For the past several years the New Mexico Tech Esports league has grown to the point in which players are now competing nationally. Some are even receiving scholarships.
Damian Banks has been involved with the league since he was a student at Tech and has developed the program to a new level.
“I’ve been with Esports since this leagues’ inception,” Banks said. “I was able to lay the groundwork here as the inaugural president and I have been here over these last two-and-a-half years.”
This is Banks’ tenth year competing in esports both professionally as well as at the amateur level. The “Call of Duty” franchise was his passion throughout middle school and high school before other players online introduced him to competitive gaming. Banks has now been hired on as the official director of esports, the first in the school’s history.
“It was the reaction from the students that made this possible. This has become the largest club on campus in a very short period of time. It gives the students something else to do and during COVID the players were still able to work together while gaming.”
Players on both the East and West coasts were competing in events during the pandemic. Now back on campus, competitors can return to the game room. 15 plus computers and gaming-style chairs are set up in a semi-circle for the players. They are able to do school work if they choose, but the main purpose of the room is to connect online against players around the world.
Another issue esports players faced during COVID was being forced to spend 10-12 hours per day staring at a computer screen for their education, burning some of them out. Now that the school is reopened the usual two to five hours of gaming has the teams focused. Members were able to attend APS Esports Expo in Albuquerque on October 4 to promote and game for the Tech team.
Currently, the Miners have 33 players, split between three games and five teams. All players are encouraged to be together in the same room according to Banks, as it creates a different atmosphere than playing remote.
The Miners play three games: “League of Legends,” the most popular around the global gaming community, “Rocket League” and “Apex Legends.” The “Apex Legends” has two teams at the JV and varsity level.
“The biggest challenge with these games is that anybody can play,” Banks said. “The metaphor would be, if you’re seven feet tall you’ll probably be good in basketball. With esports there is such a wider array of players at the professional level here. A lot of our competitors are able to battle it out despite whatever their physical attributes may be. So the degree of difficulty is through the roof and the amount of practicing time this takes is immense. Esports is 95 percent mentality.”
After pre-semester tryouts, teams are assigned various times in which they can compete. The facility is available for Miners if they wish to do “free play” as well, which is not part of official competition.
This is Tech’s first official season playing for the NECC (New England Collegiate Conference), which began sponsoring events in the fall of 2020. A team must complete a full season before being able to be ranked.
“No doubt this esports community is a big positive for a student,” Banks said. “You have people from all different communities coming together that would have never been friends becoming great friends had they not had esports. You’ll have players that don’t make a roster spot but still hang around and the next semester they play better than some of our vets. This is an always evolving sport.”
The Miners Esports League meets and plays daily. For more information contact Damian Banks at 505-977-6725.