Having spoken to players, coaches, broadcasters, and a slew of other people behind the esports scene here at Boise State, I’ve come across a running theme; a connecting narrative, if you will.
Boise State Esports is, has been, and will continue to be on the rise—regardless of interference from a pandemic or not.
This idea is reinforced by the sheer number of hours the team is putting into streaming on a regular basis, which was put into perspective by Anna Webb in a story from April 24 about the team, “Since COVID-19 social distancing began, the team has streamed more than 165 hours of live competition content.” Webb quoted Head Coach, Dr. Chris Haskell’s response to this number. “That’s 1.2 million minutes watched,” said Haskell, “or 2.2 years in 30 days.”
However, even though competitive esports has seen massive viewership increases across the country since the pandemic hit, one fact remains the same: Our Bronco Esports team is a group of dedicated individuals who want to be seen as a force to be reckoned with.
“Dr. Haskell and I believe that the audience for these esports activities is only going to increase in the future, and I think it would have even without COVID, but it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see that we’ve seen an even greater uptick in our numbers due to that fact,” said Dr. Brett Shelton, General Manager of the Esports team and professor of Educational Technology.
An insatiable determination for producing a quality game on all fronts and the need for inclusion of Boise State in a larger scope of esports commentary has not gone unnoticed by the university.
“Boise State’s Esports program only launched in 2017, but—in true Bronco fashion—it already has earned a place on the national stage,” said Dr. Marlene Tromp, Boise State president. “In that short time, we have made All-Star lists and developed a rapidly growing fan base on Twitch. We are home to the Broadcast Team of The Year and Head Coach of the Year. Our teams are leaders and innovators, just what we expect at Boise State. I am so proud that they consistently show the esports world what it means to be a Bronco.”
In just a few short years, the Esports team went from a dream, a startup, to a successful squad of passionate individuals who have won awards and are consistently being invited to prestigious invitationals and tournaments. And this truly only bears reflection on the tenacious attitude which seems to be held by all members of the Boise State Esports team.
Furthermore, the group’s eye remains on the prize, which, in all honesty, seems to be an ever-evolving, rotating door type goal that simply won’t let up. Now that the team has secured a spot among the upper echelon of competitive collegiate esports, they’ve run into a new obstacle on the way to their next achievement—a worldwide pandemic. Although, all signs point to the team not letting anything slow them down.
“To bring Bronco Esports into a favorable light nationally and keep us there, it’s a difficult task. We’ve had to maintain a flexible schedule, given that our competitors are also facing difficulties in getting people together. It (the effects of the pandemic) really has the tendency to form a close-knit bond with each other. Players, and production, and personnel realize that everybody has the same goals, and that’s to create a winning program, a national program,” said Shelton.
Though some may have questions about how the Esports program is funded and whether or not that interferes with the other sports activities at the university, Shelton was able to illuminate how exactly the program works and gets its funding, “We created Esports as a self-supported activity, which means that we are responsible for funding and seeking external funding sources to support all of the esports activities. That comes down to the technology, to the broadcasting equipment, to the facilities, as well as things like scholarships.”
From the very genesis of the Boise State Esports team, they’ve had a groundbreaking and hungry nature. Although they most certainly are a varsity sports team, they also exist as an independent entity, one which thrives under differing circumstances than other sports teams at Boise State.
Additionally, here we all sit, closing in on eight months since COVID-19 changed so much about our everyday lives. Yet, the world keeps turning. Our lives may continue to be difficult to navigate for some time into the future and at times it can feel like we’re all on our own out there, somewhere in the void of the pandemic, but the Broncos are no strangers to a challenge.
Even though so much of our schedules has been marked as “remote” there are still faces at the other end of the screen, being encouraged by the strong efforts made by our team.
“It’s important for them to know that putting on the blue and orange means they are representing the university—its students, faculty, and staff and everything that goes along with that. I know that they consider it a privilege to represent us, but they should know that there are scores of people at the university who follow what it is that they do, even if they can’t directly see them,” Shelton said.