The esports industry—also known as competitive video gaming—is on the rise globally, and the Case Western Reserve University campus is no exception.

On the international scale, that growth is indicated by the 2018 Global Esports Market Report by market intelligence company Newzoo. In it, Newzoo predicted the esports industry will grow by 38 percent to $905.6 million in the next year, and by 2020, it could be valued at $1.4 billion.

And at Case Western Reserve, the field has grown from students playing in their residence halls into a full-fledged club with 300 members on its mailing list.

One of the students behind the esports scene at CWRU? Avery Zhou, a junior on the premed track majoring in biology and psychology.

Zhou has been involved with the club since the discussions about forming it first began; now, in its second official year, she’s president.

The industry’s growth is part of what has attracted Zhou to it.

“It’s such a new field that the general population doesn’t know that much about, but it’s growing so exponentially, so quickly that it’s really exciting to be a part of and connect with other people across the nation—or anywhere—over esports,” she said.

Zhou got involved with competitive gaming as a teenager, starting to play the popular game League of Legends during its third season. Though her interest in gaming on this level is relatively new, she has played video games since she was a child, growing up in Lima, Ohio.

“Besides Pokemon, as a kid, I played whatever I could get my hands on, which ended up being mostly all the free online games you could play on your Internet browser. I have no shame in admitting I loved Neopets,” she said of the website on which users own and care for virtual pets.

Today, Zhou said, “It’s hard to pick a favorite game because I like a lot of different games for different reasons. If I had to pick one though, it’d have to be League of Legends—not necessarily because of the game itself, but because of all the opportunities, experiences and relationships that came from it.”

She credits the game for having a significant role in earning her the spot as Esports Club president and for making the friends that she has.

As a leader of the club, Zhou has spent much of the year trying to set up a foundation for the organization and help to grow its numbers. In addition to having teams that compete against those from other institutions in several games, the club hosts gaming events throughout the year and offers a more casual setting for playing with one another at weekly meetings.

Moving forward, Zhou hopes to help develop the esports scene in Cleveland, potentially working with the Cavaliers, which recently started its own esports team, the Cavs Legion GC.

Want to get involved? The CWRU Esports Club meets every Friday from 6 to 7 p.m. in Nord Hall, Room 400. The group also will go on an outing to the Cleveland Public Library’s eSports@CPL event Saturday, March 31, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. View the Facebook event page.

Before you get wrapped up in your next game, though, read Zhou’s answers to our five questions.

1. What’s your favorite place to grab a bite to eat in Cleveland?

Indian Flame! I love chicken tikka masala, but I’m a total wuss when it comes to spicy food. Indian Flame is the only Indian restaurant I’ve been to where “mild” actually means it’s not spicy at all, so I can finally enjoy the deliciousness without the pain.

2. Where would you like to travel that you’ve never been to?

Probably the Galapagos Islands. I love seeing wildlife!

3. What is your biggest goal for 2018?

2018 will be a pretty busy year for me, with medical school applications, interviews, my capstone project and my other commitments. My goal is to not get too overwhelmed by it all, to take everything step-by-step, and to come out at the end of 2018 successful in accomplishing all that I have currently on my plate.

4. If you had to pick another field to work in or study, what would it be?

Something related to esports. I have no idea what exactly I’d be doing in the field, but I think it would be really exciting to be a part of something so new and growing so exponentially.

5. What’s your favorite thing about Case Western Reserve?

CWRU Esports Club! My involvement in the club formed so many friendships, developed my leadership skills, and created so many memorable experiences. This club is definitely one of the defining parts of my college experience, and it feels amazing to have helped form an organization that will hopefully last for years after I’m gone.