Players on the TCU Esports Valorant team playing in the 2022 Esports Iron Skillet, FEBRUARY 19, 2022 (Tristen Smith / TCU360)
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TCU students will get to see a battle for the Iron Skillet in both spring and fall every year, no longer just in football.

A new era of the historical cross-town rivalry began last weekend when the TCU Esports Club traveled to Dallas to play SMU in an all-day tournament.

Teams in the two clubs competed in best-of-three matches for five games: League of Legends, Overwatch, Counter Strike: Global Offensive, Valorant and Rocket League. The entire event was live-streamed with commentary by the SMU Esports team on their Twitch account.

This tournament was the first time TCU Esports competed in an in-person tournament since their first year as a club in 2017.

Team members said that playing side-by-side with their teammates was a game-changer.

“Playing in-person with your teammates and being able to see their faces… being able to cheer with them, get excited with them and have that connection makes a whole league of difference,” said Christian Lackey, sophomore music education major. “It makes it more rewarding in the end as well.”

“[In-person] we have better communication and better morale,” said Landon Bradley, sophomore music education major and Lackey’s team mate. “It’s just a lot more enjoyable to be in that situation.”

Club president Asa Tuten, a senior computer science major, has been onboard since 2018. His dedication to the club has been instrumental in their expansion to 35 members and seven competition groups.

“Whenever I first came in, it was just League and Overwatch,” said Tuten. “Being able to compete with five teams in five different games last weekend was pretty cool to see. I think right now we’re in a way better position than we were in the past.”

A poster for the 2022 Esports Iron Skillet in SMU Guildhall, FEBRUARY 19, 2022 (Tristen Smith / TCU360)

The Frogs came up short in their first tournament against the Mustangs, losing 4-1. TCU’s lone victory came from their Valorant team, who routed SMU 2-0 with a combined 26-11 wins in two best-of-13 matches.

Despite the result, Tuten said there are positive takeaways from this competition.

“[The competition] kinda shows where we can get to if we can just work a little bit harder and put more time and effort in,” Tuten said. “I think a lot of people, especially after that event, they’ve bought into the program a lot more.”

TCU’s esports club is a microcosm in the nationwide growth of collegiate esports. There are over 170 colleges and universities with varsity esports teams that compete as members of the National Association of Collegiate Esports (NACE), according to the NACE website.

Sean Collins, an esports writer for the Dallas Morning News, said this trend may translate to high schools soon.

“The collegiate scene is going to start getting high school kids that are going specifically to places for esports as well,” Collins said. “I think that’s already been happening for the past several years, but it’s going to continue to be a thing.”

Tuten and the club are currently looking for Call of Duty players to form a new competition team.

If you’re interested in getting involved with them, you can get in touch with club members through their Discord server at discord.gg/tcuesports or on Twitter.

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