Iowa State Recreation Services opens its first esport intramural


Courtesy of Flickr

Psyonix’s “Rocket League” is one of the most accessible competitive games on the market with cross-platform multiplayer between Xbox One, Playstation 4, Nintendo Switch and PC.

Chase Johnston

Iowa State now has its first esports intramural event, and the teams are currently preparing to compete in a tournament for the famed T-shirt prize.

Competitors in the intramural esports event will show off their skills in “Rocket League,” a fast-paced soccer video game where the players are replaced by turbo-charged remote control cars. The event will have several teams of three that will compete against each other in order to win intramural T-shirts.

Nathan Pick, program coordinator with Recreation Services, is helping to organize this event.

“One of the big things up and coming for intramurals is esports,” Pick said. “I went to a conference in February, our national conference (National Intramural-Recreational Sports Association) and there was a bunch of intramural people at a round-table discussion and the main topic was esports and ‘are you doing it? And if you’re not, how are you going to implement it?’ because it’s an up and coming thing.”

Pick said the biggest obstacle he and his colleagues faced when organizing this event was how to make it so that the students could feasibly play the game together. They decided on “Rocket League” for its accessibility. The game is cross-platform — available on Playstation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch and PC — has stable servers and is already a popular esport.

Mitchell Garrett, senior in industrial design, and Thomas Owens, freshman in software engineering, are two students who are helping to organize and compete in this event.

Both say they have spent a large amount of time — close to 400 hours — playing “Rocket League” prior to this event and often use the trainers and mini-games in the game to prepare. Garrett and Owens said they both started playing video games at a very young age and that games have always been a good way of making and keeping friends.

“My ISU team, we’ve all met in person multiple times and we grab lunches and dinners together,” Owens said. “Outside of that, I do have a team who are all over the country. We have a member in Arizona, we have a member in [California], there’s one other guy on the East Coast and then two based here in the Midwest. So, for us, we all met through the internet and became best friends; some of us have known each other for five years going on now.”

Garrett and Owens also play video games casually in their free time. Garrett is a big fan of racing games and Owens is a big fan of games like “Rainbow Six: Siege.” Both Garrett and Owens explain how playing games in their free time helps them unwind; it’s a stress reliever for them.

The Garrett and Owens’ teams have been practicing leading up to the intramural’s competitive season.

“It’s gone worse than we would have liked, but the A-team that is above us, they are having a stellar season, they haven’t lost a single game,” Owens said. “We actually have the No. 1 and No. 6 player in the collegiate rankings right now.”

Garrett said team chemistry has improved over time.

“I can definitely see that the three teams that we have are really coming together and are starting to learn how to play with each other and, you know, work as a team,” Garrett said.

Garrett explained he may not be in the caliber to continue playing games competitively later in life, but that he would be happy to get more people involved in these events. Owens thinks that it would be “insane” if he could go pro with esports someday.

Owens is hopeful for the future of esports intramurals through Iowa State.

“It’s honestly huge to me,” Owens said. “Like, even though I’m a freshman and I know I’m going down a road with the club and with rec services where there is even more to come, I hope. To be able to make an impact now and start now and get ahead of the curve before not just any other university but city rec leagues, any other organization, we’re ahead of the curve in a lot of places. For me, it’s huge to make my step and my impact on this.”

Garrett elaborated on his own experiences with regards to esports and how he feels being a part of the intramural “Rocket League” team.

“Being able to see, just over my time being at Iowa State, the changes that have happened here, and if you would have told me coming into my freshman year that ‘by the time you graduate, there will be more or less collegiate esports being held at Iowa State,’ I’d be like, ‘You’re lying, there’s no way, that’s not a thing,’” Garrett said. “To be a part of that and growing up my parents always told me ‘video games are just a hobby, there’s nothing else there.’ To be able to actually have that come to fruition and be like ‘no, there actually is a place for these things.’ I don’t know, it’s huge.”

The “Rocket League” intramural esports tournament begins March 31 and they plan to complete the season before dead week. The games are not viewable to audiences, results of each game are available on