Bethel’s Esports Club Creates Community Among Gamers

ITS Support Specialist Adrian Smithee ’18, GS’20 started a club for video gamers across campus in hopes of bringing students together.

By Katie Johnson ’19, content specialist

February 07, 2020 | 10:15 a.m.

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The first esports event took place on January 10.

Though campus can be quiet during Interim, on Friday, January 10, the Underground was roaring with cheers, shouts, and a smashing of buttons as two person teams battled each other on screen. The game? Rocket League. The food? Sodexo pizza. The casters? None other than Vice President for Student Life William Washington and his son CJ ’21.

The first esports club event was a success, according to staff sponsor Adrian Smithee ’18, GS’20 who works as a support specialist in Information Technology Services (ITS) at Bethel. Fifteen teams signed up, and multiple groups came to cheer for their friends and eat hearty snacks. Even more importantly, the event accomplished what Smithee had hoped it would: bringing Bethel’s community of gamers together.

When Smithee was a freshman resident assistant, he found that while many students played video games, they tended to do so in isolation. As he transitioned from a Bethel student to an employee, he wanted to entice students across campus out of their rooms to do what they loved, surrounded by a community of like-minded people.

“I just think there's a huge untapped group of students that don't have a sense of community,” Smithee says. “They go to class, and they retreat to their rooms to sit and play video games for the other 40 hours of the week. Let's get them out of the rooms and into community with other people who like to play the same games they do. They might not meet otherwise.”

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Dr. Washington and his son CJ engaged with the players as they announced each play.

Kyle Howey ’23, a student leader of the club and physics and engineering major, was drawn to the idea from its inception. During his first few weeks at Bethel, his ice-breaker was, “So, what video games do you play?” since almost everyone had an answer. Howey’s freshman experience echoes what Smithee had noticed while living in the residence halls. “It’s totally the culture there. Definitely everyone plays some video games, and some kids play a lot of video games and spend most of their time inside,” Howey laughs, though he hibernates as well. “I play video games too, so I thought it would be pretty cool to be involved.”

With the club moving forward, they needed to pick a game, and Smithee knew just the one: Rocket League. For those who have never played this video game, Smithee explains it with an excited smile. “Rocket League is, in the most boiled-down form, rocket-powered cars playing soccer. That’s it. That’s all it is.” Despite the peculiar concept, he likes that the game is not violent in nature, and anyone can pick it up quickly. There’s not necessarily a skill to master or a strategy to learn; rather, after a quick rundown of the rules and controls, even novices would have a chance against the most practiced gamers.

However, Howey certainly came across people in his residence hall who spent a lot of time practicing. “I knew a couple guys from my residence hall that came to the event,” he says. “It was really cool to see them up there. Hearing stories from other people about how hard they practiced. It was pretty great.” 

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The first esports event was a Rocket League tournament

The esports club will be meeting weekly in CC230 at 8 p.m., and the next event is another Rocket League tournament on April 17. Though anyone is more than welcome to come and participate, Smithee hopes that the club appeals especially to “anyone who, whether they admit it or not, goes home from class and isolates themselves to their screen and to a game and the world that lies within that screen.”

Ultimately, Smithee wanted to create this club because he harbors a heart for students and hopes to give them the best Bethel experience possible. “I think the reason I'm drawn to Bethel is the students in general,” he says. “I work in IT, but my job is more than just like fixing computers. My job is to fix someone's computer so that their class—their students—can have an amazing learning experience. I want to have more of a direct hand to give students the best possible faith-based education they can have. That’s why I love Bethel. That’s what spawned the whole esports idea for me was improving the experience of a lot of students hopefully.”

While it’s too soon to tell how many students the club will impact, it has already impacted Howey, who’s excited to be involved on the front end during his first year on campus. “I think it’s great. It’s nice to be able to share video games with people, and it’s a really great way to connect with people. Esports is becoming a pretty big thing now, so it’s something pretty cool to be on the ground floor and be a part of.”

Clubs at Bethel.

Bethel Student Government sponsors about 45 student-led athletic, academic, and special interest clubs and organizations. Participating students volunteer with local and global organizations, plan events, host speakers, network, and experience personal growth and leadership development. Our clubs and organizations exist to develop student's God-given gifts at Bethel and beyond.

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