Esports Rocket League at Phoenix Raceway

Friday, December 2, 2022
Angel, Adriel, and Miguel sitting in front of game consoles looking out over Phoenix Raceway

Rocket League Team at play

Rocket League players standing at Phoenix Raceway during NASCAR event, two wearing helmets

Rocket League players enjoying NASCAR event

Rocket League Team at play inside NASCAR booth

Rocket League Team inside NASCAR booth

Rocket League Team with club advisor Travis Maldonado at Phoenix Raceways with mountains in background

Rocket League Team with Club Advisor Travis Maldonado

En Español. Phoenix College's three-person Rocket League team–Angel Gonzalez, Adriel Angulo and Miguel Barrera, known respectively by their esports handles Mush, SN1P3R, and Migleler–attended Phoenix Raceway on November 5th to participate in an esports tournament against nine other teams: Grand Canyon University, Arizona State University, New Mexico State, two teams from University of Arizona, Glendale Community College, Chandler-Gilbert Community College, and Paradise Valley Community College. Esports, short for electronic sports, are video game competitions and Rocket League is a three-on-three vehicular soccer video game. The PC team took fifth overall in the competition. Travis  Maldonado, the esports advisor, said the team "beat a D1 school, which is a big deal."

The all-day event included the morning esports tournament and the afternoon NASCAR Xfinity Series Championship event, which included a college area for students to explore. Maldonado explained, "It's the vision of esports to be able to do more tournaments, especially at a state level, to compete against these other colleges." NASCAR has agreed to offer more esports tournaments moving forward.

Esports Clubs and Leagues

Phoenix College (PC) Esports Club has 60 members and 24 active players competing on teams in the following games: Rocket League, Valorant, Call of Duty, Overwatch 2, Super Smash Brothers Ultimate, and League of Legends, the biggest game worldwide. The Maricopa County Community College District has an esports league where Phoenix College competes against sister colleges. Spring semester brings the competitive season with games streamed on Twitch.

Jameson Dailey, President of PC's esports club since Fall 2020, better known by his esports handle, tSeuss, uses Discord to communicate when a game will begin. Members join virtually or attend the club meeting to practice in person. There are 98 members on Phoenix College's Discord server and 928 members on the Maricopa server, many of whom are potential students who aren't at any of the colleges yet, so esports has the potential to become a powerful recruiting tool. "The long-term goal for PC esports is to be able to go to high schools and just like our athletic programs say, 'Hey, we're recruiting for this semester,'" Maldonado said. Students who compete in esports often receive full-ride scholarship opportunities at four-year schools. 

Overcoming Challenges

PC has several esports stations in the Student Union overlooking the lush courtyard, yet the most prominent challenge esports faces on campus is reassuring those who are Gen X or older that students are "not just sitting in a dark closet playing video games alone. It's a competition," Maldonado said. "Some players are good enough to make six, seven figures. And they get endorsements. Yes, it's a fun thing for students to do, and it's a great opportunity for student engagement, but this could lead to a career for some players. That's a huge probability with this particular field." 

Club president Dailey said esports develops skills that can translate to other places. "I'm quite anti-social, so this club takes me out of my comfort zone" and develops teambuilding and communication skills. Another club member said she uses "problem-solving and quick thinking" while playing. Maldonado noted members conduct "post-game reviews of their game content–Where did I fail? Where can I do better? What did we do right?–to bring analysis to their gameplay."

Maldonado, one of the original founding members of the club, said league play started in January 2020, but Covid "put the brakes on everything." PC hosted a Smash Brothers tournament in January 2022 as a recruiting event and 90 people from across the state attended. As the program grows, Phoenix College hopes to participate in the National Junior College Athletic Association Esports (NJCAAE) League. For now, the esports club is looking for league players. Games are held Monday through Friday at 7:00 p.m. For more information, visit the Phoenix College Esports page