Skye Cerrito started playing video games on an original Xbox console around age four. Little did she know that her early interest in gaming would one day lead her to become president of a popular eSports Club at Saint Leo University.
The 21-year-old cybersecurity major started at Saint Leo in the fall of 2017. Cerrito's goal is to become a pen tester or ethical hacker.
"Basically, people would hire me to hack into their system so real hackers wouldn't be able to do so," she says. "I would find out what security flaws there may be and how to rectify them."
Presiding Over a College eSports Club
In addition to her academic pursuits, Cerrito has served as president of the eSports Club at University Campus for about a year and a half. A former student, Milosz Mikicin, first started the group.
"I wasn't too big into the whole eSports games concept until I came to Saint Leo," she recalls. "He asked me if I was interested in joining, and then I became the person in charge of the Overwatch group."
The club has about 40 total members. The group typically holds weekly meetings on campus in Room 415 in the College of Business building on Wednesday evenings. Some members stay as late as 11 p.m.
Along with Cerrito, the club's other officers include Robert Cheely (vice president), Pedro Quintao (secretary), Chase Franse (treasurer) and Elias Sanders (public relations).
She adds that the group has a fair number of female members, a percentage some might find surprising but one that has grown significantly within the broader gaming community in recent years.
"I think when girls come to the meetings and see myself as president and other girls there, they feel a lot more comfortable," she says.
The club holds elections at the end of every spring semester. As president, Cerrito is responsible for scheduling and running the meetings, arranging tournaments and communicating with Student Government and other club presidents on campus.
Dr. Bryan Reagan, an associate professor of computer science at Saint Leo, serves as the faculty advisor for the organization.
"Each semester, Dr. Reagan likes to put on a one-time educational class for our group," Cerrito explains. "His last class he did for us was on HTML and CSS. But he also likes playing Dungeons & Dragons with us and even some other games."
eSports Games in the Club
Members play a variety of eSports games that mainly include PC games but occasionally involve console games as well. Some examples are League of Legends, Super Smash Bros., Overwatch, Rocket League and CS:GO. Participants must bring in their own devices to play.
Some games are more for individual players, but ones like League of Legends and Overwatch lend themselves to team competitions. While many students compete with others in-person, a game like League of Legends can be accessed remotely so students can still log in online and compete against other students.
Plus, Saint Leo eSports Club members sometimes play games against students at other universities, such as the University of South Florida.
The group tries to host a few tournaments throughout the academic year. Most have an entry fee of a few dollars, and winners could receive a $25 gift card for the Nintendo Store for a Super Smash Bros. tournament, for example.
"One time, we had about 50 people show up for a Super Smash Bros. tournament," Cerrito says. "Normally we get about 10 to 15 players for them."
eSports Benefits Beyond Gaming
There are far more benefits to the eSports Club than just gaming itself.
"I really like our members because they are so fun to be around and play with," she says. "I've made so many friends through this club. I had a shell around me when I first came to Saint Leo, but being involved in this group really broke me out of my shell. So, it's a win-win for me and lots of our members because of how much we love gaming and how many benefits there are to being a part of something like this with other students."
She adds that video games are not the only focus of the group.
"If they're into competitive gaming, we do have that," she explains. "But we do have lots of non-competitive gamers and a lot of people who just have similar interests. Even if you aren't into eSports games, you can play Animal Crossing, board games or even tabletop games. We're a general gaming club with eSports being the main thing we're trying to accomplish."
Plus, students often connect as friends and collaborate academically.
"We have students across all majors – English, cybersecurity, history, criminal justice and pretty much every major under the sun. If you are looking for someone to study with before finals or need help with some homework, there's a good chance you'll find someone you can relate to in this club. The bottom line is if you talk to just one person here, you're probably going to make friends. These are genuinely nice people."
Ultimately, she has one goal in mind for everyone.
"Whether you are an undergrad, a grad student or even a faculty member, we accept everyone who wants to come and have some fun."
Photo credit: The photographs included in this blog article were provided by Skye Cerrito and the eSports Club at Saint Leo University and are used with permission.