Esports comes to Pitt in the Battle for Pittsburgh Gaming Tournament

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Darin Fields | Contributing Writer

Pitt students at Saturday’s Battle for Pittsburgh gaming tournament in the Connolly Ballroom at Alumni Hall.

By Darin Fields, Staff Writer

The future of esports is on the upswing. Experts project the esports industry to bring in more than $1 billion in revenue this year, and that number is only expected to increase in the future.

The esports boom made its way to campus this weekend as Pitt gamers gathered in the Connolly Ballroom at Alumni Hall on Saturday for a day full of competition and community in the first Battle for Pittsburgh Gaming Tournament. The University Store on Fifth collaborated with tech giant Dell to put on the event.

The tournament featured two games open for competition — Valorant, a free-to-play first-person shooter game, and Beat Saber, a virtual reality rhythm game. According to Jennifer Cupp, a technology buyer for the University Store on Fifth, various vendors including UAG, AKRACING and AlienWare provided prizes and giveaways for the event. 

The more competitive event of the day was the Valorant tournament, which was strictly competitive play the entire day because contestants competed in a bracket format. Beat Saber was casual for the majority of the event and became competitive around 1 p.m.

Jamir Grier, a sophomore computer science major, decided to compete in the Valorant tournament after seeing an advertisement for the event. He said he is an avid fan of Valorant and could not pass up the opportunity to play in the tournament.

“As I was walking down Fifth I saw the advertisement and because I’m a huge fan of Valorant, I’ve been playing it since it was in Beta, I absolutely signed up to see what Dell could put on for an event,” Grier said.

According to Grier, he focused more on Valorant, but he also planned to try out Beat Saber as well. 

“[Valorant] is definitely the game I’m best suited to,” Grier said. “I’ll try to compete in the Beat Saber one, but I don’t even own a VR headset so that’s really just me having fun at that point.”

Norm Dawson, Pitt’s Dell Campus representative, said he worked with Cupp for a couple of years to bring the tournament to Pitt.

“It started way back a couple years ago. Jenn Cupp, she and I talked it over but it’s hard to bring together,” Dawson said. “We were gonna do it last year but of course we ran into COVID. This year we got it started and we found some interest.”

The West Coast tends to dominate the gaming scene. In a study from WalletHub, California alone boasts six of the top 10 cities for gamers. Dawson said he wanted to bring gaming culture further east to cities like Pittsburgh.

“We wanted to bring gaming to the East Coast finally,” Dawson said. “Normally for any type of gaming you have to go west.”

Despite only starting the tournament this year, Cupp is already planning for the tournament to become an annual event. She also wants to further expand to other universities in the area.

Contestants in the Valorant tournament competed individually against one another in eight to 10-minute rounds. Winners from each matchup moved through the bracket, and the grand prize included a Dell gift card and an AKRACING gaming chair.

While some experienced gamers like Grier came to compete, others came for more casual play. Bronco York, a sophomore electrical engineering major, is not as into the competitive gaming scene but came to have a new experience.

“This is something new I’m trying, I play video games but I’m not like a hardcore gamer,” York said.

York did not enter into the Valorant tournament and instead casually played Beat Saber. York said he and his friends enjoy playing VR games, such as Beat Saber, and decided to attend the event after seeing an advertisement on Instagram.

York said despite some technical difficulties, he was impressed with the event and would return if there was an event like it again in the future.

“There were more people than I was expecting, which is good, it seems very well-run and you know, there’s good prizes and everything is set up really well,” York said. “Some technical difficulties but that’s to be expected.”

Grier also applauded the event and said it was well-scheduled and maintained. Grier said he enjoyed having the opportunity to come together with others who share his interest in gaming.

“It’s always fun to see other people that like video games out or have this type of gathering of people,” Grier said. “I always enjoy it, especially if it’s based around a certain game and if there’s a sponsor and giveaways that just makes it all the more intriguing to go to.”

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