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Boise State Esports: Thriving During a Pandemic

– Trisha Kangas

When you walk into the Boise State Esports lounge on campus, it may often be empty or you might happen to find a masked person or two stationed behind a screen or desk. However, the usual energy and flow of the arena is undeniably not quite what it used to be.

But while sports were shut down for the rest of the university, there has been a strong undercurrent of unseen activity for those working hard behind the scenes at Boise State Esports. Some publications have even commented on the fact that with traditional sports being gone at the moment, the popularity of esports has dramatically increased during the pandemic.

Being a technologically-driven activity, players, broadcasters, and coaches have quickly adapted to the new remote format. In fact, many individuals who are part of the esports crew are quite familiar with working from home. So, what was seen as a massive shift for other departments, clubs, and sports groups on campus, doesn’t feel too different for our esports team.

Life before COVID-19 on the esports desk (R to L: McGuire, Malhas, and Palmer)
Adjustments in the COVID period (R to L: Fisher and Alloway).

Adam McGuire, Shoutcaster for Boise State Esports, and radio personality commented, “To be honest, the beautiful thing about esports and broadcasting in general is that it doesn’t—always—require bodies to be in place—the players are typically used to playing at home, and the broadcast team has done a stellar job making sure that even with a skeleton crew, they continue to produce top tier shows and segments, as well as innovating in the broadcast world, day after day.”

The crew and players are a bit bummed that they can’t use the facilities at full capacity like they used to, but for McGuire and how he has seen this atmosphere of the pandemic affect the functionality and spirit of esports, it’s hard to find a solid negative at all. Other than what was his usual norm of high fives and fun player quotes before a match to the daily lineup, he can’t say that it’s changed much. It’s been business as usual.

When the news hit that sports were going to be shut down due to a need for social distancing, esports enthusiasts were not only prepared for the change, but also welcomed the new found attention that came their way. Although, certainly, a pandemic wasn’t what the team anticipated or hoped would be the reason that people turned their attention to esports, nonetheless gamers are acutely aware of how they have been perceived in the world of sports and are ready to break outside of the box they’ve been placed in.

“I was quick to remind people that while the blue and orange may not be putting up points in Albertsons Stadium, they have players on Summoners Rift, the Rocket League fields, etc, fighting for their school and their fans. So, while it’s hard to say something like this is positive, it turned the spotlight to an event(s) that was more or less left out of any kind of talk or contention,” said McGuire.

“We even had the BSU Basketball and Football programs come in and have a little friendly show match against each other—something that might not have happened had the times not been how they were. Everyone likes to be a fan of something, esports are no different- the medium just changed.”

Before the start of the pandemic, the Boise State Esports team was already fighting against gaming stigma in the world of sports. To say that this group is a resilient and determined one is an understatement and McGuire wholeheartedly believes in the drive of his team.

“At the end of the day, Doc and his crew were given a massive mountain to climb before the world changed, and much like the last few years, and that group has shown no signs of slowing down. It’s no shocker to me that a “world ending” type of situation couldn’t stop them from pumping out solid content.”