Students around campus are proving eSports are more than just video gaming
When reading any eSports article by mainstream sports media, you will see a range of opinions. Some argue eSports are legitimate sports—others not so much. But the fact is, eSports is a growing industry and will likely stick around for a while.
Universities are committing to eSports. There are diverse leagues, tournaments and scholarship opportunities popping up to support and fund competitive video gaming. For the past five years, Concordia has been developing an eSports association for those who want to play competitively against other universities.
The Concordia University eSports Association hosts different games, but is currently focusing on their Overwatch roster after earning favourable results in a couple of tournaments since the beginning of the school year.
This begs the question—what is Overwatch? The game is a team-based objective first person-shooter, which basically translates to two teams of six, composed of various characters, trying to win an objective over their opponent. The game came out in May 2016 and is still new compared to other competitive games, like Counter-Strike. The Concordia team was formed in September 2016.
On the weekend of Feb. 10, Concordia’s Overwatch team competed at LAN École de Téchnologie Supérieure (ETS), an eSports tournament held at Place Bonaventure. They placed in the top eight out of 41 competing teams.
“I loved the game and thought maybe making a team would let me enjoy [it] even more,” said Camilo Perez, the captain and coordinator of the Overwatch team. He and teammate Johnny Mak met in CEGEP and managed to get students of the same skill level together to create a competitive gaming team at Concordia.
When building the team, Perez said it was important to take players’ personalities into account. If someone is toxic in the game and to their teammates, he explained, they would not be accepted, even if they play at a high skill level. “Having someone like that in the team wouldn’t make for a good environment,” Perez said.
“It’s really a team effort. So at our level of play, if someone makes a mistake, the whole team suffers,” Mak said.
Support player and shot-caller Alex Patton agreed. “We really have to trust each other,” Patton said. “Mistakes are heavy. Especially against good teams, any little mistake that we make we get punished for it.”
Their first tournament was the Tespa Collegiate Series, a web-based intercollegiate competition where participants can win up to $20,000 in scholarship money. “We played against other universities in the [U.S.], and that tournament is what sparked my interest in making the team more competitive,” Perez said. The team finished among the top eight of all the participating Eastern universities.
Since there isn’t a university league like U SPORTS for video games, the Concordia Overwatch team only participates in tournaments, such as LAN ETS or Tespa. To stay at their best and to build team chemistry, they practice two to three times a week.
Perez is the one who schedules scrimmages and practices for the team. “I set up a schedule for practice and everyone shows up. And that’s the law,” Perez said with a laugh. These practices are mostly against other Overwatch teams, such as their Université de Montréal rivals.
Yet, even when they’re not practicing, they still play the game. “We don’t necessarily have to always play together,” Perez said. “Even when we’re not practicing, we play by ourselves.”
“We [have substitute players], but we’re usually available,” Patton said when asked if the team has any backup players in case of absence or illness. In one of their tournaments, the Concordia University eSports Association vice president, Dimitri Kontogiannos, had to sub in for one of the players who was at a curling tournament.
Overall, the team has had their fair share of success in the short amount of time they’ve been together. They placed among the top eight twice in different tournaments, and won a series at Meltdown, a Montreal gaming café.
“I guess we can confidently say on record that we’re probably the best university in Quebec for Overwatch,” Perez said.
Going forward, the team has plans to stream some of their games online for fans to watch, once they find someone to voice the games. The Concordia Overwatch team is now focused on the Ligue Cyber Espoirs, an intercollegiate Montreal-based tournament in April, hosted by the Fédération québécoise de sports électroniques.