The mum (bottom right) of one of Berkley's Overwatch players cheering her son on.
It's not easy being a competitive gamer or a college student at an elite university, and especially not both. Fortunately, Overwatch player SlurpeeThief has the support of both his teammates and an extremely enthusiastic mum to pull from.
At the Tespa Collegiate Series finals for Overwatch last night in California, Berkeley put the kibosh on both Rutgers and Toronto to become the undisputed champions and take home the largest share of the $US100,000 ($130,201) in scholarship prize pool.
— Tiffany 'RoyalAmes' (@Royal_Ames) February 19, 2017
Despite the appearance of a last minute rally by New Jersey's Scarlet Knights in the semifinals, California's Golden Bears managed to to secure a place in the grand finals and then go on to sweep Toronto in a three game series. And they were able to do it in part thanks to the team's stalwart defensive anchor: SlurpeeThief.
In Overwatch, Blizzard's hero-based first-person shooter, players face-off on a map with objectives ranging from holding a specific point to escorting a payload. SlurpeeThief's character of choice happens to be a giant Gorilla in a space suit named Winston who likes to taser people when he's not bashing their heads in.
— Tespa (@TeamTespa) February 19, 2017
But SlurpeeThief's unofficial mascot is actually a 7-Eleven plastic cup wearing an eye mask compliments of "Mama Slurpee." She and the rest of the family constructed them to cheer on their son and his team. When its pee wee soccer, orange slices and juice boxes are enough, but when your son is playing Overwatch in the collegiate championship with tens of thousands in scholarship money on the line, something a bit more creative is called for.
"We always told the kids to be passionate about something," she said to the announcers during a interview before the finals. "We didn't limit their screen time because their dad is a computer programmer and they kept grades up and everything so we let them have as much screen time as they wanted."
It used to be that most pro gamers would come to esports with baggage from their personal life with families considering it an obsessive hobby that would crowd out schooling rather than a viable career path. I can still see Dota 2 pro Benedict Lim "hyhy" chain smoking outside his family's apartment talking about the pressure from his family to quit playing in Valve's Free to Play documentary about the game. More and more, however, younger competitive players are coming into the scene with enthusiastic support of friends and family.
And as a top-tier academic institution, Berkley's focus on cultivating esports has helped give the extracurricular a veneer of respect and social cache. While the collegiate esport scene has been slow to take off, events like Tespa's, as well as Heroes of the Dorm, have laid the groundwork for something more organised and persistent going forward.
You can re-watch the entire series through Twitch's VOD here.