E-Sports or electronic sports might not be well-known in Wharton County. However, for an East Bernard graduate, it is how he got into college.
Joey Briones is the first known person to get an E-Sports scholarship in Wharton County, signing his national letter of intent to play video games for Coastal Bend College before school ended in April.
Briones talked to several schools, including the University of Southern Mississippi. But the allure of gaming in-state, and for a program that is being built, was something he didn’t want to pass up.
“It would have been cool to go to a bigger school and to one of the better schools for E-Sports in the country, but this was a first-year program for Coastal Bend,” Briones said. “It’s not just me, but the coaches, other players and the school, it’s the first (for us all). It’s a small school, a lot of people wouldn’t think they have something like that.”
In his recruiting class, he’s one of the few from Texas, with Coastal Bend reaching across the Atlantic Ocean to build their roster, Briones said.
While he is a lifelong gamer with some of his first games on the Nintendo 64, it wasn’t until he was a junior in high school that he began to feel like being a gamer in college was something that he could actually obtain.
Briones will be playing Call of Duty for Coastal Bend. Call Of Duty is a semi-realistic first-person shooter war game that you can play with others across the world.
Before Activision, the company that makes Call of Duty took down the worldwide leaderboard, he was one of the top 1,500 players in the United States, Briones said.
When he was younger he played football and as a freshman, he also played baseball and competed in track at East Bernard, before dedicating his time to video games to try and perfect his skills.
While he was in school he averaged between 40-50 hours a week playing video games, reaching 80 hours a week during the summertime. When the Call of Duty Black Ops Cold War came out earlier this year, he played around 100 hours a week, learning the game and developing skills he’ll need when he joins the college team.
“It’s not that it’s only hard work, you also have to be realistic about stuff, there is always going to be a better person than you,” Briones said. “It’s not just playing for fun, you have to play it like it’s a job. Sometimes I don’t even enjoy playing video games. I’ve played video games all my life but sometimes I sit here and I don’t want to play anymore but I have to because it’s part of the process to get where I want to be.”
At Coastal Bend he and his fellow gamers will be treated like the other athletes on campus being expected to work out with the soccer and baseball players.
E-Sports has not been widely adopted in Texas, but Generation Esports runs the UIL’s High School and Middle School leagues, which is the largest league in the nation. The closest schools with E-Sports programs as Foster High School, Hempstead High School and Victoria High School.
Colleyville Heritage High School, a 5A school in North Texas, have won back-to-back state championships.
Louise powerlifting coach and assistant football coach Daniel Gaona Jr. is an avid gamer in his free time and hopes E-sports continues to grow in popularity.
“I really hope it does catch on,” Gaona Jr. said. “There are some students who don’t always get the chance to step on the field or court as much as they would like, I feel like E-sports would give them a better shot at shining. There is also a chance of creating friendships amongst students who wouldn’t normally be friends.”
While gaming might not have the same benefits as actually playing a game, it does offer skills that are useful.
“There have been tons of studies that show gaming (is) beneficial ranging from improving manual dexterity to better problem solving skills and even better social skills,” Gaona Jr. said.