Courtney sits down with Joshua Steger, the director for WVU’s new Esports program, to discuss all things related to Esports. Their chat covers the basics of Esports, some misconceptions some people may have, and what the plans are for this new program. Follow WVU Esports on Twitter @WVUEsports and check out their website at esports.wvu.edu.

Welcome everyone to Wellbeing Wednesdays. I am your host, Courtney Weaver. I'm also the director of Well WVU here at West Virginia University. And today for our last podcast of the semester, I can't believe it's already December. But we have Joshua Seeger. He is the director of our new e-sports program, which is a really fast-growing program here at WVU. I'm going to let him talk about it. Cause I'll be totally honest. I don't 100% understand it, even though I've talked to Josh many times, it's about what it actually is, but that's why he's here today. But welcome Josh. Thank you again so much for joining us. So why don't you tell everyone just a little bit about yourself and your role here at the university before.

Yeah. So thank you for having me. Of course. So my name's Josh Steger, so I oversee the varsity e-sports program here at WVU. So we're kind of starting from scratch building up our player base to compete against other schools in the country. But I also serve as the advisor for the club team on campus as well.

Nice. And before WVU and Morgantown, you were at another WVU campus, correct? I was, I was at WVU. All right. And you built a very sports program. We built their e-sports program. We have, we won about six championships there as well. So it was a fun time. Alright. So Josh, just to get us sort of everyone an overview, because I think so many people have heard of what e-sports is, but maybe they don't actually know it.

So what is more of a general definition of e-sports? Yeah, so e-sports. Basically competitive video games. So everyone plays video games, but not many people play at competitively and at a high level. So that's what e-sports is basically this. Okay. And so what's the difference between e-sports versus streaming like on a platform like Twitch or something like that?

Is it the thing? So streaming is more of a content creation, so people don't necessarily have to be. Great at the video game that they're playing to stream. They just have to be great at creating content or interacting with viewers as for e-sports. Most of those people most of the students, they normally don't stream as often because they're so competitive that they're in their game and they're playing for hours to kind of learn exactly what they need to do on that field.

Do you think that, that they also don't stream because they don't want anyone taking their secrets. Oh, a hundred percent. So that's the one thing I use brands as well. Like when you stream, everyone sees everything and is out there for the world. So like if you got something that's really good and you want to keep at it, like you gotta do your best, not to show everyone.

Yeah. So what are like the different categories, divisions of e-sports like, what are, what are the games that people play competitively? Do they play every game? I doubt they play animal crossing. I mean, I'd pretty much rocket that, but what are the, what are the games that are. So e-sports has something that's called tiers.

So there's tier one, tier two, tier three. So technically every game is an e-sports, but it has to fit into one of those tiers. So period three is basically any game, every game that you can think of. And then tier two are your more competitive video games that have, you know, decent viewership, decent amount of prize, pool of money and player based in a tier.

One has to top of the line, like they have prize pools. I was in some million, a hundred, like millions of dollars that are put into it. So games like league of legends Dota those are something that you would see as a tier one e-sport oh, okay. I've never heard of any of those is league of legends kind of like world of Warcraft or is it a sports.

League of legends has like a word of Warcraft feel with the characters, but it's more of a as titled like MOBA as a massive player. The 5 85 games. Okay. I would, I would not be a good athlete for you. I play animal crossing and like Lego, the Lego games. I really love the Lego games. I'm not sure why.

I think it's because they're kind of. You were trying to accomplish something, but like, if you, if your character gets killed, you just regenerate right there. You don't have to start over someplace. And I find that a lot less stressful. So anyway so the e-sports program is brand new here at Morgantown.

But give us a little bit of the history of the program at Kaiser where you were at before. Like how did you build it up and then. You know, what, what are your plans for, for here? Yeah, so the one at Kaiser is a more unique case just because for their. It was really important that we went out and found students that come to the university.

So most of those students were handpicked in transferred over to where we're at hazard. And then we kinda like just built, built from that. Every once in a while, we had a student who was locally, or that was at the university that. So it was a slow process. Like our first semester we didn't do great, but then our second semester, like week kicked off, like super quickly.

And then we really just kinda stayed at that our level of what our expectations are for our competition. Wow. So in your opinion, like why do you think e-sports in general is so gosh, darn. So yeah, there's a couple of reasons why, like, you can do it at your own convenience from your own, you know, home room to like you don't have, you don't have like physical limitations when it comes to e-sports and almost anyone can get it.

