WORCESTER/LEICESTER — Becker College, the first college in New England to establish an esports program, will compete Sunday with varsity esports teams from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, Murray State University and Emerson College in Becker’s spring Overwatch Invitational Tournament

The matches, which will all be played online, are scheduled to begin at 8 p.m. Viewing information will be shared @BeckerEsports on Twitter before the tournament.

Becker has seven players on the varsity Overwatch team and more than a dozen on junior varsity and club teams.

In addition to varsity esports, Becker is also home to student-led esports and gaming tournaments clubs. The college, ranked No. 2 in the world by The Princeton Review for its undergraduate game design academic programs, is also the first in the nation to offer a degree in esports management.

Becker’s varsity Overwatch team, led by Coach Nicholas Travis, won its inaugural invitational in November by outplaying the University of Mississippi. The team includes Owen Record, Skyler Barron, Thomas Murphy, Ethan Nappi, Evan Arhelger, Adam Campbell, with Matthew Stratoti serving as the team’s manager.

Overwatch is an objective-based, first-person, shooting game that is like “King of the Hill” for the nongamer, Travis said.

“On Sunday, it’s going to be a short tournament, just four teams and we’ll have a semifinals and have a finals,” Travis said. “Typically, we would have some other tournaments that we would play in this semester but because of the coronavirus thing going on, a lot of tournaments got cancelled and we wanted to give to the teams that were practicing all this time, something to play for.”

Timothy Loew, executive director of the Mass Digital Game Institute at Becker and general manager of Becker’s Varsity Esport program, said the interesting thing about esports is they are played online.

“It seems novel in the context of what’s going on but, in the world of esports, most tournaments are online, except for high-end, national and international tournaments,” Loew said. “Overwatch is six-on-six, so I’m guessing the 12 players will be in 12 different places.”

Travis and Loew shared their thoughts of what qualities you need to a quality esport player.

“You need to be a great critical thinker. You need to think strategically. You need to be a fantastic communicator. And then you obviously need the game-playing skills to go along with it,” Loew said. “All these sports are played using a keyboard and mouse. So this is a very complicated dance and competition that takes a lot of coordination amongst the players to execute on. It’s not just sitting down your couch in front of your console. This is a high-end activity that requires hundreds, if not thousands, of hours of preparation, just like any competitive tournament.”

“Momentum is absolutely key, in any sport as well. You got to make sure that either you maintain your momentum or you retake your momentum if you lose it,” Travis added. “But also about being able to understand how to play the game, how to rely on your teammates, how you make sure that you execute the plan that you have talked about and you worked on for weeks and weeks up until the tournament. There’s a lot of determination, a lot of skill and a lot of understanding on what you’re role is on the game.” 

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