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The Flor-Ala

The Student News Site of University of North Alabama

The Flor-Ala

The Student News Site of University of North Alabama

The Flor-Ala

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    UNA eSports hosts at Mane Event

    Izzy Smith

    This week, the University of North Alabama’s eSports Club plans to host its third Mane Event, a two-day electronic sports tournament spanning Nov. 17 and 18. The Mane Event will take place at the Guillot University Center on Aderholt Way, with a total of 15 high schools in attendance.

    Electronic Sports are played around the world, with tournaments of the like taking place throughout the nation. Participating in large-scale games of this sort gives eSports champions the opportunity to outmaneuver their virtual opponents on the greatest possible level. “eSports” is a blanket term for cybernetically-attended matches and competitions, for the most part high-stakes multiplayer video games. “League of Legends,” Valorant,” “Madden,” “Super Smash Bros,” “Overwatch” and “Splatoon” are popular examples of eSports. 

    The Mane Event will test competitors’ expertise on “Super Smash Bros. Ultimate” and “Rocket League.” Published by Psyonix, “Rocket League” is a vehicle-centric ball game wherein players try to score goals in spite of frequent and flashy interference from opponents. “Smash Bros,” brought to fruition by Nintendo, is similarly vibrant, but instead of having competitors engage in a motorized soccer-like game, it has them fight against one another as one of myriad video game characters from the last three decades.

    UNA eSports Club member Jaiden Garner stresses the seemingly unending appeal of Nintendo’s “Smash Bros.”

    “There’s been a handful of [‘Smash Bros.’] games since 1999, all on different consoles: the Nintendo 64, the GameCube, the Wii and the Switch. What makes ‘Smash Bros. Ultimate’ ultimate is its huge selection of fighters, over 80 characters.”

    Garner encourages people to attend the Mane Event as spectators.

    “We invite parents, faculty and staff from participating high schools to watch these games, especially our ‘Rocket League’ tournaments. [‘Rocket League’] is great because it’s just like any spectator sport. But yeah, we welcome all. Doors open at 3 p.m. on Friday, 9 a.m. on Saturday.”

    As of now, the Mane Event is set to include 71 people, participants and supporters alike. On-site referees will monitor the competition. UNA eSports gamers who specialize in “Rocket League” and “Smash Bros.” will also be present to help if needed.

    Garner is a Database Services Student Coordinator at the University of North Alabama, slated to graduate after the upcoming Spring semester. 

    The American Associated Press reports that over 170 schools instruct pupils who are members of the National Association of Collegiate eSports (NACE). Since its formation i n 2016, NACE has granted members an amount of money that, over the years, has totaled up to more than $16 million in scholarships and financial aid related to eSports. It annually puts on a national competition and has a private Discord server. There, recognition has been garnered for the inner workings of online gaming, particularly at universities in the United States.

    At UNA, a $1,000 scholarship is granted to club sports, thereby funding on-campus eSports facilities.

    Hoover, Ala.’s Parks and Recreation Department has elected to offer an eSports Recreational Youth League among its many avocations. Furthermore, in Florence, the city’s high school encourages students to join the Falcon eSports Team.

    In the years following UNA’s post-COVID pandemic recovery, the eSports Club at UNA has been incredibly active. Students formed the eSports Club in 2019. Last year, the club partnered with high schools in the Shoals area, encompassing Florence, Sheffield and Muscle Shoals, to stream an “Overwatch” championship for high school gamers. Students from Brooks, Lauderdale County and Lexington took part in said competition, which was held in UNA’s Covington Hall. Later that year, UNA’s eSports Club hosted a statewide collegiate tournament and went on to compete in title matches at the ePlex, a state-of-the-art virtual reality arena in Birmingham, Ala. that has since closed its doors.

    Garner says he and his teammates hope to soon host a tournament for which gameplay is open to all Southeastern states, rather than solely to Alabama. He is a proponent for initiating high school students and college freshmen into the cybernetic realm of eSports.

    On eSports team membership at UNA, Garner says, “We try our best not to exclude anybody interested in playing. If you come to try-outs, you will be on one of our teams. We currently have three ‘Overwatch’ teams. I mean, we are definitely not fans of sidelining players.”

    Thanks in part to Mark D. Linder, a lecturer in Sports and Recreation Management, at UNA, Florence contributes to the growing trend of inviting gamers to test their quick-thinking and hand-eye coordination through friendly face-offs. Alongside the eSports Club, Linder has helped organize the Mane Event.

    Students who play eSports have a notable knack for focus. Their problem-solving savvy is a possible explanation for the success they have had with endeavors such as the Mane Event. UNA presented a similar show-down for the first time in 2022, when hundreds of North Alabamian high schoolers got the chance to best opponents from different departments at the university.

    The winner of the 2023 Fall semester’s Mane Event is to receive a trophy, while runners-up and other players will be given plaques honoring their participation.

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    About the Contributors
    Mary-Stella Mangina
    Mary-Stella Mangina, Former Arts & Entertainment Editor
    Izzy Smith
    Izzy Smith, Lead Graphic Designer
    Izzy Smith is a freshman from Tupelo, Miss. She is pursuing a BFA in Digital Media and a minor in HCI/UX Design. She started at The Flor-Ala as a volunteer in the Fall semester of 2023. She was promoted to Lead Graphic Designer in Spring 2024 and has been making amazing art for the newspaper since

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