamer or a seasoned pro.
"We are super welcoming here," Christianson said. "We would love to have any new incoming students. It doesn't matter how much experience you may have. We're welcome to train you."