Now More Than Ever, We Need College Esports
Written By: Hauk Nelson
In challenging times, sports have been a focal point for people to rally behind. Ten days following the terrorist attacks on 9/11, Mike Piazza of the New York Mets hit a home run celebrated to this day as one of the biggest moments of the franchise’s history. The home run became a symbol for New York, and the country as a whole, that we would all recover as a nation.
On the roller coaster that is 2020, the world of sports has been dealt several blows. The Olympics, a time for the entire world to unite through sport, has been delayed. Professional sports leagues have all tried to adapt, from bubbles and more, to mixed results. American sports suffered another hit last week, as college sports across the country have started to cancel their seasons.
Esports, however, are in full swing. In August alone, there are major competitions in Call of Duty, League of Legends, Valorant and more. International championships are still slated for later this year, including for Overwatch and League of Legends. At a time when people need to take their minds off of things, esports can serve as a focal point.
KemperLesnik believes that collegiate esports can unite not only disenchanted students, but alumni and locals too.
Unlike any other sport, collegiate esports competitions can happen entirely remotely. Many, such as the College Carball Association (Rocket League,) have had competitions this summer remotely. Whether students are competing on a socially distanced campus, or from the comfort of their home, college students can safely compete in esports online.
Being remote offers advantages beyond social distancing as well. Travel has been a consistent issue for college esports teams, from both a cost and time perspective. Many teams lack funding from their schools, and thus self fund long car trips and motel stays to compete in events. In some instances, a team can drive for over eight hours, compete and lose in one match, and be finished for the entire weekend. Discouraged, this team may not want to travel ever again. Taking travel out of the equation enables more teams to compete.
A potential concern with remote competition is competitive integrity. Students that have access to campus facilities may have access to better computers and stronger internet connections. Those that are competing at home may not have the same advantages. Though a legitimate concern, there are methods to mitigate some of these effects. Some games have the ability of changing servers between matches, allowing East and West coast participants to alternate server locations and improve internet connections.
The Infrastructure Already Exists
Grassroots by nature, the collegiate esports community is incredibly tight knit. As highlighted in our interview with Doc Haskell, Director of Esports at Boise State University, programs are quick to lift one another up. Most college esports programs have a direct line of communication to one another, both through their directors and their students.
This communication is supplemented through platforms like Discord. Most colleges have their own Discord servers, and many more exist tailored to specific games, regions and more. Using communication tools like Discord, competitions can be quickly coordinated between schools across the country. College esports competitions can be planned, organized and executed with Discord, and even used as a place for students to go to cheer on their school’s teams.
Other software helps along the way to create a high quality event without the high costs. Students can go live through broadcasting software like OBS. Using a platform like Battlefy, students are able to quickly organize a bracket and allow others to sign up for their events. Uconnect Esports, a sponsorship marketplace platform, allows brands to engage with hundreds of collegiate esports communities through event, organization, and varsity program sponsorship.
It Doesn’t Have to be Hard to Watch
A common criticism of esports, albeit a very fair one, is the difficulty for outsiders to understand what is going on. In complicated games such as League of Legends, with 150 different characters, items, and complex strategies, the game is very unapproachable for those that haven’t spent hours playing it. Many see games like League of Legends and immediately dismiss ever taking the time to watch it, due to this difficulty.
Not all esports games are like this though – take Rocket League. KemperLesnik has already written in detail why Rocket League is poised to be a major esport. The game is violence free, making it ideal for both brands and schools to get involved. More importantly, though, is its simplicity. While being an esport, Rocket League is a title that someone that has never played the game before will understand. By combining race cars with the rules of soccer, Rocket League has created an easy to follow esport title. It’s also about to become free to play, making it even more accessible.
Something to Rally Behind
Collegiate Rocket League has a unique opportunity. With so many college sports on hiatus, Americans all need something new to rally behind. Due to its digital nature, college esports lends itself well to social distancing competitions. Matches can all be held online, and the infrastructure already exists to create quality college esports competitions. While many are looking for new entertainment to watch, Rocket League is a unique combination of being endemic to esports while also being enjoyable to casual viewers. College Rocket League can serve as an introduction to esports while also providing the nation with some much needed entertainment.