In a thrilling finish to the tournament, Team “Candy Shop,” composed of students from Washington State University’s Tri-Cities and Vancouver campuses, came back from a 0-2 deficit to defeat a Pullman-based team 3-2 in the tournament’s final round.

But this game took place not on turf or court, but in a Rocket League video game in the first-ever WSU Global Gauntlet. The March and April 2022 event launched WSU’s esports through Global Campus.

Esports, alternatively known as competitive video gaming, allows students to compete remotely in a wide variety of video games and gaming platforms. The activity has become increasingly popular in collegiate circles, with many major universities offering valuable scholarships for students to be a part of their competitive esports teams.

For 30 years, WSU has provided opportunities for Cougs around the world to attend WSU at a distance. WSU Global Campus online format provides flexibility that is ideal for adult students with jobs, families, and other obligations.

Though Global Campus provides a wide array of virtual engagement events and activities through the Global Connections program, online learning can still limit the ability to participate in some activities, such as athletics, that promote engagement and build camaraderie amongst Cougs.

Global Campus is addressing this by embracing esports.

“Esports is an opportunity for Global Campus students to get involved,” says Global Campus Chancellor Dave Cillay. “The ability to do something they love and compete together helps to instill a strong sense of community and camaraderie with fellow Cougs.”

The Global Gauntlet tournament, sponsored by WSU Global Campus, began on March 21, 2022, with dozens of Cougs from all over the WSU system competing in the video game Rocket League. The fully virtual event was produced by WSU’s collegiate esports partner, Electronic Gaming Federation (EGF).

A total of 53 students from WSU’s Pullman, Global, Tri-Cities, and Vancouver campuses competed in the tournament. The tournament’s finals and semifinals were streamed live on Twitch, allowing fans to cheer on their Cougs in real time.

“Esports is a perfect extracurricular activity for online students,” says Cillay. “Students can participate in esports activities and competitions from anywhere they have a high-speed internet connection, just like with our fully online degree programs.”

According to James Hoplin, WSU’s esports coordinator and team organizer, collegiate esports is in high demand and offers many opportunities for online students.

“Esports is a very popular pursuit right now. I know from experience that there are many online Cougs, and prospective students as well, that are passionate about esports and can’t wait to be involved in collegiate esports,” he says.

Hoplin, who has coached WSU’s esports club and taken esports teams to compete in national-level competitions, says he’s seen many benefits to competitive esports.

“Students really appreciate the opportunity to represent WSU in competitions, playing a sport they love with fellow Cougs,” he says. “It’s a real camaraderie builder, especially for online students who might not have an opportunity to engage with athletics on campus. It helps students connect to WSU and fellow Cougs in a way that they couldn’t before.”

WSU Global Campus’ official esports team will begin competing on a national, collegiate level in October 2022. The team will be participating in competitions hosted by the EGF.

Students chosen for the team will receive a $2,500 scholarship.

“I’m very excited to see the esports program expand in this way and I can’t wait to see our team compete for the first time,” says Cillay. “We are all about innovation at Global Campus, and our foray into esports is an outgrowth of our forward-looking focus.”

Outside of the competitive arena, Global Campus is also planning recreational esports events for online students who are not members of the team.

“In the end, our increased investment in esports just makes sense for Global Campus,” says Cillay. “It’s all about community-building and providing opportunities for our students to engage and be a part of our incredible, worldwide family of Cougs.”


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WSU Global Connections

30 years of Global Campus