SAN ANTONIO – With a global audience of around 500 million people in 2020, Esports continues its growth at all levels and greater San Antonio has two universities (St. Mary’s University, Texas A&M University - San Antonio) fielding varsity teams while several others have clubs. Esports – or competitive, organized gaming – as well as gaming in general just require equipment and an internet connection which allows for social distancing. The nature of the games and the way those are played have allowed for continued Esports action throughout the pandemic.
Travis Yang played Esports on the professional level from 2000 to 2008 and began his tenure as Head Esports Coach at Texas A&M University – San Antonio this January. He said that many gamers can continue playing without interruption while the novel coronavirus continues to spread.
“That’s kind of the beauty of Esports, right? It’s all online,” Yang said. “If you’ve been participating in Esports or you’ve been just gaming this is really nothing new so to say. You’ve probably already been used to playing from home, competing online in these tournaments.”
Four years ago, Chris Saenz created Texas Gaming Empire, an Esports tournament and gaming coordination service, and has been the manager at the San Antonio PLAYlive Nation location for over two years. Although gaming venues such as PLAYlive Nation have been closed and Esports teams – which span high school, college and professional – are not able to play in person, the remote playing has provided an outlet.
“It’s super important,” Saenz said. “It gives people something to do. It gives them something to look forward to. It engages them with other people so you’re not just being by yourself and home alone or in your own thoughts. You’re engaging with other people, you’re building those social skills.”
That outlet even serves as a stand-in while more traditional sports are put on hold as it does for Corpus Christi FC goalkeeper, Victor Villarreal, who said he plays upwards of 40 FIFA matches a week while sheltering in place.
“I’m a soccer player, it keeps me busy, and it keeps me entertained I love the game,” he said. “You have to think where to like pass the ball to the players and stuff and...it’s a great hobby to have.”
Everyone sheltering at home has also predictably led to an uptick in tournaments and users on gaming platforms which includes popular titles such as Counter-Strike, League of Legends and Overwatch.
“I’d say a noticeable increase,” said Yang. “A lot of developers have been making announcements and they’ve had to go and basically say, ‘Hey, sorry in advance but our servers are under extreme load right now because of the amount of people who are playing.’ Just these past two weeks we’ve seen multiple records broken in terms of concurrent players.”