skip navigation

Welcome to the World of Westcliff Esports

By Brandon Petersen , 09/28/20, 5:00PM PDT


You’d be forgiven for not being familiar with the term “esports,” it’s a relatively new phenomenon in the sports world, the knowledge of which is usually split down generational lines.

But esports is well worth your time to get to know because its already a multi-billion-dollar industry, it’s incredibly fun to participate in or be a fan of, and quite frankly, it’s not going anywhere. We’ve seen the future, and his name is Mario.

Or perhaps it’s Ninja.

Otherwise known as Richard Tyler Blevins, Ninja is 29-year-old professional gamer from Chicago, who skyrocketed to prominence in 2017 when he started play Fortnite Battle Royale through the streaming service Twitch.

Think of Twitch as the YouTube of video games, it’s a website in which content creators stream their live content to audiences, and that content is primarily video game play and commentary.

In March of 2018, Ninja played Fortnite Battle Royale with Drake, Travis Scott and Juju Smith-Schuster, which, at the time, attracted the largest concurrent audience on an individual stream other than esports tournament events.

Ninja, alongside his rapping and footballing friends, had scooped up 635,000 viewers.

“Ninja (is) the biggest face of gaming,” Westcliff Esports head coach Neil Bui said. “People outside of gaming really became aware of how far esports had grown once Ninja started making appearances on television, magazines and other mainstream channels.”

Ninja estimated that he made close to $10 million in 2018, when Twitch and Fortnite were the epicenter of gaming.

In 2019, Ninja made headlines when he left Twitch for the now defunct Microsoft streamer Mixer but has since returned to Twitch on an exclusive multiyear contract. He boasts 23 million YouTube subscribers, and as of May 2020, was earning $500,000 per month from streaming Fortnite alone.  

There is an ironclad synergy between video game makers, streaming services and high-level video game players.

Bui says the sponsorship marketplace for gamers has grown exponentially lucrative as more and more brands have looked to ink exclusive deals with gamers.

“Game publishers are really motivated to develop the esports landscape around their games,” Bui said. “Through broadcasted competitions, they can attract a large number of eyes on their games being played by the best of the best, and that inspires others to try and reach those levels.”

But even for non-competitive gamers, the exposure to games for casual fans leads to increased revenues for game makers through product sales and expanded exposure in related marketplaces, such as the film industry.

Bui says the nature of gaming also leads to more innovation in marketing.

“The digital nature of most esports engagement allows for new creative opportunities that are more dynamic than traditional display ads or commercials,” he said. “It’s all thanks to the sponsorship dollars funneling into esports that allows players to monetize their play.”

So, what exactly do professional gamers play for, other than viewership? Who do they play against? Will Westcliff be playing for a national championship in esports? Where do Westcliff fans go to watch an esports contest?

Fortunately, there’s an answer for all these questions and more, so here’s a little primer for those out there who are not yet fully familiar with the esports landscape.

According to, “Put simply, esports is competitive level gaming. It’s teams of people playing games against each other at a professional level, regularly winning huge sums of money as prizes. Esports players are contracted to play for a variety of different organizations, much like a football or basketball player would be.”

Bui says that competitive gaming in terms of genre, and therefore viewing and playing experience, ranges widely – a sports game is different from a shooter game is different from a strategy game. But competitions themselves have many similarities.  

“They can happen with participants all in the same location, or scattered throughout the world,” Bui said. “At its highest level, the most competitive and highly watched competitions will take place in a stadium or arena, with all participants on a single stage playing each other.”

These competitions take place in front of huge live audiences, both in-stadium, and on broadcasts all across the world through networks like ESPN, which is owned by Disney.  

“At the professional level, the publishers of the esports title usually host and manage their own leagues,” Bui said. “For the collegiate space, the publishers tend to defer to other partners to organize the competitions.”

The National Association of Collegiate Esports hosts a national championship for a number of game titles in the fall and spring seasons.

Westcliff is also involved with PlayVS, which is an official collegiate partner with Riot Games’ League of Legends and Epic Games’ Fortnite. Through that partnership, over $300,000 is offered in scholarships to collegiate gaming’s best teams.

Westcliff will compete in Madden and Fortnite this fall. While the Fortnite team is currently comprised of several Westcliff men’s volleyball players, freshman Kawan Ceo was recruited to Westcliff specifically for his skills in Madden and NBA 2K, the most popular professional football and basketball video game franchises on the planet.

“As we’re building the esports program throughout its first season, it’s really important to have individuals who can represent esports as professionally as they would any other sport,” Bui said.

Bui says he was fortunate to come into a Westcliff Athletics atmosphere that was already familiar with gaming, and players who had already bonded over video games.

Take Westcliff soccer player Xavier Escobedo, for example.

“He has a big passion for Call of Duty,” Bui said. “I can’t wait to see him and his teammates participate in the College Call of Duty series.”

Besides Fortnite, Madden, 2K and Call of Duty, Westcliff has plans to participate in Overwatch, Valorant, Super Smash Bros., Rocket League, League of Legends, FIFA, CS:GO and Hearthstone in the future.

Perhaps the most exciting aspect of esports is that it comes from a young, tech-savvy generation of players who are incredibly well-connected and engaged with social media, meaning that the traditional roadblocks between players, soon-to-be-players and fans are conspicuously absent.

Anyone can play video games, and anyone can participate with and follow Westcliff Esports, especially on three platforms in particular: Instagram, Discord and Twitch.

Discord is a messaging application and Bui says that alongside private chats for players and teams, Westcliff will be opening public channels for anyone who is interested in joining the team, or just following the team throughout the year.

Westcliff will also be live-streaming games and practices through its Twitch channel, and you can engage directly with the team on social through IG.

You can follow Westcliff Esports on IG here:

Join the Westcliff Esports conversation on Discord here:

And don’t forget to check in on live Westcliff games and practices on the Warriors’ Twitch:

To contact Brandon Petersen, e-mail