Aura Zhao, a junior modern languages linguistics and intercultural communication major and president of the UMBC Overwatch Club, spent two semesters hoping to see an organization like the Overwatch Club. “I asked around campus and several people were interested,” said Zhao. “But no one was going to start the club.” Zhao decided to take matters into her own hands and create the club herself.
Overwatch is a multiplayer online shooter game that can be played on a PC and console. After reaching over 35 million players in October 2017, the popularity of the game has continued to grow steadily. Many colleges, including College Park and Florida State University, have an Overwatch club.
Although the Overwatch Club was founded recently, it held two major events during Fall 2017: a local tournament and a Jeopardy game. Prizes at these events included a new Overwatch account, stickers, key chains and cash. The club anticipates hosting two major events in the spring semester. The first spring event will be held at the end of February and the second will occur shortly before finals.
After a student attends three meetings, he or she officially becomes a club member. Only members are eligible to win prizes during major events.
The Overwatch Club welcomes players of all skill levels. “It’s a game for everyone,” Zhao says. At meetings, members discuss Overwatch lore, gameplay, news and related events.
In addition to various mini-games and events, the Overwatch Club plans to raise money for more prizes. There will be many local tournaments, trivia games and viewing parties in the near future.
By joining the Overwatch Club, students are eligible to compete in the Tespa Collegiate Series and win up to $7,000 in scholarship money. Students who are not interested in competing can watch the Overwatch League (OWL) or join the casual team, Underbark.
In fall 2017, the Overwatch Club’s competitive team, Overbark, ranked fourth out of 159 other college teams, even though Overbark was created shortly after the club was founded and only had a month to prepare for the tournament.
Overwatch Club members can communicate on a UMBC-specific Discord server (which is a messaging app similar to Skype). Outside of the weekly meetings, members post memes, use a voice channel to coordinate game tactics and hang out.
Some members of the club volunteer to coach players interested in improving their gameplay and communication. The Discord server has a channel for members to post videos of their gameplay. Coaches review posted videos and provide helpful feedback.
Club meetings are held from 3:00 – 5:00 p.m. in Room 231 of the Information Technology and Engineering Building every Friday.
“We work hard, we play harder,” says Zhao.