Almost anyone can find a way to adapt. You have how to play a game. So that's a really unique and fun for people. And then there's also just this. There's also like this community that comes with it, everyone kind of has like their favorite sport team while everyone has their favorite e-sport team or their favorite game.

And so they interact with, and that niche so like it has like an inclusivity. We're not completely there, but it's definitely still growing as e-sports. Yeah. You know, it's, it's funny. Cause when I talk about it with other folks, it's kind of like, but why is it entertaining to like sit there? Like how do people find this, you know, enjoyable to watch.

But then I think back to like my own experience and like being at a friend's house and watching them play a video game, it actually, it is. Fun. Cause you can like sort of shout encouragement or it's kinda, you know, it's like watching a movie that you're in control of the character. So I can kind of see, like not kind of, I can see it like how it could grow to at least like a large viewership, you know?

So, well, we only had the e-sports program here really. Like a semester and really technically not even a full semester if we're being technical about it, but I know that, you know, from the stuff that you shared with us in student life, that you've accomplished just a lot here in a short time. So what, what are those accomplishments that you want to share?

Yeah, so. I think our first accomplish accomplishment, like we just have been getting a lot of traction on all of our tweets and things. So we're, we're averaging about a hundred thousand impressions for petite per tweet that we do, which is pretty unique. We have one of the best players in the country.

So it's a big 12 champion. He is the national champion and he's also the number one ranked pro player in the country first game. So his name's Noah next and he plays, he plays bad in it. So like, that's just a really cool and great opportunity that we have to support. But now we have students that are coming from all over the place to come compete for us.

So in the spring semester, we'll be starting to unleash the rest of our rosters that we were able to put together. Is there a limit? Cause you know, like with more traditional sports and there's always a limit to how many people can be on the roster. Is that the case here too? Like there's only a certain number.

No, there's no limit in east or so technically I can make like five broadcasters, so like the same game. And like those guys can guys and girls can all go out and participate under our banner as WVU. Okay, cool. That's really cool. So what's your overall goals or what are your overall goals for the program here?

Like where would you like to see it? Maybe a year from now five years, 10. Yeah. So one of our things is. We want our competition to be great. So we still want to stay up in the upper tier winning championships contending for them. But two is really our community building. So we're really open to build a space where we can allow students to come in interact also have a place that they can hang out on their own and feel it feel at home, especially for those ladies and gentlemen that don't have the equipment to be Or maybe they just want to hang out with friends and like, we just have a cool little area for them to like buy, but that's something that we're super positive about.

And then naturally we really want to impact the rest of West Virginia. So we know there is a big gap between, you know, Who has internet lasts a certain amount of bandwidth. So we want to make sure that we can bridge that gap through e-sports and finding ways to do so. And that's also partnering with local high schools from the Western area or PA area I was just a couple of things.

I have like a lot of goals that we want to get to. We have a couple, we have a couple of things in mind that might start to happen next semester. That is going to be for the student body. What we think is going to be a really cool experience. So we're hoping as students really like, well, we have.

Yeah. I think when, as I learned more about it, I think one of the most unique aspects of e-sports is that ticket is like gender neutral, you know, like they aren't gendered teams. It's just, anyone can play if you've got the skills. I mean, I can't play because I don't have the skills, but so many other people do.

And I think, I think that's pretty cool. So, and I also know. So at my previous institution are the student union there. They have all these like old TVs set up in like the lobby of the student union and the students can rent video game systems from the front desk of the union, or they could bring their own.

They would sit there and play all day every day. If the union was open, it didn't matter if it was like six in the morning or 10 o'clock at night, there was someone there playing a video game and other people just hanging out with them. So I definitely can see how that can really could really easily build community.

So that's exciting. And hopefully you get a physical space and you can, and you can make that happen. So how, how could a current student get involved? Like, is that possible at this point? So we recently had our tryouts, so you didn't sign up or you didn't show up, you know, kinda suck stair to get out like the varsity team.

But we do have a club team. So if you really want to be a part of the thing, like maybe you just think I'm already for varsity yet. From the club team, the club teams are great. Their next organization, I've worked with them hands on as well. At any point in time, if we need an extra body to come in and college something we're going to go to the club team first and be able to recruit a student there.

Yeah. Well now I'm curious. So just for someone to get on the varsity team, like, do they have to try out or audition and what does that process look like? Yeah, so they have to try out. So we recently did a trial for one of our games. 22 students I'll look like half of those being like transfer students.

