Look Out for Esports
by: Derek Marshall
While the COVID-19 pandemic has functionally limited the vast majority of Lancer varsity teams for past year, a new team has emerged amidst the restrictions.
From the beginning of the fall semester, Lancer Gaming, the University of Windsor’s esports team, has been the only university team competing against other academic institutions. For those that aren’t aware, esports is the term used to describe the world of competitive, organized video gaming. Lancer Gaming competes against 16 other teams in the Ontario Post-Secondary Esports (OPSE) organization.
OPSE is comprised of provincial universities and colleges. The organization has $24,000 in scholarships available to students participating in esports at the varsity level.
Jeremy Renaud, Esports Coordinator at the University of Windsor, discussed how the team is still able to compete despite the strict restrictions of the pandemic.
“Right now, the unique thing with the pandemic, is the fact that we can all play online,” said Renaud. “So, we physically don’t have to be in the same location. COVID has only affected our ability to do physical things.”
Being in its inaugural year, Lancer Gaming is still developing. Currently, the team competes only in League of Legends, a team-based strategy game, where teams battle to destroy each other’s home bases. However, Renaud and Nick Zuidema, esports Diversity and Development Coordinator and acting president of the esports club, have great aspirations for future expansion.
“Nick is working on a unique program where we’re going to survey the students and we’re going to find out what programs or esports [they] want to see,” said Renaud.
The findings of Zuidema’s study will be utilized to create new esports programming and expand on current offerings that appeal to the majority of the participants sampled.
“We want to see what the students want, and then provide that to them,” said Renaud.
In addition to the expansion of esport programming and offerings, Renaud shared plans to develop a physical location on campus for students with interest in esports that involves converting a room in Dillon Hall into a “glorified lab.” The room, intended for both recreational and competitive esport play, will include desktop computers, various screens for console games, a competition area, an area to cast gameplay and an area for spectators. Renaud expects that the establishment of this space will foster greater growth and popularity of esports on campus.
As esports have been gaining popularity on campus, they have been gaining popularity off campus as well. In recent years, the amount of esport consumers has grown exponentially and this trend is expected to continue. Zuidema indicated that the University of Windsor esport club chat on Discord, a popular instant messaging platform designed for creating communities, has grown to 350 members since its inception, three years ago.
“The Discord is a great way to get involved with the community, find friends, find teammates, find pretty much anybody,” said Zuidema.
He also discussed the opportunities for involvement within the esports club.
“We’re always looking for new members, even if they just want to be a part of the community and play in casual events that we run, we run one every single month,” Zuidema stated.
Looking into the future, opportunities for esport competitions as large-scale spectator events may occur at the University.
Alister Ethier, Facility, Events and Equipment Technician for Lancer Athletics, indicated that the utilization of the athletic facilities to host an esports event could be a possibility.
“There’s going to be ways and opportunities that we can adapt [our facilities], if need be” said Ethier
The future of spectator events and traditional sport is filled with uncertainty presently, but in the eyes of Renaud, Zuidema and Ethier, the future of esports is filled with excitement.