As Milligan College looks to the future of competitive multiplayer video gaming, known as esports, Multimedia Service Director and esports head coach Micah Ridley said he is looking forward to jumping on the new trend, giving prospective students another reason to come to Milligan.
“We want to be on the front end of things that are forward-thinking,” he said of the program set to begin in the fall.
Ridley, a former Milligan soccer player, said competitive video gaming in the National Association of Collegiate Esports will give students an opportunity to “be a part of something bigger than themselves” and find a college experience similar to what other athletes at Milligan have.
“It’s a common language for a lot of people, rather you are more on the intellectual side, or the athletic side,” he said. “I look at what I had to accomplish to receive a scholarship for soccer, and the hard work and effort I had to put into that. Why wouldn’t we be able to give that to somebody that puts a lot of hard work and effort into a game they enjoy playing?
“At the end of the day, that’s what soccer is, a game I enjoy playing,” he continued. “This is very much a way to develop students.”
To perform at the top level as a gamer and compete in collegiate tournaments as Milligan plans to do, Ridley said players need to train much like other athletes.
There can be scholarships on the line in collegiate esports. But unlike NCAA sports, teams can win prize money, as well.
“It’s also important to have a physical element because to perform your best mentally, you do have to work out physically. We all have that stereotypical gamer in our mind of somebody playing a game eating Cheetos and drinking Mountain Dew, but if you look at the professional scene, they look like athletes. They don’t look like your stereotypical gamer,” he said. “To perform at a top level, you have to be healthy.”
Prepping for competitions in multiplayer video games like League of Legends, Overwatch and Rocket League — the three games the team hopes to start out with — also requires taking a play-by-play look at past practices and competitions to assess weaknesses and strengths, much like other sports teams do when they get ready to play another school. Ridley said coaching esports also involves “coaching decisions.”
“After a win, we’d take a look back at the game,” he said. “We’d watch key moments that are the difference-makers.”
On Thursday, Ridley said Venezuelan junior transfer student Yhorman Prieto made a verbal commitment to join in the fall. Prieto is a “diamond level” player in League of Legends, meaning he is a top-ranked competitor.
“We have not had an official signing yet. This will happen in the coming weeks,” Ridley said.
Ridley said he looks forward to coaching the team and drawing off a passion for video games he’s had since the mid-’90s.
“I’ve been playing games for a long time with my brothers and friends. We would set up in our house, playing against each other, teaming up and trying to beat the computer — whatever it was, we would set that up,” he said.
Ridley said he thinks esports could be a major activity for most colleges and universities within the decade.
“I think it will grow exponentially,” he said.
For more information on Milligan College’s esports team, visit www.milliganbuffs.com.