By: Michelle Gomez
The relatively young industry of eSports has recently seen tremendous, rapid growth that is unparalleled by most sports. Large gaming events fill stadiums with people and generate millions of dollars in prize pool money. Fans stream tournaments online or watch in person by the thousands. The top eSports players in the world earn billions of dollars and spend up to 50 hours a week practicing.
It therefore comes as no surprise that SFU has established a thriving eSports team for students who are passionate about gaming. President of the SFU Esports Association Devon Zhao explains that one of the main reasons that eSports have become so prevalent in the past few years is “the fundamental shift of making the experience of being a spectator more entertaining [ . . . ] more resources are invested to ensure that all facets of an eSports event are held to a high standard to make people want to watch other people play.”
Prior to the SFU Esports Association, there were a number of clubs dedicated to various specific games, such as League of Legends, Hearthstone, Overwatch, and others. About three years ago, the Esports Association was created to oversee all of these smaller clubs and to provide a broader gaming community for those who are interested in multiple games.
Zhao states that the main objective of the club is to “bring together a community with the shared interest of gaming, and provide that community with opportunities to make new friends as well as career and networking opportunities.” Through a wide array of events, they are able to ensure that players of all ages, skill levels, and genders are able to find events that interest them.
All of their events are open to students of SFU, as well as to the general public. They host informal tournaments, icebreaker events, viewing parties for major gaming events, and even career and networking opportunities for those who want to enter the industry. Twice a year, they hold a large weekend-long tournament that involves a number of different games in which players can compete and win money.
The main challenge that the Esports Association faces is not being formally recognized as a team by SFU. Kevin Gomez, vice-president communications of the association, explains that many schools across the U.S. and Canada — including UBC — manage their eSports clubs in the same way as regular sports. They provide funding, host tournaments, and even offer scholarships to students who are promising eSports players.
“It’s hard for us to compete when other schools’ clubs have a lot of infrastructure and are supported by their schools while we’re not,” says Gomez. “We are falling behind because we don’t have support.”
Nevertheless, they are still out there in the gaming world pulling in the wins for SFU. Among many other achievements, SFU finished top 8 at the 2018 League of Legends College Championship and came in first in the Junior Varsity League of Legends Championship–Gomez notes that they are currently doing better than the UBC team. They also have had multiple members receive offers to join professional eSports teams.
While the club currently does not have an official gaming space, the new Student Union Building will be home to SFU’s first official and properly equipped gaming lounge. Since the lounge is technically set to be under the control of SFU, the eSports Association is in the process of applying for authority over the lounge. If SFU approves, the Esports Association will be able to have their own space that they can run and host events in. While SFU does not provide the same resources that other schools do for eSports, the construction of a proper gaming lounge is a step in the right direction.
With the recent rise of popularity in eSports and the promise of a space of their own, the future looks bright for the SFU Esports Association. According to Gomez, they are always looking for more students who want to get involved and join the fun. “All we ask is for players to come in with a good attitude, to be accommodating, and to have fun.”
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