On Nov. 22, University of California, Santa Barbara seniors Ryan Yee, Chance Nobles and Dante Damian competed and won against UC Berkeley’s Hearthstone team to win the title of Regional Champions for The Esports Association (TESPA)’s collegiate Hearthstone tournament. Each member of their team, 3migos, earned $4,000 in scholarships. 3migos is now in the top four collegiate Hearthstone teams in the nation — and these four teams will compete at PAX South on Jan. 31 for the grand prize: $100,000 in scholarship money.
Hearthstone, according to UCSB’s esports club president, Annie Mya Chen, is a free-to-play, competitive card game based off of World of Warcraft characters.
“The only thing I can equate it to that people might understand, if they don’t understand what Hearthstone is, it’s a lot like Magic [The Awakening] in a sense or like Yu-Gi-Oh where you collect cards, build your deck, there’s a bunch of different classes,” Chen said. “It’s a lot of strategy but there’s a little bit of luck in it, the more you play the more cards you get, and the more cards you have the better it is. It’s largely a [strategic] game.”
According to Super Data Research, over 134 million viewers tuned in to watch esports worldwide in 2015 alone. Esports tournaments are similar to those of traditional sports, with huge prize pools (for the collegiate scene, it’s mostly in the form of scholarships), crowded arenas, and screaming fans. The livestream of the match featuring 3migos drew upwards of 8,000 viewers on twitch.tv, and the live finals are expected to draw even more.
Traditional sports and esports are not very different, according to Chen. They both involve teamwork, discipline and hard work.
“I guess the only difference would be the physical aspect,” she said. “There’s not so much training for stamina or anything, it’s mostly mental stamina. There’s not really too much of a difference, but you see a lot of professional gamers getting athlete visas into America because of it.”
According to Dante Damian, one of the members of 3migos, their team has a very specific way of preparing for competitions. Like in traditional sports where practice makes perfect, closer to a tournament, Damian puts in at least four hours a day playing Hearthstone.
In order to prepare, they set the game to conquest mode, in which each team brings three different decks of a different class. The players are restricted to the same deck for the whole match, and whoever wins with their three decks wins the match. However, there’s an adjustment where after a match you can edit your deck as long as it’s in the same class. This opens up a lot of counter plays.
“Early on, we didn’t really know a lot about the other teams because there were so many, and we hadn’t played too many games yet,” Damian said. “But when we got up to the regional finals, that came into play a lot more because there is a history of their matches that we were able to look at — like what decks they liked and [we could] adjust how we wanted to play according to that. For typical preparation, we all sit down and talk about what decks we’d like to bring to the tournament and to the match and how we’d like to change the decks in the middle of a match.”
3migos’ $4,000 scholarship win was well deserved in a competitive scene.
Damian added, “In video games playing competitively is very, very competitive, because, who doesn’t want to play video games for money, you know?”