LAS VEGAS (KTNV) - Those in town for the Mountain West Basketball Championships will also get to see another college sport taking the country by storm at the Cox Pavilion near Thomas & Mack.
From March 8-10, UNLV will square off against Boise State in the first-ever Mountain West Esports Showdown.
Exhibition matches will be held from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. on March 8 and 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. March 9. Then the Main Event, which will be played before a live audience, is scheduled for 9 a.m. March 10. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased through UNLV Tickets.
Though the matches take place at the same time as some basketball games, Professor Robert Rippee from UNLV's International Gaming Institute says that fans of both won't have to miss out on the action. Tournament organizers will show footage of the esports matches at breaks during the basketball games.
Dr. Rippee says the idea is to help the general public understand competitive gaming, an industry that brought in $892 million in revenue in 2016, and has inspired 50 colleges across the country to create varsity esports teams.
"It doesn't take a lot of watching... to intuitively get caught up in the action," he says. "It's exciting, and you can see the momentum switching between the teams."
UNLV's team, called 8-Bit, competes in the Collegiate Starleague, which is the world's first collegiate gaming organization. Their League of Legends unit is currently undefeated at 14-0. ("League of Legends" is a popular fantasy game in which two teams attempt to destroy each other's buildings.)
8-Bit President Milo Ocampo describes the organization's "League of Legends" unit as methodical, yet flexible. He's confident that the team can adapt to whatever Boise State throws at them.
"This is going to be one of the easiest matches that we will ever play," he says, "and I'm glad it gets to be seen by the masses."
In addition to "League of Legends," Boise State and UNLV will also battle it out over "Overwatch," a sci-fi shooting game, and "Rocket League," a soccer game that uses cars with rockets instead of human players.