Esports athletes from SUNY Canton and SUNY Potsdam have been participating in two big tournaments in the recent weeks.
SUNY Potsdam sent a team to the Empire State Games Esports Tournament at Paul Smiths Jan. 31 and Feb. 1 , and both schools have qualified athletes for the Battle of the Colleges at the Utica Memorial Auditorium on Feb. 7.
This is the second year esports has been part of the Empire State Games.
SUNY Potsdam sent seven athletes to the event.
Playing Super Smash Bros. Ultimate were Theo Cannamela (Kurlz), Potsdam; Griffin Shenkel (Frigomaniac), Utica; Patrick Silk (PSK), Hauppauge; Tyler Shenkel (Doc), Liam Schmith (Barrow), Wantagh; Keanu Weins (Strange), Bronx and Adam Hartmann (Dogemann), St. James.
Team advisor Anthony Betrus, a professor and program coordinator of the college’s Educational Technology and Leadership graduate programs, said the Super Smash Bros. and Overwatch tournament at the Empire State Games are arguably a bigger deal than the Battle of the Colleges in Utica.
“Although that might depend on who you talk to,” he said.
SUNY Potsdam’s broadcast team were streaming the Empire State Games video competition on its Twitch Channel. The broadcast team is Chris Falcon, Colin Michaud and Paul Santos.
The Potsdam esports program is run as a club, giving more responsibility to running the program to the players themselves, Mr. Betrus said.
Some schools, like SUNY Canton, are running their esports programs through the athletic department.
“We think it’s a little more like an activity than varsity soccer,” he said. “We are attracted to the freedom and to the student control.”
The Empire State Games is an open tournament while participants in the Battle of the Colleges had to qualify.
The finals, on Feb. 7, will be held in the Utica Memorial Auditorium, which has a capacity of 3,860.
Colleges participating in the Smash Bros. tournament include Juniata College, Central Connecticut College, SUNY Canton, SUNY Potsdam, Molloy College and Elmira College.
Rocket League is also being played at the Battle of the Colleges. No local teams have entered that tournament.
SUNY Canton players traveling to Utica include Donjei Bethea of the Bronx, Justin Brooks of Manlius, Madison Cragle of Peru, Nathan Lafary of Watertown and Adhemar Tiburcio of the Bronx.
Griffin Schenkel will be representing SUNY Potsdam at the event.
Charles Murray, SUNY Canton’s esports coordinator, said the Battle of the Colleges is a little different from their usual competitions.
“This is the first tournament we have participated in that is completely outside the ECAC,” he said. “This is the first time that an outside organization has asked us. Alpha North is a professional esports team. There is cash involved. It’s a really big deal for the kids. This is definitely not the norm.”
The SUNY Canton players are very excited about the trip, Mr. Murray said.
“They know that when they are on camera they have to look their best,” Mr. Murray said. “They are constantly messaging me asking, ‘Is this shirt OK?’”
Tickets for the Battle of the Colleges are on sale for $10 via the Adirondack Bank Center box office, or online at www.empirestatetix.com, or by calling 315-790-9070.