Orange Coast College’s formerly unknown Overwatch team has found a way to challenge 4-year universities’ finest and most competitive esports programs.
Overwatch, advertised as a team-based first-person shooter, pits two teams of six players against each other, with the goal of securing and defending points, or escorting a target across the map in a limited time.
The game has become one of esports’ most formidable titles, with its premier league consisting of 20 teams located in various cities that span five countries.
Within the Overwatch League players find themselves earning a minimum salary of $50,000 a year, while also competing for a prize pool that consists of $5 million.
OCC’s team was founded two years ago with the original goal of finding students to play the game, but by summer 2018 the team found itself competing in small tournaments.
The team would eventually make a splash in the scene with its unexpected performances in the Overwatch Collegiate Championship hosted by ESPN, finishing in third and fourth place and earning each player a $650 scholarship.
The players also had the opportunity to play on stage in Houston during the weekend of the finals.
Coast beat teams such as Grand Canyon University and Kennesaw State University before eventually bowing out to the University of Utah.
Nick “Slayergramps” Caravaggio, 23, a computer science major, and the team’s only semi-pro player leads the way for the team.
“It was really cool to be able to see your opponents and to play with the lights on you,” Caravaggio said.
During the team’s run at the championship, there was an audience of friends and family who traveled to the convention.
Though the tournament’s live audience wasn’t full, the matches saw an average viewership of about 13,000 people while they were streamed across Twitch and YouTube.
“It was unheard of that community colleges beat that many schools, especially fully developed schools and programs,” Jesse “JetJel” Lopez, 20, a communications major said.
Schools like Harrisburg University, the eventual winner of the tournament, have built their program up by offering scholarships to players as well as being coached by a former professional.
As for Overwatch at OCC, members said before they played in Houston they thought they were unknown to the school and supported themselves.
With the team’s successes, members hope to eventually become an official club through the college.
“It is not impossible, there is potential for epsorts at OCC,” Caravaggio said.
Following the team’s results in Houston the doors began to open for the team with the school offering to get the team jerseys and help with travel in the future, members said.
According to Lopez, last year the team was only able to practice once a week, struggling to balance free time with jobs and classes but hope that this year things will be different.
Re-entering the collegiate league as a premier team with a target on its back, the team looks toward this season and hopes to back up its top four finish.
The OCC Overwatch team can be found on twitter at @OrangeCoastOW.