by Bert Gambini
Published June 12, 2020
UB’s esports club team will compete this fall as part of an esports venture with a newly created independent conference, the Esports Collegiate Conference.
The Mid-American Conference (MAC) announced the venture today via its website and a short video on Twitter. MAC institutions comprise the 12 founding members of the Esports Collegiate Conference, which will operate separately from the MAC.
The Esports Collegiate Conference will provide structure, scheduling and championship opportunities for its membership, with competition beginning with the 2020-21 academic year.
Not familiar with esports? It’s basically competitive video gaming. As playing catch is to baseball, so too is playing a video game to esports — and esports have been around longer than you might imagine.
Many sources trace its history to a competition hosted by Stanford in 1972. The growing popularity of electronic arcade games later in the decade gave rise to pioneering game maker Atari holding a tournament that attracted 10,000 players featuring its commercially successful Space Invaders.
UB’s participation in esports has a more recent ancestry, but its origins, not surprisingly, are realized in social media.
Since 2017, UB has competed annually in the College League of Legends tournament. League of Legends celebrated its 10th anniversary last fall, and currently hosts more than 8 million daily competitors on its multiplayer site, according to the game’s developer.
By 2019, some of the UB team’s most enthusiastic members had graduated, but kept a hand in the game by serving as advisers or coaches.
To shore up the ranks of his former team, one of those alums, Eric Liew (’18), a charter UB gamer, hosted tryouts for new players discovered in a social media group run by a former UB club president.
Today, many members of that group populate UB’s three variously skilled teams.
“Everyone on the team is knowledgeable about the game and recognizes their various roles,” says Jason Seet, a UB biomedical engineering major and team captain. “Our success can be attributed to experience, chemistry in the game and our coach, Bin Zhong (’19).”
The A team is a mix of veterans and newcomers, comprised of three members who have been together since 2018, along with a UB rookie and a recent call-up from the B team.
But UB’s team offers its members with more than an opportunity to compete.
“This experience fills out their involvement with the game’s medium as a whole, supporting students in designing and making games, studying them from a scholarly perspective, and playing them,” says Dave Pape, the team’s faculty adviser and an associate professor of media study, College of Arts and Sciences.
UB is thrilled to be participating with the MAC in providing esports because of the new opportunities it provides for student engagement, says Christina Hernandez, interim vice president for student life.
“UB is excited to enter into this emerging space by offering enhanced connections to build community and socially engage students who otherwise may not be involved in co-curricular activities,” Hernandez says. “Our students are looking forward to competing at the highest level alongside our other great MAC institutions.
“Esports, whether at an informal, club or collegiate level, encourages opportunities beyond the game play and exposes students to competencies that ultimately will add value to their degree.”
Esports Collegiate will feature fall and spring seasons, competing in game titles such as Overwatch and League of Legends. An Esports Collegiate Champion will be crowned in each game title, with the champion earning an automatic bid to the national postseason tournament.
A seven-member Competition Committee has been established to oversee scheduling, game title selection/recommendations, championship format and any other infrastructure issues that may arise.
“The creation of Esports Collegiate represents the foresight of our presidents to establish a stand-alone competitive framework for collegiate esports competitors and enthusiasts,” says MAC Commissioner Jon Steinbrecher.
“I look forward to this organization maturing and growing, facilitating excellent competitive opportunities, fostering teamwork and providing even more reasons to attend an Esports Collegiate member institution.”