A UT club that has hosted video game tournaments attracting international attention has rebranded itself in an effort to become a nation-wide organization.
The Texas eSports Association, which is now simply called TeSPA, is accepting applications to establish local chapters in high schools and universities across the country. The national branch of TeSPA will offer support to its local chapters, educating and advising them in how to organize their own events and overcome obstacles to becoming legitimate organizations within their school.
“eSports are still relatively new, especially to school administration, and it’s something that still has to be proven,” TeSPA Chief Community Officer Chris Kelly said. “At UT-Austin, it’s got a lot of traction, but it’s still kind of a process to convince schools that [eSports] are a viable extra-curricular activity and that they should support it.”
TeSPA began as a student organization in fall 2010 with about 20 members, and within a few months the group managed to organize a StarCraft II Tournament that drew 2,000,000 online viewers. Two years later, TeSPA’s Lone Star Clash event drew 4.5 million online viewers and had participants competing in League of Legends and StarCraft II matches for a combined prize pool of $35,000, which was mostly raised from sponsors including AT&T and Red Bull.
“In a few years, we had grown from non-existence to some sort of a global phenomenon,” said Adam Rosen, president and co-founder of TeSPA. “We looked around the rest of the United States, and there were some fledgling groups popping up, trying to emulate us … but they weren’t growing very fast. So we said, ‘There’s no reason what we did should be restricted to us.’”
Though TeSPA is expanding its focus beyond Austin, the events that made it famous will not be seeing a change in venue any time soon.
“There will be more events in other locations,” president of UT’s TeSPA chapter Brett Hallum said. “I know we have a couple of schools in California … and I can definitely see them hosting events there for the local community, but I don’t think we will lose the tournaments that UT-Austin TeSPA has been holding.”
As TeSPA spreads competitive gaming to schools across the country, Rosen said he believes that young people will find it as compelling a pastime as traditional sports that are played on campus.
“It’s competition with a low barrier to entry,” Rosen said. “A lot of the people who are good at basketball are tall, and a lot of the people who are good at football are really large. Gaming is something that’s pretty universal.”