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NMSU esports on the rise

Picture this. You walk into a gaming lab, see computers and monitors with kids laser-focused and hear callouts all around the room. A scene like this can be found gaming with a university esports team.

Ryan “pack” May is the director of the New Mexico State University esports organization. He oversees all the competitive teams, staff and members. NM State Esports has been swiftly increasing since the program began in 2015, May said.

Isaiah “OhZaee” Marquez focuses on playing Call of Duty: Vanguard during a match for the New Mexico State esports team Jan. 31, 2022, against the University of Oregon. Marquez uses a submachine gun for his role on the Call of Duty team. (Photo by Alex Baca for Kokopelli)

The NMSU esports community has gained over 1,500 members in the span of six years including staff, non-university kids and students. This has caused the organization to grow tremendously in popularity and activity.

“We started off in 2015, and the first meeting I went to only had about 20 players,” May said. “Now we have 100-plus competitive players and 1,700 total members.” 

The organization receives funding from the university, which granted the club the ability to possess gaming consoles and monitors, May said. The group had to come up with a proposal for the NMSU board in order to receive funds. This required group leaders to describe why gaming is essential for many students. 

“We had to let them know that this isn’t just gaming,” May said. “It’s an incentive to stay in school and to keep their GPA up. 

“We’re very fortunate for NMSU giving us that [funding],” May added. “Gaming is the other side of our lives.”   

NM State Esports has a total of eight competitive teams that play against other universities and colleges around the nation. According to May, the team plays Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, Halo Infinite, Call of Duty: Vanguard, Valorant, Rocket League, Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege, Overwatch and League of Legends. 

NMSU plays under the National Association of Collegiate Esports, College CoD (CCL) and the Corporate Esports Association, May said. These are all gaming leagues where colleges compete against each other for scholarships and even a potential gaming career. 

May indicated the National Association of Collegiate Esports is the largest esports organization on the college scene. He said with more people joining gaming communities at their schools, the scene is starting to get more popular. 

The New Mexico State esports gaming lab, located in Corbett Center, appears ready for use April 25, 2022. The esports program spent $25,000 to build the new lab and expects to have it fully customized with more equipment and material by the end of the fall 2022 semester. (Photo by Michael Chavez/Kokopelli)

“As far as it goes for collegiate esports, I feel like it’s on the rise,” said Aiden “LEON -_-” Leon, who is a varsity player on the Valorant team. “[Gaming] is one of the most inclusive things you can do.” 

Leon said that universities that have added esports teams have seen an increase in money and activity between the students who want to get involved in the community.

Alex “ZINTHOS” Baca is the Call of Duty team coordinator and thinks the future is very bright for collegiate esports. “Now that we are getting more backup from NMSU, more kids will opt into this program … I see the popularity only progressing,” Baca said. 

According to Baca, meeting new people and making new friendships are huge. He said that’s usually what happens when students connect with esports at a university. 

Sophomore Isaiah “OhZaee” Marquez competes on the varsity team for Call of Duty and is excited that collegiate esports is expanding and getting the recognition that it deserves. 

“It’s nice that [gaming] gives students the opportunity to do what they love while in school,” Marquez said. “I feel like it’s going to expand a lot more, and this is only the beginning.”

If you want to know more about NM State Esports or get involved in the community, check out the club’s Discord server.

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