Collegiate esports are a relatively new phenomenon, even in the young esports industry. However, it’s a field that’s quickly growing in size and popularity. The Big Ten Network is in its third year of a partnership with Riot Games, the makers of the popular game League of Legends, on the BTN League of Legends season. Schools such as Michigan State University, Purdue, Rutgers and more competed this year. Many schools are now giving scholarships to people who participate in esports and the scene is growing rapidly.
Here at the University of Connecticut, though, the scene is bleak. Since the esports teams at UConn are not recognized by the school, they do not have access to funding and resources compared to other sports teams. They also lack a sense of officialness which would be helpful for the teams to be able to participate in certain leagues that require a varsity program.
Currently, UConn’s Gaming Club has 12 teams in eight different esports with about 80 players, ranging from Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, a first-person shooter, to Rocket League, a game where you play soccer with fast-moving cars, to Hearthstone, a collectable card game. This variety of games means people with a wide range of interests are able to watch and participate.
The Counter-Strike team is probably the busiest out of all the teams. Its five players: -iQi-, Lightly, Ali, Splix and R4Y, compete in three different leagues: ESL’s Intermediate division, Starladder’s Collegiate division, and the NA Collegiate CS League. The team went 11-5 in its most reason season of Intermediate and is currently 6-0 in Starladder’s North-East division. The team’s next game is Jan. 11 against UMass’s team.
UConn’s teams compete in leagues run by organizations such as Tespa, which works with Blizzard Entertainments games such as Overwatch and Hearthstone, Starladder, which hosts tournaments for Counter-Strike and Dota 2 and Battlefy, which is running 2020’s College League of Legends season. UConn also has teams for Rainbow Six Siege, Team Fortress 2 and Rocket League, though many of these teams are done for the fall.
However, not having an official program through the school has downsides for some teams. The Overwatch team, in particular, is unable to participate in a varsity program because that requires recognition from the school, which these teams do not have. That’s why most of the teams are currently connected to the UConn Gaming Club rather than to the school in the way that say basketball teams are, but that doesn’t make these programs any less UConn sports teams.
Ashton Stansel is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.