UNLV's eSports Team To Play In First-Ever Mountain West Conference Showdown

Think back to your days playing video games -- Pong, Super Mario Brothers -- or more modern games like Minecraft.

Now imagine all those hours you spent playing them and doing it as a college sport.

Electronic sports are a multi-billion dollar industry, but it's not just a business anymore.

It's a college sport -- just like football or basketball.

And UNLV is one of the top colleges in the country for esports.

It's why Tyler Tsunezumi enrolled at UNLV three years ago.

And it's why he is leading one of the country's top esports teams in the first-ever Mountain West Conference esports showdowns this weekend.

Like most people who play esports, Tsunezumi started playing video games as a kid -- first on hand-held devices, then on consoles and finally on a laptop. 

"I could never wrap my head around how these gamers could get paid to do something they love," he said.

His parents struggled a little with him spending so much time playing video games. But when he showed them how many people participate in esports, they have been supportive.

Tsunezumi said people have to understand that esports players are working as a team, and, just like with traditional sports, they push each other to do better. 

"With this communication and the idea of getting better the competitiveness really starts to shine at that point," he said.

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As a team, the "Rebels in the Rift" practice 12 hours a week. Individually, Tsunezumi practices 20 hours.

He said the practice allows him to look for new strategies and small advantages that can help him win.

One of the top games in esports is League of Legends. It's what is known as a multi-player online battle arena, or MOBA, game. The game has 140 characters, which means each time you play you learn a little more about the characters. 

That knowledge can help you gain advantages over other players, Tsunezumi said.

Tsunezumi isn't just playing video games. He is majoring in hospitality. He believes esports is key to bringing younger generations into casinos. He took the first esports class ever offered at UNLV, and the focus was on bringing esports into the casino floor.

Despite all the work balancing esports and school work, Tsunezumi said he's never felt as if video games were work.

"I don't think I'll ever say I won't find video games fun," he said.


Tyler Tsunezumi, e-sports, UNLV

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