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JMU joins esports league

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A screenshot of the Valorant game

James Madison University has entered the virtual arena of intercollegiate E-sports. It recently joined the Eastern College Athletic Conference's league for competitive gaming. WMRA's Randi B. Hagi reports.

WMRA's operating license is held by JMU's board of visitors, and JMU sponsors programs on WMRA.

[game sounds]

Last Tuesday night, five competitors from JMU stalked their opponents through stone courtyards and sand-swept archways in the first-person shooter game Valorant.

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Randi B. Hagi
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JMU students meet for matches and practices in the X-Labs building, in a room lined with customized computers and sleek gaming chairs.

COMMENTATOR 1: Alright now, both teams are just kind of feeling each other out. Saint John is trying to figure out JMU's defense …

COMMENTATOR 2: Ooo, one spotted towards –

GAME VOICE: Enemy spotted "A."

COMMENTATOR 1: Pick by DDirocco! A second pick by DDirocco! Very nice job! Oh, gets picked off by Void.

There were already a few Esport student clubs on campus – but induction into the conference marks JMU's first foray into intercollegiate varsity teams. The students meet for matches and practices in the X-Labs building, in a room lined with customized computers and sleek gaming chairs. Olivia Klimko is the director of programming at X-Labs.

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Randi B. Hagi
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Olivia Klimko is the director of programming at X-Labs.

OLIVIA KLIMKO: Right now we have Valorant, Overwatch, Rocket League, Call of Duty: Warzone and Call of Duty: Vanguard. We are looking into, for the fall, expanding to NBA 2K, Madden, Super Smash Bros Ultimate, potentially FIFA, so there's a lot of room for growth right now.

The goal is not just to compete, but eventually to build out classes that would prepare students for the jobs that support the Esports industry, such as broadcasting, IT, and design.

KLIMKO: Realistically, whether you're talking Esports or traditional sports, most college players, especially at schools like JMU, aren't looking to go into the pro role of sports. But there's always those other careers in it, where you could be a part of the operations.

Matches are streamed on the JMU Esports Twitch account.

Randi B. Hagi first joined the WMRA team in 2019 as a freelance reporter. Her writing and photography have been featured in The Harrisonburg Citizen, where she previously served as the assistant editor; as well as The Mennonite; Mennonite World Review; and Eastern Mennonite University's Crossroads magazine.