Tallahassee Community College joins hundreds of other schools in adding a team in a growing sports space – esports.
Freshman Mason Simmons, a native of Pennsylvania majoring in accounting and a member of the TCC Esports team, has been exposed to video games since childhood.
“Ever since I can remember, video games were all around me,” Simmons, 24, said after a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the new TCC Lifetime Sports Complex esports venue on campus Monday. “With Super Smash Bros, which is what I’m on the team for, I’ve been playing since I was about 5 years old.”
With the increased popularity of esports – short for electronic sports – comes increased accessibility of competitive gaming, which gives people the ability to stream video games live using platforms such as YouTube and Twitch in the comfort of their homes and on college campuses.
An esports world championship final in 2021 drew more than 73 million viewers, according to Statista, which is significantly more than the 16.5 million viewers for Game 6 of the NBA Finals in 2021.
The TCC team plays nationally through the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA). Each event involves a video game competition between two teams in the form of a round robin tournament, where each competitor plays against all other opponents.
During what will be seven match weeks and two playoff weeks, TCC’s 17-member squad will compete against players in five video games: Vanguard, which is a series of the shooter Call of Duty; Rocket League, a car football game; Super Smash Bros, a fighting game; Warzone, a survival game; and Mario Kart, a racing game.
Besides TCC, Florida Gateway College in Lake City is the only other NJCAA Esports member in Florida, and there are a total of 205 community colleges with esports programs that participate in the national association.
“The NJCAA recognizes esports as a national championship, so it’s a great avenue,” said TCC athletic director Chuck Moore. “Members may not compete on the basketball court, but they compete in something they love, and that’s what this school is about – nurturing people’s abilities and talents.”
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The esports team kicked off its inaugural season at TCC on Monday. The team was scheduled to face Vanguard at 6 p.m. and Rocket League at 7 p.m. against Crowder College in Neosho, Missouri.
“I just can’t wait to get to play for this team,” said esports team captain and sophomore Zachary Yacalavitch, a 20-year-old Tallahassee native. “We’ve been waiting an entire semester to have three Rocket League video game players added to our team, so I’m excited to be able to compete for TCC and maybe go all the way.”
While Florida State and Florida A&M have video game clubs, they are considered student-run organizations and do not have teams tied to their athletic departments.
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TCC esports coach Mark Cornett started a video game club in 2020 to engage with students remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic. He is thrilled to see him move from a club to an NJCAA team.
“It’s important to recognize not only traditional athletics, but also new and upcoming athletics,” Cornett said. “It’s been a long time coming, and I think it will be a very good step in the right direction.”
Some of the requirements TCC esports members must meet to be eligible for NJCAA athletics include being a full-time student and having at least a 2.0 grade point average.
The team holds at least one in-person practice a week and meets virtually several times a week to prepare for upcoming tournaments.
“I love playing video games, but I’ve never done it competitively,” said TCC freshman Camrien Araque. She has been playing for about 14 years and plays Mario Kart video game in the team. “It’s the first time I’ve done something like this, so I think it’s really exciting.”
After Monday’s tournaments, the esports team will continue the rest of their season with more matches on Wednesday, including Mario Kart. The tournaments are open to the public to watch in person at the Lifetime Sports Complex on the TCC campus or virtually using the Twitch platform.
Contact Tarah Jean at [email protected] or follow her on twitter @tarahjean_.
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