Video games can get in the way of studying, but six Cal Poly Pomona students have found a way to pass their classes while hopefully paying for them by playing a video game.

After out-matching more than 300 other college teams in the video game “Heroes of the Storm,” Cal Poly’s own Pomona Ponies have made it to the final four in Blizzard’s Heroes of the Dorm video game tournament, with the grand prize of paid tuition for the rest of their college careers.

Cal Poly’s team, who are soon to be graduating seniors, have competed in this annual tournament since the video game’s release in 2015, and are excited at the prospect of coming home as champions on May 12.

“It’s pretty unbelievable. I’m still smiling five days after,” said fourth-year computer science major and Ponies teammate Hunter Gaukel, after defeating University of North Texas team for the final four spot.

Students competing for the opportunity to have their tuitions paid in full. (Courtesy of Cassandra Reynoso)

The Pomona Ponies are all in their fourth year and include civil engineering student Andrew Koskal, computer engineering student Steven Nguyen, computer science student Hunter Gaukel, physics student Joshua Childers, computer information systems student Warren Willis and electrical engineering student Matthew Moore.

The lot of professional gamers met during their freshman year dorming at the Alamitos hall,.

The group recalls bonding over video games.

After homework was done, they would cram themselves and all their computers to play “Heroes of the Storm” into those pocket-sized dorm-rooms nearly every day, so much so that they became world-class competitors.

Though where they practice has changed, their drive and camaraderie hasn’t, and they’ve had four years of practice of playing a video game which requires fantastic skill and precise teamwork to win.

“Our synergy is excellent. We’ve played thousands of games with each other,” says Joshua Childers.

“Heroes of the Storm” is a in real-time teamwork-based game that pits two teams in a arena against each other.

The teams fight each other while gaining experience by fighting the other team or computer enemies on the map.

The ultimate goal is to destroy another team’s home base.

The other three colleges that have made it to the final four include University Laval, Canada’s first team to succeed to the final four; University of Kentucky, a crowd favorite; and University of Buffalo, the underdog of the four.

Though the Ponies have already faced and beat Buffalo earlier in the tournament, they aren’t writing them off. Buffalo defeated the fan favorite University of Irvine in a 3-0 upset.

The Ponies know Buffalo is coming back strong, and they want redemption for the chance to win it all.

“Heroes of the Storm” might be a game, but the competitive nature of it and its influence is no joke.

The tournaments are often home to packed arenas, and are filled with thousands of avid, dedicated supporters and fans.

A fired up crowd cheering for their respective universities. (Courtesy of Cassandra Reynoso)

The event starts at 1 p.m. on Saturday, May 12.

Though tickets to the event are sold out, anybody interested in watching the Ponies go for gold can watch it on the video game streaming site Twitch. For more details go to www.heroesofthedorm.com.

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