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Esports at NMSU thrive despite pandemic

Online gaming has been on the rise for years, and New Mexico State is no stranger to making a name for itself in esports competition. In 2018, an esports team from NMSU advanced to the quarterfinals in a major gaming event called OP Live: Dallas.

Esports and online gaming are gaining in popularity, and unlike other legacy sports programs, esports competition has thrived during the COVID pandemic. (Photo illustration by Carlos Lujan/Kokopelli)

Esports and online gaming have seen a burst in popularity in the past year. Record PC sales in 2020 have even led to a computer chip shortage. Gaming PC’s are now in high demand. Online gaming is in high demand. For student players looking to join a growing community, now is the time.

The esports program at NMSU is in full swing as student teams are participating in tournaments and other competitions. The program was even set to unveil a new computer lab to be used for gaming, but that was put on hold due to the COVID pandemic.

Matt Lenz is the current director of the NMSU esports program. “We were originally planning on having a grand opening in April of 2020 for our lab, but since then we have had to close it down. Our gaming lab is currently located in the activities center on the second floor of Corbett, above Pete’s Patio,” Lenz said.

The program consists of multiple teams for different games. There are academy teams and varsity teams. The latter participates in the bigger competitions. There are currently teams for League of Legends, Rainbow Six Siege and Overwatch. The program is currently building teams for Call of Duty, Apex Legends and Valorant. The program formerly had teams that played Counter Strike: Global Offense and Dota 2.

Although the pandemic has created some setbacks for NMSU esports teams, Lenz explained that unlike other sports programs, players have been able to continue competing during the pandemic. “Online play has been thriving. It was the only collegiate competition happening between universities for a while [since] our players played from home,” Lenz said. “This was the world we were already used to, but even esports needs its in-person interaction.”

The gaming lab is not the only thing that was affected by the pandemic. The esports teams themselves have had trouble gaining new members. “Some of our teams had to cannibalize the academy teams. Overwatch, for instance, had to start pulling members for the varsity team from our academy team,” Lenz said.

The drop in members is likely the result of reduced in-person communication. Many student organizations used campus resources and tabling events to help recruit members and raise awareness. Since the start of the COVID pandemic, the esports program has only been able to advertise through Canvas and other online sources that not all students pay attention to. There is now a whole class of students that has yet to experience normal on-campus life.

Lenz is optimistic, however, the esports community at NMSU will grow once campus life returns to normal. “We’re looking forward to continuing to grow and represent NMSU in the best ways possible, and bring in players from all walks of life so they can grow to become the best version of themselves, ” Lenz said.

Victor “Trickyvic99” Sierra is a caster for the NMSU CoD (Call of Duty) team and a manager for the NMSU R6 team. He also handles live media relations through Twitch and Twitter. Some members of the program undertake multiple roles to better serve the program with their experience and knowledge.

“NMSU has a lot of talent and this year’s CoD team is a perfect example of us getting better and putting ourselves on the map as an esports program. We are working really hard to be in the upper echelon of esports programs here at NMSU,” Sierra said.

In competitions, the teams will play many other schools. The leagues are set up differently than traditional sports, but that does not change the high level of competition the teams must face. There are also familiar rivals included in competitions. “NMSU is put into the South, South Central, or West divisions in most leagues. We often play against Southern California schools, all the Arizona schools, most of the Oklahoma and Colorado schools, and all of Texas. We play UNM quite often as well,” Sierra said.

If you are interested in playing on a team, managing a team, producing content, casting games or would like to apply to be a coach, the program encourages you to join the NMSU esports Discord. The Discord server is open to all students at NMSU who are interested in video games, even if they are not competitive.

For more information on the NMSU esports program at NMSU, visit the esports website at You may also want to visit the program’s Twitter feed for up-to-date information as well as a brand new merchandise store.

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