An emerging community: Wildcat Gaming aims for new heights


Wyatt Alpert

Wildcat esports team members stand with jerseys. Photographed by Wyatt Alpert March 22.

The Chico State esports scene is looking to become an accessible option for all to compete in. Though there are many major steps before esports at Chico State is a fully fledged sporting program, the members of the team think the future is bright.

Valorant team captain Gavin Tilles emphasizes how welcoming the team is and encourages anyone with or without gaming experience to come and give it a try. 

“Even if you’re scared thinking ‘Oh I wouldn’t be able to play at a competitive level’ it doesn’t matter at the end of the day we’re all there to play video games and have fun,” Tilles said. “We’re there to help you.”

The Wildcat Gaming Lobby is located on the bottom floor of Whitney Hall and is accessible from the Warner Street side. President of the esports gaming club, Dylan Sanders, was giddy to share that the facility has been fully functional since last semester for the first time since closing due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic made the space inaccessible to the esports team and campus population. 

With the closing of Whitney Hall for the ‘23-’24 school year, the plan for the gaming lobby remains unclear. President Sanders says the plan at the moment remains to relocate the gaming equipment for the year and then return once Whitney hall reopens.

As of  now the Wildcats team is designated as a club within the tier 1 designation, so it does not have coaches at the moment. The team aims to distinguish itself as a tier 2 club sport, requiring dues from the athletes that would then go toward a proper coaching staff.

Josh Little, League of Legends team captain, described how a practice might look right now for his team members. 

“My practices mostly look like trying to build up the lower level players, finding them articles for them to read,” Little said. 

Josh Little, League of Legends captain. Photographed by Wyatt Alpert March 22.
Josh Little, League of Legends captain. Photographed by Wyatt Alpert March 22.

He explained how they also focus on specific concepts within the game. They will then practice games with those specific concepts in mind.

Sanders added how the community of captains they have right now is working as the coaches for the team.

Having competitors has been an issue for the Wildcats as they pursue more frequent and ongoing competition. The League of Legends team had to forfeit more than a few matches this school year with Little saying that’s the nature of not being able to have the most players available.

To have a team eligible for a game, they must have two full teams worth of players. Only then can it become an esport team.

Chico State currently competes in the following video games: League of Legends, Valorant, Call of Duty, Rocket League and Overwatch 2. The members of each team vary for a total of 54 esports team members in all.

With video games gaining rapid popularity, there can be the addition of a team at almost any time if there are enough willing players to fill two rosters. Also, this allows for games declining in popularity to get pushed to the wayside when there aren’t enough people to fill up the teams’ two rosters. This keeps a refreshing and steady stream of games for all to play.

Valorant team captain, Tilles, explained the two-team concept in more depth saying it works almost like a varsity and junior varsity roster. The players on the second team are eased into “any new strategies” with a focus on “just getting overall better at the game.” On the other hand, the players on the first team will be more competition-driven.

This allows for players of all experiences the opportunity to play and enjoy these games to their own degree of commitment. 

Ben Nelson, Overwatch captain, said he is just trying to give “as many people as possible the chance to play.”

Sanders, club president, further emphasized that point:

 “[Esports] allows people who would not be able to play conventional sports that opportunity, people with disabilities mainly that would never be able to compete in a team.” 

Dylan Sanders esports team president. Photographed by Wyatt Alpert March 22.
Dylan Sanders esports team president. Photographed by Wyatt Alpert March 22.

Esports is becoming a more viable option for team-based competition for differently abled peoples that may not be able to compete physically in other sports offered by Chico State.

The Chico State esports program also is working to create a league for competition among other schools both in and out of the CSU system. Esports President Sanders and esports Coordinator Cory Smith explained that they aim to create a league similar to the California Collegiate Athletic Association that Chico State’s division 2 sports programs currently compete in. 

Gavin Tilles captain of the Valorant gaming team of Chico State. Photographed by Wyatt Alpert March 22.
Gavin Tilles captain of the Valorant gaming team of Chico State. Photographed by Wyatt Alpert March 22.

There is much to do, but the fire has been lit amongst them, and Tilles leaves us with a poignant prediction for the future of the Wildcats esports team — “We will be in major tournaments I can guarantee you that.”