BUSINESS

The Other Egg Bowl: Ole Miss Esports club attracts attention with new gaming event

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Sergio Brack is the Call of Duty chairman for the Ole Miss Esports team.

Payton Bishop
Oxford Stories
pcbishop@go.olemiss.edu

Are you ready for the Egg Bowl Oct. 13?

Diehard Rebels and Bulldogs know that date is a little early for the popular football game that will be held on Thanksgiving, Nov. 22.

But the first-ever Esports Egg Bowl, an electronic matchup, is set for Oct. 13 in The Pavilion at Ole Miss between UM and Mississippi State University, two schools with a 100-year-old football rivalry. Organizers say the doors will open at 10 a.m., and the games will begin at noon.

Club leaders hope this event will attract new members, fans and the ability to offer future scholarships.

What is Ole Miss Esports?

Merriam-Webster defines a sport as “a contest or game in which people do certain physical activities according to a specific set of rules and compete against each other.” The Ole Miss Esports club is challenging that definition.

In the beginning, the group (that’s name is written a little differently than the traditional eSports word) met in a library room with a handful of members. Now they’re holding press conferences. The original players had no idea the club would grow to what it is today.

The goal was to “bring a community of like-minded of people together to play League of Legends,” said President and Founder Cray Pennison, referring to the multiplayer online battle arena video game.

The club started with only 10 members. Pennison said the first meeting was “lowkey,” but with the help of his former treasurer and secretary, the club has grown.

Junior Gage Angler, a co-founder of Ole Miss Esports, said he met Pennison through a Japanese language class. Their first interaction was to compliment Pennison’s Cloud9 hoodie. Cloud9 is a popular American eSports organization. Later, Pennison approached Angler to help renew the League of Legends club.

Because of prior leadership experiences in high school, Pennison took the initiative to start the club. Soon, it morphed into the official Esports club of the University of Mississippi.

The effort to find members to compete in tournaments was challenging. Sergio Brack, Call of Duty chairman, had to “post fliers in Weir Hall and the library to find people to play.”

Now, he manages one of the best Call of Duty teams in collegiate Esports. Brack’s job as chairman is to oversee players, develop strategies, and help them achieve victory. He wants to end the stigma that you have to be a nerd or “look or act a certain way” to join.

“We want people to feel that it is an inclusive environment,” Brack said, “where if you like playing video games, in general, you can come out.”

Members of Ole Miss Esports recalled the group’s turning point. “The amount of enthusiasm I saw at ‘Rebel Rumble (a gaming tournament fundraiser),’ and we being backed by the university,” Brack said were two key factors.

For Angler, it was when Tespa, a collegiate eSports organization, wanted to sponsor the group that continues to grow. This fall, it has 200 members. The UM club that once had only one competition team now has several that play 10 different games.

They hope to attract members and fans through events like Rebel Rumble, the Extra Life charity event for Blair E. Baston Hospital for Children in Jackson, and the Esports Egg Bowl. The Esports Egg Bowl has helped the club receive national attention.

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The Pavilion is the location to host the first eSports Egg Bowl.

eSports is gaining popularity through streaming live-gaming services from websites like Twitch and YouTube. Pro players, such as Tyler Blevins, a.k.a. Ninja, uses Twitch to make a living playing eSports and to provide entertainment for viewers.

The Ole Miss Esports club doesn’t solely focus on competitive play. New members are encouraged to join through their Discord app, expanding the gaming community by making friendships.

University backing and sponsorships have become crucial in developing eSports. Club members say the university pays traveling fees for players to attend tournaments. C Spire has fully sponsored the Esports Egg Bowl. Red Bull and DreamHack, the world’s largest digital festival, send merchandise for players and members.

“Big rivalry and eSports – that’s not a normal thing,” said Angler.

Pennison said the matchup will help help boost awareness about the group. “This is our first chance to have our opportunity to have the spotlight on us,” he said.

Both Angler and Pennison said this as an opportunity for others to see the legitimization of the club.

At the collegiate level, gamers do not expect to make six figures. However, Ole Miss Esports leaders hope the club will grow and eventually offer college scholarships for players. Pennison, Angler, and Brack believe it’s possible that scholarships can begin being offered in the fall of 2019.

In the future, the Ole Miss Esports wants to increase membership. Team members hope to acquire a practice center and eventually an arena. The entertainment of eSports is surging nationwide, and Ole Miss Esports is in the game.

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