ESports: Bringing the gamer out of the dormroom

Date: 
Tue, 2017/04/25
By: 
Elvin Moy

A new team is representing Illinois Tech, but they’re not competing at Keating or on the soccer field. These players will be on a computer playing "League of Legends" ("LoL") - a video game.

"LoL" is described as a MOBA or multiplayer online battle arena. Similar to basketball, you have five roles that work together. However, instead of your point guard, shooting guard, small forward, power forward, and center; you’ve got top, jungler, mid, attack damage carry, and support. While these terms may seem foreign to the non-gamer, these positions must work together in order to win objectives and ultimately the game. According to an interview done with the creators of the game, Riot Games, "LoL" was said to bring in over 100 million unique players each month back in mid-2016.

Riot Games has multiple factions which spread out across the world. Their production teams create live viewing events that host the best of the best. Players play professionally for esport teams, earning up to 2 million dollars. But how does this connect with Illinois Tech?

Riot Games launched their collegiate program in 2015. Known as uLoL, or university league of legends, colleges across North America compete in the Riot-run collegiate league. Teams train in the fall by competing against other schools to determine seeding. At the beginning of the year, the regular season kicks off where the colleges will be split into regions and be fighting for the top spots where it finally culminates in a final that’s broadcasted with the same level of production as the professional players.

But where’s the reward besides bragging rights? How about $100,000 in scholarships for the winning teams? Or a chance to get recognized by a professional esports teams? Some schools have even begun their own scholarship programs, including Robert Morris, right here in Chicago. Even professional athletic organizations and leaders like Rick Fox and Shaquille O’Neal have their sights on investing in esports by buying their own esport teams.

Elvin Moy, a coterminal student in Mechanical Engineering and the director of Illinois Tech’s esports organization, says that this industry is just beginning. “ESports is a young industry that has the potential to evolve into so much more. Colleges that are beginning to invest in young players by creating these scholarship programs are an excellent recruitment tool that reach out to students on an international scale.”

Scarlet Computer and Console Gaming (SC2G), also known as Illinois Tech eSports, runs the League of Legends teams as well as other competitive esport teams. Video games are a predominant recreational activity on campus. There will always be a game of Fifa running in the BOG during the week. Student organizations booking auditoriums on campus to watch major gaming events on the projector. Students back from the early 2000s would mention how their first real social event was actually not your typical fraternity party or even Resident Advisor icebreaker, but actually a LAN party that was setup in the residential dorm communal area. A majority of students at Illinois Tech would at least label themselves as a ‘casual’ gamer. Fraternities and sororities at Illinois Tech host video game events at their houses as part of their recruitment events. Friday nights could consist of friends getting together in the MSV lounge to buckle down for a night of "League" complete with 7-eleven pizza from across the street and a six pack of Red Bull.

This year’s Illinois Tech LoL Team consisted of a team of players ranked within the top 10% of players who play "League of Legends." The team played schools nearby like Missouri and Michigan Tech, to all the way up north in Manitoba, Canada. Illinois Tech was seeded 145th out of all participating universities in the uLoL campus series. The 2016-2017 was their pilot season, where players practiced roughly three times a week together, complete with a coach and analyst to help review their games and analyze and learn much like other sports.

SC2G’s goals, Elvin says, are to not only continue bringing a competitive atmosphere for players that want to work hard and play harder, but to “also be seen as a regional leader known for its community focus and high-quality events”. While there are a portion of players that enjoy the competitive scene, SC2G organizers also pay close attention to the Illinois Tech community and host multiple small to large scale events and live tournaments multiple times throughout each year. By creating a unique blend of competition and intimacy, they strive to constantly raise the bar and provide the highest value to both the gamers and affiliated-partners. When creating their events, both before and after, they work closely with the dedicated IIT faculty in all aspects – venue reservation (OCL), capital goods, security (Public Safety), catering... – in fact, the feedback they’ve received from past attendees show that more than 90% of those involved (player, viewer, staff etc.) would come again to their events.

With a majority of leadership in SC2G graduating in the end of spring, Elvin looks towards the student body at Illinois Tech to take the mantle of leadership. “We need players that not only want to play the game, but to make esports grow at Illinois Tech”. The dream? To make the program strong enough that it can be used as a recruiting point to high schoolers and gamers. All interested members wishing to get involved more in esports (whether "LoL"-related or not) should send an email to SC2G at scarletleagueiit@gmail.com.