Make your way through Pida Plaza or the Student Union on Jan. 25 and you’re going to be adrift in a sea of tables and signs. On every surface a banner; in every hand, a sign-up sheet.
Free time will get a little less free, but for students exploring the spring Involvement Fair put on by Student Engagement and Diversity, it’s a chance to get in the mix with everything from the Social Media Marketing Club to the UNLV Garden Club. For a full list, check out the student organizations directory.
With 180 organizations setting up shop at the Involvement Fair (plus some local nonprofits offering service opportunities), there’s plenty of extracurricular love to go around. One of the biggest student groups on campus is 8-Bit eSports.
Started in 2012, 8-Bit is both a club and the home of UNLV’s eSports team, with 900 total members online and around 250 who joined in-person. The club holds weekly events in the Carol C. Harter Classroom Building, including tournaments on Jan. 27 for popular eSports games Overwatch, League of Legends, Hearthstone, and Super Smash Bros. 4.
“We run community events on a weekly basis,” club president Milo Ocampo said. “Our competitive events with the buy-in fees, we have those split up. We have one open to all levels of play. We have those that cater to the lower tier so they don't get demolished by the top tiers. There's no screening process if you want to make friends. If you want to be a part of like-minded people, we're the hub.”
It’s turning into a major moment for eSports, the organized competition of certain video games, often for big-money prizes. Major media outlets, including ESPN, are including eSports coverage in their verticals, and Las Vegas has been hosting more and more highly touted tournaments.
At UNLV, the International Gaming Institute conducted its first eSports lab in the fall semester, and has been conducting research on how casinos can incorporate eSports into their offerings.
“It’s probably the next nightclub phenomenon that is sustainable into the future,” said Robert Rippe, who taught the lab last semester. “I think ultimately this is the evolution of the casino. I can't think of a topic that has more attention on it right now, but it's also an ecosystem that's already so huge in its scale. Everyone is looking for answers, and a lot of those people are looking at UNLV for answers.”
For students looking for a way to spend their Friday evenings, learning the ins and outs of competitive gaming couldn’t come at a better time.