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Esports makes CSG debut, attracts hundreds

Published: Jul. 23, 2021 at 4:53 PM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - The Cornhusker State Games is always looking to expand its events.

Friday afternoon Pinnacle Bank Arena saw a steady stream of gamers, a sight that’s expected Saturday too, for the first year of esports.

In its first year at the games, it’s already charting to be a top 10 sport, with over 500 competitors, not including those who might just walk in and sign up during the event. Right now, ice hockey holds the top spot with about 800 participants signed up.

Esports is already solidifying itself mainly because the format is naturally adaptable to people from all walks of life.

“I never saw anything on the internet that looked quite like PBA set up for this,” said Dave Mlnarik with the games. “Kind of separate the floor into these quadrants it’s really cool.”

Mlnarik said they’ve been looking into bringing esports for a few years, talking with local colleges and high schools that have programs.

It partnered with esports company Unified out of Kansas to put it together for the weekend. Their crew brings in things like stages, gaming equipment, and even hires esportscasters who stream the games and provide commentary.

“We provide our own equipment to make sure that everybody has the same machine so no one person isn’t playing with something faster or better than anyone else,” said Ramsey Jamoul the CEO.

The format of the gaming can look a few different ways. The most popular and common here has players working in teams, mainly of five with an alternate, just like many other sports.

Some of the more hardcore teams create jerseys and most will assign certain tasks or positions within a game.

“It’s an amazing experience because Nebraska hasn’t seen something like this before,” said Dustyn Stortzum a gamer. “So we’re used to traveling the country and playing at different events and finally we get to play on here at Pinnacle Bank Arena.”

The games also range from classics like Mario Kart to longer-form games that can last hours. Those are usually featured on the main stage.

“Esports is crazy growth you see things pop up and die, new stuff pop up and succeed,” said Brandon Downs a gamer. “Once you get past the first year that’s how you know they’re sticking around.”

Esports isn’t the only new sport this year, the Nebraska Sports Council also added axe throwing.

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