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CMU eSports readies for Fall 2020 with interest nights, tryout dates


Macomb sophomore Alek Smith competes against fellow members of the League of Legends Club March 14 in Pearce Hall. 

Central Michigan's eSports program is set to welcome in its newest crop of gamers. 

With the new gaming center in the Student Activity Center ready for use, the program is going to host interest nights during the first week of classes before tryouts for its four varsity games — expanded from two last season — the first weekend of the semester. 

The program will feature two games a night from 6-8 p.m. on Aug. 19-20. Rocket League and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate (Aug. 19) and Overwatch and League of Legends (Aug. 20) will be streamed on the program's Twitch channel. 

"Basically, it's to drum up interest and to let people know the space is there on campus and they are welcome to use it," program adviser and head coach Katherine Ranzenberger said.

During the Twitch streams, prospective students are able to chat with current team members to ask questions and get to know them and the program without having to be present in the gaming center if they choose not to do so. 

"That way, people can remain socially distant and be comfortable," Ranzenberger said. "But also get to know the players that are on the teams, that will be helping lead the teams."

While there will be action on campus for tryouts, the gaming center will be limited to 10 people at a time, and "T2" will have six spots available and masks will be required to be in either location. University sanitizing and social distancing guidelines will be used throughout the center. 

"That shouldn't stop people from coming out and seeing what we can do," Ranzenberger said, "even if they're just walking by because there are windows that look in and screens on the outside that lets them see the action that's happening on the inside."

During the semester, use of the gaming center will be limited to only those on one of the teams the program supports. 

As for tryouts, which are set for Aug. 22-23, prospects can sign up for a tryout spot through Engage Central

Ranzenberger said she prefers to have students to try out in person so she is able to see how that person plays and how well each player communicates, as communication is one of the most important pieces of esports. 

"Being able to see how people interact and communicate in person is a huge part of teambuilding," Ranzenberger said. "If somebody isn't comfortable coming in person, I would love to talk to them and work with them so they can still participate and try out."

She hopes to fill out a Maroon and Gold team — with Gold as the "first team" — for each of the four games. For example, Overwatch has 6-on-6 matches, so, there would be 12 players then two reserves for each team, totaling 16 players. 

On June 10, the Esports Collegiate Conference partnered with the Mid-American Conference to include all 12 of the MAC's members. The team is also competing in the National Association of Collegiate Esports. 

"Being able to have consistent people to scrim against and able to have teams out there that are doing exactly what we're doing, that puts us all on a level playing field, which is a great thing when it comes to esports, that doesn't happen super often in other sports," Ranzenberger said. "You see these other conferences pop up, it really gives us a chance to compete against others in Michigan, as well as others across the nation. 

"For the Esports Collegiate Conference, in particular, it just shows the camaraderie of those schools and the tradition we have as a group, which is pretty cool. It shows you just how many connections have been made between the schools."

Ranzenberger said returning to work was daunting at first; but with all of the procedures and cleaning policies CMU has put in place, she has felt more comfortable as time has gone along. 

She said the team and the university are doing everything to ensure student safety going into the Fall 2020 semester to help combat the COVID-19 pandemic. 

"I'm honestly just really excited to get back into the swing of things with competition," Ranzenberger said. "Everybody talks about wanting to get back to normal, while I also want that, I understand that there is a new normal and I'm excited to learn what that is. I'm excited to be able to help students learn what their new normal is, too, not just within esports, but within their life."