A League of Legends World Championship like no other

Esports without in-person viewers leaves much to be desired.

The annual League of Legends World Championship is no stranger to highlights and upsets, and this year is no exception. Through two weeks of the championship, the level of competition is at an all-time high, and the record-breaking viewership numbers on the broadcast streams suggest Worlds 2020 hasn’t skipped a beat.

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced Riot Games, tournament organizers and developers of League of Legends, to proceed without fans in attendance, meaning highlights that would normally have a sell-out arena going wild are now being greeted by a deafening silence that even broadcasters struggle to fill in.

Patryk Surowiak, President of the Concordia Esports Association (CESA), believes that esports are built on fan interaction and attendance above all else, including the video games themselves.

“It’s true that at its core, esports is played on a computer at home,” Surowiak said. “But the industry has grown so much over the years, where it’s now entirely built on the fans and these in-person events that draw the attention of thousands of people from around the world.” 

As President of the university’s club, created for casual or competitive gaming enthusiasts, Surowiak does a little bit of everything. He helps team coordinators get their teams and players together, helps set up the intramurals in accordance with Athletics and Recreation, and handles conversations with outside partners and sponsors.

Surowiak is also a proud and skilled gamer. He currently plays at a semi-professional level in Riot Games’ free-to-play multiplayer tactical first-person shooter Valorant, but it was the studio’s first hit game in League of Legends that captured Surowiak’s attention as a teenager back in 2012.

“I made a new friend in my first year of high school who introduced me to the game,” Surowiak said. “From there, I was instantly hooked and got really interested in the competitive side of the game, especially the professionals at the time.”

While Surowiak has broadened his gaming library over the years, he credits League of Legends for sparking his overall love for esports that has persisted to this day. 

“I try my best to watch all the Worlds matches with video on demand but it’s been hard with games taking place in Shanghai,” Surowiak said. “At the end of the day it’s Worlds. I wouldn’t miss it for anything.”

While esports as a viewing product has suffered slightly from COVID-19, there has never been a better time for the industry. The practice of social distancing has forced many to sit tight in the confines of their homes, and gaming provides a convenient distraction for people looking for social interaction and competition.

Surowiak described the experience of arranging events as President of the CESA during the pandemic as difficult.

“We usually hold viewing parties for Worlds at the school, and last year over a hundred people showed up,” Surowiak said. “It was a fun event that built gaming fans, friendships, and ultimately helped grow the club.”

Instead of another year of development and growth for the club, Surowiak faced a number of unprecedented challenges. The pandemic ultimately forced him to cancel most of its 2020 events.

“At the pinnacle, esports wasn’t too heavily impacted by COVID-19,” Surowiak said. “However, for the Concordia club, it was definitely a major hurdle. The club was prepared to work with multiple new sponsors and partners that would have bolstered the Concordia esports association.”

This year, the CESA and its Rocket League team will be competing in the Ontario Post-Secondary Esports League. The Concordia team will be the only Quebec school represented in the year-long collegiate tournament that began on Oct. 5.

The eventual return to in-person normalcy will likely cause the esports’ surge to stagnate, but the industry has been forever popularized in a meaningful way. The League of Legends World Championship is drawing people’s attention more so than ever as one might expect from a year devoid of social interaction.

However, regular fans realize that this year’s tournament will be a bittersweet memory. Ultimately, no matter how spectacular the matches, viewers will remember how it could have been if not for the pandemic.

You can catch the remaining Worlds action live or on-demand at the official League of Legends esports site

Feature graphic by Taylor Reddam


Exploring Concordia’s competitive Overwatch team

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.

Concordia’s eSports team made it to the top eight at LAN ETS a few weeks ago. Photos by Sabrina Ahn.

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.

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