I'm looking to try out to be a part of it. And it's rigorous. We're going to put you through things that, you know, you normally don't deal with. We're going to put you out of your comfort zone. So and that's just the first part. You gotta do interviews afterwards so we can see if you're a right fit. So we really try to gauge as much as possible.

And we do this, like over like a four-day period of time. Oh, wow. Okay. And what do you think the biggest misconceptions are about, you know, students who participate in e-sports like, what are some of the stereotypes that you see about like gamers and other folks in general? Yeah. One is like they're lazy.

That's not true for all of them. If, if you think about it, half those guys are spending 10 hours playing like games. So they're not really lazy. They just didn't want to be dedicated to whatever their lives. Next is like, you know, they just sit there and chairs and like eat junk food, all. Ah, that's not true either.

We focused really hard on mental fitness, but also physical fitness. So better in shape you are the better your mental can be. And that's what we try to strive for. Most of the time any other misconceptions? Oh, this is a tough. Just like there's so many, I don't know.

I think you're right. Because every time I say something about it and we're like, oh, aren't those kids, the ones that just like are antisocial and they just sit all day and stare at a TV screen. And I was like, eh, I feel like that's not accurate. I'm sure some that is the case for some folks, but definitely not for all.

Yeah. Like. People that want to join us there on traditional sport team, or like some of our players have come from a traditional sport and seen, so it's, it's just really crazy how some of the stereotypes come about. Why does it think like this as a sport, you know, it has a longer shelf life than say other sports in terms of like physicality, just because like, you know, like figure skating, you know, someone can only figure skate for so long before their body starts to see, no more like we've had enough. I think that, you know, in this case it is a little bit different. Obviously, there is like a physical fitness and mental fitness component, but that's probably a little bit more sustainable than those like really rigorous, like physically demanding activities that other folks like might participate in.

So that's pretty, that's pretty cool too. And it seems like there's a lot of money involved as well. And. Well, that's the only thing you can win and that's not easy to do. True. That's true. So yeah, if you're thinking about that, Ooh. So where can students find more information on the program? Do y'all have a website or is it just mostly on your social media?

Yeah. So we have a website with which the link is already on our social media and you have to just click on it. I don't really know our website off the top of my head. I'm sorry. But like, I do know our social media and it's like WVU e-sports that's it on Twitter. And so basically. You clicked on that link and it'll give you like a quick little bio of myself and our current student Noah.

And so some people might be like, oh, like, whereabouts are the rest of the games. Well, you know, once we have those games up and running, you know, we're going to put those on the websites, that book and understand that those students are as well. But also, we have this really unique thing and it's called discord.

This is where anyone can go in and interact. Those other students are a part of it players in the team. And so basically this quarter is just kind of our own little community. Currently we have about 170 members in there at the moment. And they talk, they talk every once in a while. So if you need a friend to play a game with that's the place to go, we have a channel for almost every.

Okay. So what's the discord. Cause we can put all of this in the description of the podcast and I'll find the web address and link to it too. But what's the, what's the discord that they searched for. So that this court is like WVU e-sports as well, but from the website, if they click on. There, the link will automatically take it to them.

Cause like the discord links are a little bit different. They'd make it like it changes whenever. So this one's a permanent link, so it'll never change. Oh, okay. So really how about I'll just link to the website and then. We'll be good. I'll put your Twitter handle in there as well. Nothing else. They can go and follow y'all on, on Twitter and other social channels.

So LinkedIn website and let them do a little bit search, make them do the work because I'll be honest. I think I downloaded discord. I went on it and I went, I, I don't know what this is and I deleted it. I was trying to do something; I think for animal crossing back when it was like really big and I just didn't understand it.

So I'm probably not the person to put any sort of link to that site up, but so it's all right. I recognize my own limitations. It's fine. Well, thanks so much, Josh, for talking with us today. Is there anything else that you want to leave our listeners with before we, before we wrap up? I just think, like, I hope that like, make you guys proud and like interested in like what we're doing and you guys come out.

Wanting to be involved. Like we got some cool giveaways that we're going to do in the future. And we also are just going to try to be as much of a positive to the community as possible. So like people have ideas or if they come up with something like, please don't be afraid to like, give me a shout out or send me, send us an email.

And they just, we hope to really make WV proud of what we're doing. All right. Well, again, Josh, thanks so much for joining us today to all of our listeners. Thank you for tuning in this will be our last podcast for the semester, so good luck to everyone on finals. You can do it. We believe in you help you really successful and that you all have a restful and restorative semester break.

And we'll see everyone in January. Thank you all so much. We'll see you later.