Story by Laila Casiano | Staff Writer
Arkansas State University’s “Valorant” esports team remains undefeated throughout the season, going 4-0 and currently placing in second division.
A-State’s initial launch of the esports program in 2019 opened doors for a variety of video games. In 2021, A-State added “Valorant,” a five vs. five character-based first person shooter, to their esports program.
The team is competing in a nine week competition hosted by the National Esports Collegiate Conference (NECC) for the chance to win a prize of scholarship money.
Even with their winning streak, the team faced obstacles prior to this successful season.
Last season, a former star player moved to captain the Overwatch esports team, but new additions restrengthened the team.
Chase Irvin, a senior majoring in creative media production from Hoxie, Arkansas and captain of A-State’s Valorant team, said “We actually almost made it past the finals last semester, but we dropped out of the quarters. We had a rough start to the season and then we also didn’t have time to prepare because of the roster change. We had brand new people. We needed to learn from everybody and be adjusted to one another, but once we were able to get that cemented, the season was amazing.”
The team elected Irvin, to take over the leadership position as his background in “Counter Strike: Global Offense” and history of playing chess allowed him to be able to see formations quite easily.
“I’m kind of the wide receiver of the team, the one that needs to go out there and make the play. I used to be a wide receiver and the quarterback, but we realized that was way too much,” Irvin said.
“Valorant” exploded in popularity on the live streaming platform Twitch. The game’s objective is to defeat the opposing side by either planting or defusing a bomb (depending on if the team is attacking or defending) or eliminating the enemy squad before the match timer runs out.
A-States Valorant team goes live for every competition on Twitch, live streaming their games for the public. Before the competitions on Monday, Sundays are spent practicing: hours of game footage, looking over statistics and playing scrimmages.
Live streaming connects the team members to their family and friends, sharing the experience of watching a competition but virtually. Though the team overcame the anxiety of live streaming their competitions, there were times it wasn’t all pleasant.
Mason Butler, a first-year majoring in exercise science from Bryant, Arkansas and the teams newest member, shared a memorable story of a live streaming experience at their opening, “We played University of North Alabama esports gaming, or UNA Purple, and we won 2-0, beating them. And their fans were just extremely toxic to our casters for no reason. They came into the A-State’s esports Twitch and blasted our casters for being biased towards A-State.”
Butler joined the team when his suitemate at the time invited him to a Super Smash Bros. game where he then saw the Valorant team practice, peaking his interest. As a new member, he is currently a fill-in “sitting in the back line, going hand-in-hand with them.”
The A-States Valorant esport team excels because of their teamwork and communication skills, but it was never so simple in the beginning.
Ro Gibson, an Arizona State University transfer student, mentions how he “never meshed well” with other teams, compared to A-States. “We have good chemistry and we think alike. Which is probably the biggest cause or concern when teams don’t do well. We have a willingness to listen to one another.”
Gibson, a sophomore accounting major from Jonesboro, transferred from Arizona State University to A-State, joining the Valorant team after an esport player told him that there was an esport team for Valorant on campus when he was caught watching gameplay in class one day.
Mission Kadariya, an international student from Nepal, joined the team in 2021.
“Being a gamer, I searched if there was an esports team here on campus or not, but I was planning to join in the Fall, or a semester after I had came to A-State, but a friend who knew the Valorant team captain said to go talk to him and I did,” Kadariya said.
Initially shy at first, Kadariya, a sophomore majoring in computer science, explained the difficulty with the language barrier in playing a game where communication matters, “My communication skills are very bad, I have to listen very carefully because it’s not my first language. It’s a slow process. Converting the language and being able to focus on the game is hard for me, but the guys (his teammates) understand.”
Jay Baltz, the “quarterback” of the team, further explains the role of communication and cooperation in the team, “Sometimes it can get a little heated in there. Especially when things aren’t going right. The most frustrating thing is the countdown, and a lot of times we’ll be talking about the last round when we need to be talking about the next. Everybody’s yelling and I’m trying to tell them what to do but I can’t talk over them, I’m kind of a quieter guy, so they can’t hear me a lot of times over their loudness.”
Baltz, senior in animal science from Pocahontas, Arkansas, shares the “in game leader” position with Irvin.
“You got Jay who’s like the quarterback, Stann (Kadariya) who’s the defensive ends. I’m a wide receiver. Then you got Ro who’s kind of like the center, and then Combaxxx (Butler) who guards. So, you kind of have everybody there and as long as everybody plays perfectly, we’re fine,” Irvin said.
Watch A-States Valorant team compete this season on the Arkansas State University Twitch, @ArkansasState on Monday at 6 p.m.
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