Esports team members pose outside of the EWFM computing center where they hold events. Lehigh Esports plays against other collegiate programs across the country. (Courtesy of the Lehigh University Esports Association Facebook page)

A different type of sport: the Esports Association

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Lehigh students gather around televisions hooked up to video game consoles. Other students look over their shoulders to cheer their fellow gamers on as they smash the controller buttons and focus on their player moving around the television screen.

Created during the spring 2016 semester, the Lehigh University Esports Association aims to provide space to students who enjoying gaming at both a casual and competitive level.

Ken Grenestedt, ’19, a computer science major, recently became the president of the Esports Association. His roles include coordinating events and overseeing the organization’s different teams.

The Esports Association has teams for competitive games, such as “Defense of the Ancients,” “League of Legends,” “Overwatch” and “Fortnite.”

Each team has a captain or a coordinator, and they regularly scrimmage against other collegiate teams across the country. The association also hosts weekly “Super Smash Bros,” tournaments where players can win cash prizes.

Juan Esleta, ’21, joined the group last year. He has been a member of the “Fortnite” team since last semester and has over 400 solo wins.

“I’m a very competitive person,” Esleta said. “That’s the main reason why I joined this.”

Although fostering a competitive space for the more serious gamers is one of the aims of the Esports Association, Grenestedt said another one of its goals is bringing people together.

“I’m a huge extrovert,” Grenestedt said. “I love talking to people and getting people together, and seeing people’s faces light up and seeing them nerd out together. I love that.”

For many students in the Esports Association, video games were a large part of their childhood and they continue to play a similar role in their lives today.

Victoria Collum, ’22, became interested in playing video games after watching her father play Madden on a PlayStation 2.

Eventually, she started gaming on her own.

 A member of the “Fortnite” team, she joined the association because she said she believes that gaming can be a way for students to relieve and avoid some of the stresses of school.

“I kind of joined because I wanted it to force myself to give me outlets so that I wouldn’t be stuck in a constant cycle of studying,” Collum said.

As one of the only girls in the Esports Association, Collum said it’s a shame that there are not more, but that may also have to do with stereotypes about gamers.

“Everyone thinks it’s all these people who have all the time in the world, but it’s not,” Collum said. “It’s for everyone for when you have down time.”

Grenestedt agrees and believes that the association should aim to eliminate such stereotypes about gender and gaming.

“I hate the stereotype of ‘everyone is a nerd sitting alone in their room or in their parents’ basement,’” Grenestedt said.

Having played on a team with earth science, material science and business majors, Grenestedt said there is not one specific type of gamer.

The barrier of entry for gaming is so low that anyone can play, he said.

As esports continues to grow across the country and around the world, more people are playing video games, which Esleta thinks is a positive change.

“I feel like (the growth of Esports in the Lehigh Valley area) is a cool thing,” Esleta said. “It gets more people in a big community, and that’s one of the reasons I joined in the first place.”

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