“Ultimately, I think video games are competitive, and I like to win,” says Russell Sage College Esports Head Coach Luke Martin. “I want to build a winning program here.”
Overwatch is one of three video games that Sage’s new esports team will compete in; Martin’s team already includes two of the top Overwatch players in North America.
The factors that attracted these standout first-year students — and Martin himself — to Sage include the team’s membership in the athletics department and the new Esports Arena on the Troy campus.
“We are recognized as a sport. That’s big,” Martin said. “In competitiveness and how much time my players put in, we are a sport.”
And while gaming rooms for esports programs are becoming more common on college campuses, Martin said they are not yet a standard offering.
Sage’s arena has “the bells and whistles, the cool gamer lights,” Martin said, “but ultimately it’s about the feel of the product. Responsiveness is a big thing. It’s high-quality equipment and exactly what my students need to perform at their best.”
In addition to Overwatch, Sage gamers will play League of Legends and Rocket League within the National Association of Collegiate Esports. Practices started in September and the team will play its first intercollegiate game this semester.
As an undergraduate English major at Central Michigan University, Martin helped build a League of Legends student club into a formal, university-supported esports program with eight competitive teams.
“We went from 30 to 140 students,” he said. “I got to host three different video game tournament events for the community and we had 500 people show up.”
He looks forward to repeating that success at Sage.
The esports program has connections to academic programs from business to the visual arts, Martin said, as well as to Sage’s emphasis on equity and opportunity for women.
“One thing that’s very important to me, as a gamer and as someone who started a program at my alma mater, is women in video games,” Martin said. “Working on opportunities for women to find success in gaming is a priority for me.”
Six women expressed interest in joining the Gators esports team at a recent activities fair, and Martin is working with the admissions office to attract more talented women and men to Sage for esports.
He’s had significant interest from prospective transfer students on campuses with esports clubs.
“They see at Sage it is more than a club,” he said. “We can be a top school and bring in students specifically for esports if we offer things that other schools don’t.”
For more information, visit sagegators.com or contact Luke Martin at [email protected].