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Overwatch National Championship: Fiesta Bowl, ASU play host to sold-out gaming tournament

Posted at 7:10 PM, Feb 16, 2018
and last updated 2018-02-19 06:20:53-05

Hundreds are expected to attend a sold-out video gaming tournament this weekend at Arizona State University.

"It's great for everybody, the people that watch love it, the people that are involved with it love it," said Behrod Baghai, who plays esports for UC Irvine.

For about 500 collegiate and university teams from across North America, the stage is set for the final four teams ready to battle it out on the big screen.

"If I could summarize it I would say in three words: entertainment, passion, and enjoyment," said Baghai.

His love of gaming has put him and his team here in the Valley for a national championship, but he's also got a full-ride scholarship to UC Irvine and the chance to win even more scholarship cash this weekend.  

"This is where we are now, playing for scholarships which is really awesome," said Baghai.

Given where he is now, his teammate Sebastian Vasquez is sure glad he didn't listen to his mom when he was a kid when it came to video games.

"My mom would always tell me, 'you always play too much, go out and do other stuff," said Vasquez. "For it to get to the point where I can show some money with it and show some results with it. It's like a dream come true in a sense." 

And for the first time ever, folks at the Fiesta Bowl are hosting the event here in the Valley. They say after a lot of interest and education, they see tremendous potential in the gaming world.

"Esports is sort of a hot arena right now," said First Bowl Senior Director of Communications Scott Leightman.

For Vasquez and his team, they say it's a huge honor to have the Fiesta Bowl taking an interest in esports. They say for the first time they're seeing the world of esports and traditional sports at the college level coming together.

"That was kind of like the first big step of bridging the two sports together," said Vasquez.

Going into the tournament undefeated, they're ready to put it all on the line on "Overwatch," an objective-based shooter game. Each round will consist of five objective-based missions, the best out of five moves on to the next round. Each team consists of six players who all have different skill sets. Vasquez equates it to a soccer team. 

"You have a soccer team and you have midfielders, defenders, and forwards. It's kind of the same, you have people that play at the front, and in the middle and more of a defensive role," he said. "I play flex support for the team. I basically keep the team alive...I make sure I never die because if I die then everyone else dies."

"My position on the roster is the main support and in-game leader, so the main support is the focus of the characters who do most of the healing on the team and the backup, so I basically support in that sense," said Bahgai.  

These players say they practice together every other day for six to eight hours.  

They say they've seen just how fast the world of gaming is growing and if they can't play professionally, they'd like to stick with it and help provide this opportunity that they've been given to others.

"Last year I was on the team, but we weren't under scholarship," said Vasquez. "But within a matter of a year the school was like, OK you guys are good, 'Overwatch' is a good game, Blizzard [the game's developer] is good, we're giving you a full ride scholarship."

"I didn't know that esports - the potential for esports had - was way bigger than I could imagine," added Baghai.  

You can watch the tournament online here.