In this era where creating the perfect balance between gaming and studying is deemed impossible, one collegiate esports player is winning at proving otherwise.
Meet Michael James Gonzales, a University of Santo Tomas Teletiger who was recently accepted into the Varsity Esports program for League of Legends (LoL) of the Harrisburg University of Science & Technology in Pennsylvania, United States.
Michael James, or “Maykel” to his friends, will assume the role of bottom laner for the esports team while he is taking up a degree in Information Technology at the university.
Harrisburg has been granting full-tuition scholarships and housing stipends to 22 eligible esports players every year. In his email interview with Speed, Maykel recalled how he tried his luck and showcased his skills after hearing about it from one of his friends.
“I learned about it from my friend who saw on Twitter that the school was looking for players and there were tryouts for it. I applied then got qualified to do tryouts. We were required to submit five videos of our games and then they’ll decide,” Maykel said.
He didn’t think he’d make the cut, and so when the results came, it made him happy “because it means that my skills are good enough since it was recognized.”
With an experience of nine years in LoL, the 20-year-old has no doubt earned the skills of an ace in the field. Still, Maykel considers the past three years he has spent with UST Teletigers as the primary key to his international feat.
He said, “The Teletigers community has helped me throughout my esports career. I would not get or be able to have this opportunity if they did not get me from the team.”
The Electronics Engineering sophomore has competed in many collegiate-level tournaments in Southeast Asia through AcadArena. In 2020, he was hailed the organization’s National Campus Open (LoL) Tournament MVP.
In that same year, he ushered the Teletigers to the quarterfinal stage of the International Esports Festival League of Legends, where they were bested by South Korea’s Chunnam Techno University.
All these, Maykel wouldn’t have achieved if not for his hard work and constant love for gaming, which started when he stepped into elementary school.
“I started playing online games when I was six years old. My cousin introduced me to the game Dota,” he recounted to Speed. “I started playing League when I was in fifth grade (2012). Since my friend told me to try this game, I tried it and got hooked ever since.”
Like many young gamers, balancing time between homework and online games was not easy for Maykel at the beginning. “I played a lot of games, probably eight hours a day,” he continued. “It did bother my studies, but as time went by, I eventually learned managing my time between studying and playing.”
Maykel has mastered the skill to the point that his parents easily gave him the nod on his gaming crusades. “Nakikita naman nila na naba-balance ko ‘yung pag-aaral ko at paglalaro kaya suportado sila sa akin,” he remarked.
The esports enthusiast was in tenth grade when he met a former member of the UST Teletigers in-game. And it was at that moment he began aspiring to be part of the collegiate team. It eventually led him to apply for admission at the university as a senior high school and maneuver himself into his dream team.
“We’ve gone through a lot. There were ups and downs, but we’ve solved all of it as we go on,” Maykel said, looking back on his team’s escapades.
“The lesson that I could take from my previous team is by valuing teamwork, everyone should trust each other and work together,” he continued. “Another is through hard work, I believe that I can achieve anything when I practice a lot. Last would be discipline, I learn from my mistakes and develop consistency.”
Asked for his advice to young gamers who would like to make a name for themselves in the industry, Maykel kept it simple: “Honestly, if hindi ka pa naglalaro sa big pro team, you should never quit studies kasi medyo malaki ‘yung risk. Just balance, enjoy, and work your hardest.”