The University of Idaho Esports team can be found earnestly preparing for their forthcoming matches in the basement of the Bruce Pitman Center. The somewhat dark computer lab is filled with the aroma of popcorn as enthusiastic students busily click away at their computers, their heads adorned with headsets, amid bouts of laughter and shared practice.
Previously known as a computer gaming club, it has now evolved into an officially competitive collegiate Esports team. The team, known as University of Idaho Vandal Esports, is fast making strides in its program and crafting an Esports legacy at UI.
The Vandal Esports team participates in four popular games: Valorant, Super Smash Bros Ultimate, Rocket League, and Counterstrike. Tryouts happen at the beginning of each semester, leading to selections for both varsity and junior varsity leagues.
Teams associated with each game train together under the guidance of a coach or team captain who is typically elected by the team members.
Jacob Holloway, a sophomore and the Valorant team coach and captain, has been part of the team for two years. Known in gaming circles as Cheese, Holloway emphasized the vital role of teamwork in Esports while explaining his team duties.
“As the in-game leader, I review our gameplay strategies, their execution, and post-game enhancements. I host practices, meetings, and ensure we are improving week after week. I also analyze past games to identify our strengths and areas of improvement for the upcoming week,” Holloway said.
According to Wayne Ebenroth, the Esports program specialist, the team has built a very inclusive atmosphere.
“It’s a place where friendships are formed and serves as a second home to many. The team also enhances one’s communication skills, instills teamwork, and facilitates understanding different perspectives,” Ebenroth said.
Holloway and Ebenroth expressed their wish for more audience presence during their matches against other universities. They believe that even though the games are played online, a live audience can heighten the thrill of competition.
“The experience is completely different with a live audience. It heightens the fun and intensifies the competition,” Holloway said.
For those unable to attend in person, you can follow their games on the Vandal Esports team’s Twitch channel, which also archives past games.
Summer Muster and Amelia Green are students who play the role of shoutcasters for the Esports team.
“As commentators, we aim to bring energy and life to the game, especially for casual viewers,” Muster said. “Being in front of the camera and having the opportunity to engage and excite the audience is truly rewarding.”
In addition to shoutcasting, Green also authors their weekly round-ups, where she recaps games and reviews team statistics.
“In addition to shoutcasting, I also contribute to production, assist with lighting, manage the stream, help with inventory. There are numerous roles I can accomplish, and countless skills I can learn as part of the program. Wayne is always encouraging us to explore opportunities that interest us,” Muster stated.
There are various work-study jobs within the Esports team that students can apply for, spanning production, marketing, and communications.
The Esports team is an inclusive, welcoming space. It accommodates gaming enthusiasts, spectators, and individuals with an interest in behind-the-scenes roles.
The team is eager to nurture a sense of belonging among students and encourages them to participate.
“Our mission is to create an environment where students, who might feel out of place elsewhere on campus, feel right at home,” Ebenroth said. “It’s great to be able to draw students out of their dorms and into a vibrant environment where they enjoy others’ company.”
For more information, feel free to reach out to Georgia Swanson at [email protected]