Stinger eSports club builds community with support from industry partners

Casual and competitive gamers find community at Sac State


Jose Fabian - The State Hornet

From left to right, Nick Palsgaard, Donna Walters, and Paul Mello stand near the library quad near their booth during club rush. They, along with club members, work toward expanding eSports at Sac State by competing in gaming tournaments.

Jose Fabian

Stinger eSports, formed in fall 2017, is Sacramento State’s home club for casual and competitive players for a variety of video games.

With the goal of creating a dedicated esports program, the club has competed in collegiate tournaments and formed partnerships within the esports industry.

Its members want to do more than just compete, they want to turn Sac State into an esports leader.

RELATED: Students reflect on connection between esports, college

Some of the games they play include “Rainbow Six: Siege,” “Dota 2,” “League of Legends,” “Overwatch” and “Counter-Strike: Global Offensive.”

Nick “Draagslap” Palsgaard, a mechanical engineering major, is the club’s president and founder. He started the club after noticing that other schools have similar programs.

“I founded it with five other people,” Palsgaard said. “Looking at other programs like UC Irvine, I thought Sac State can have a program like that.”

Jose Fabian – The State Hornet
Nick Palsgaard, president of the club, stands in front of the handmade Stinger eSports poster during club rush. Palsgaard started the eSports club in Fall 2017.

According to UC Irvine’s esports website, it is the “first public university to create an official esports program.” UCI recruits and has scholarships for players in the program. Students in the program are also supported by a variety of staff such as coaches and managers.

“If we start early, we can easily become one of the top schools,” Palsgaard said.

Currently, Stinger eSports competes in the Overwatch Collegiate Championship operated by Tespa.

Overwatch is Blizzard Entertainment’s team-based shooter video game released in 2016 where two teams of six fight in objective-based matches. Tespa partners with Blizzard to run collegiate national tournaments in Blizzard’s “Hearthstone,” “Heroes of the Storm” and “Overwatch.”

As of Saturday, there are 456 teams competing in the Overwatch Collegiate Championship: National League, and the top four teams can win scholarship money.

Paul “Giga” Mello, a third-year computer science major, leads the Overwatch team which is 4-1 in the national league and 1-2 in the Overwatch Collegiate Championship: Regional League. Teams have to compete in both leagues to qualify for the national championship.

As team captain, Mello watches recordings of the team’s matches and uses a program called Epic Pen to write over the recording. They then go over the video as a team.

“Teamwork is literally everything,” Mello said. “It’s a tight group, a lot of trust.”

Jose Fabian – The State Hornet
Paul Mello stands in front of the Stinger eSports booth during club rush. As captain of the Overwatch team, he describes himself as an enabler for his team which has lead to be 4-1 in the National League and 1-2 in the Regional League.

The Overwatch team also scrimmages against other colleges. On Jan. 22, a few days before their Sunday tournament, the Stinger eSports club won a scrimmage against Boise State University.

Watch Clip: Scrims vs Boise from GIGA10101 on

Donna “BasicTaq” Walters, a junior studying organizational development, is the marketing director for Stinger eSports and organized the scrimmage. She joined the club last summer.

“When I got here, we were trying to get Tespa membership,” Walters said. “My goals aligned with Nick’s goals, and it just became this natural partnership.”

Jose Fabian – The State Hornet
Donna Walters, marketing director,
stands next to the Stinger eSports booth during spring club rush. As the marketing director she secures support from companies for the club.

Walters and Palsgaard often talk about ideas for the club. One idea is to make the group a welcome place for anyone interested.

“Gaming can be a really toxic culture and people want to escape that,” Walters said.

It’s not unusual for players to be harassed by other players, especially in teamwork based games.

“They want to play their games, but they want to do it where they’re not being yelled at every two seconds,” Walters said. “We provide that.”

Brandon “Phantastic” Phan, an economics major, is also on the Overwatch team. He joined because he was looking for people with similar interests.

“I love the community, and I’ve made a lot of friends from other teams,” Phan said. “I love the feeling of camaraderie, achievement when [we] win, and there’s a sense of purpose working with the team.”

Jose Fabian – The State Hornet
Brandon Phan in front of the Stinger eSports booth during club rush. Phan enjoys the camaraderie of being on the Overwatch team.

Walters has also built connections with several companies. They have received support from San Francisco Shock, a professional Overwatch esports team owned by NRG Esports.

Pronounced “energy,” NRG is a professional gaming organization whose CEO and co-founder is Andy Miller, also a co-owner of the Sacramento Kings.

Stinger eSports has also received support from computer hardware company CORSAIR.

“CORSAIR has been generous enough to give us benefits, perks, and swag to give to our members,” Walters said. “We just connected with Team Liquid.”

Team Liquid is a worldwide professional gaming organization, and one of the biggest names in esports.

“We’re working with their community manager to help bring more programs to the school,” Walters said.

As the club grows, it’s trying to find more opportunities for its members.

“There are different workshops that we’re planning on putting on like PC building or resume building, ways that we can kind of support our student members into other avenues other than gaming,” Walters said.

The club, which has gone from five members to nearly 120, has greater goals.

“I was more interested in trying to get a competitive tournament thing going, that’s when Nick started telling me that his goal was to start an esports program here,” Mello said. “Since that was what I wanted, I started to help him in any way that I could.”

The club competes in more than just Overwatch, and they often network with other schools, companies and clubs. Stinger eSports hopes to become the university’s official team.

“My end goal is to become an affiliate Sac State program with a huge community of both casual and competitive players,” Palsgaard said.