Texas gamers again will be major players in the League of Legends College Championship, an esports version of the NCAA basketball tournament's Elite Eight.
Trent Jones of Highland Park is manager of the Texas A&M entry in the eight-team championship, which will be played in Santa Monica, Calif., starting Thursday.
The scene might not be what you imagined if you're not up-to-date on video games today. Gamers won't be playing amid tangles of extension cords wound around empty soda cans or potato chip bags.
Competitors will be playing in the North America LCS Arena. The stage has a massive big-screen showing the game between the two teams, which are seated on either side of the stage, or Battle Arena, like a TV game show. Fans make their presence known by clapping thunder sticks or stomping their feet while the teams of five players will be trying to destroy their opponents' base.
You don't even have to be there. It will be streamed on watch.lolesports.com.
Michael Sherman is a University of Texas at Dallas alum and now the esports manager for the collegiate leagues at West Los Angeles-based Riot Games, developers of League of Legends. Sherman works closely with universities and various gaming clubs to set up opportunities for students.
At this week's championship, he's noticed positive change in the tournament.
"There's not just one good team and one good school anymore," said Sherman, 25, and a native of Missouri City. "Everyone is much more prepared. Before, everyone showed up in whatever shirt or shorts they could find and wear flip-flops. Now, they come in with matching jerseys and they're prepared to put on a good show."
Besides Jones, three of the A&M gamers are from Texas: Anthony Cui, a freshman from Sugar Land, Ryan O'Beirne, a freshman from Austin and Joseph Bowers, a senior from The Woodlands. Jones is a senior who came to A&M from Trinity Christian Academy in Addison.
A&M, the South regional winner, joins the University of Toronto (East), Simon Fraser University (West) and Maryville University (North) in one bracket. The other bracket has the University of Maryland (Big Ten Network champion), Carnegie Mellon (East), Robert Morris (North) and the University of British Columbia (West).
The University of British Columbia is looking for its third consecutive title. Semifinals will be played Friday and Saturday. The championship is Sunday.
A&M takes on Carnegie Mellon at 5 p.m. Thursday in a first-round match.
The A&M team will be clad in maroon. But you're probably not going to see the 12th Man, cadets or Yell Leaders cheering on this A&M team. The A&M team, which qualified two years ago, has experience and support from a League of Legends club that numbers about 1,500 students, Sherman said.
"They've really built up their local community and they're really well-connected to their club," he said. "There will be a lot of them here cheering on their team."