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Air Force Academy eSports team wraps up 1st season

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The U.S. Air Force Academy eSports team competes in the Mountain West Conference Finals for League of Legends in Las Vegas, March 15, 2019. The team finished fourth after falling to Boise State and the University of Nevada. (Photo by Air Force Capt. Terrence Knock.

U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. — The Air Force Academy eSports team finished fourth in the Mountain West Conference Finals after falling to Boise State and the University of Nevada in Las Vegas March 15-16.

Mountain West stood up League of Legends eSports in February 2018, including 10 teams divided into two separate divisions. The top two teams from the competition in Las Vegas advanced to national-level competition.

League of Legends, also known as LoL, is a multiplayer online battle arena game.

“The League of Legends World Championships [last year] had more viewers than the Super Bowl, which shocks a lot of people who have never heard of eSports,” said Cadet 2nd Class Dallas Huff, team captain.

Huff cited numbers provided by Chinese streaming services who claimed the concurrent viewership of the event eclipsed 200 million. Super Bowl LII had 110 million concurrent viewers.

He said matches in the Big East Conference, which stood up in 2017, often draw more than 4,000 viewers.

“We’re surprised at how far it has come already. I think we can definitely grow even larger than that in our conference,” he said. “I predict eSports will one day become a varsity sport.”

The Academy team meets three times a week to review film from previous matches and practice against collegiate teams from across the country. Huff said the opportunity to meet other college students and ROTC cadets was a bonus.

“There are many benefits to eSports similar to what can be gained from participating in traditional sports,” said Capt. Terrence Knock, eSports club officer in charge. “The cadets gain experience working as a team, in dynamic communication, leadership, followership, good sportsmanship, and resilience.”

Knock said he has developed positive leadership traits from gaming and has observed similar growth in the cadets and the team throughout the season.

There is a second eSports team for Overwatch, although it is not affiliated with Mountain West. Watch all of their matches on Twitch.TV using the handle @usafa_esports.

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