DePaul breaks into the eSports scene

eSports, competitive video game playing, continues to grow. ESPN2 is even hosting a “Street Fighter V” tournament this year.  It finally reached DePaul when the “League of Legends” club created its competitive teams at the beginning of the quarter. The club itself has been around since the beginning last year.  It began by hosting viewing parties of professional matches, game nights and other activities, but after building up a decent membership it was time to form a competitive team.

“We chose this year because we have over 100 members and we felt we could find 30 students that could be committed to playing competitively,” said senior Daniel Reyes, the group’s vice president.

In addition, colleges have begun offering scholarships to competitive eSports players.  The National Association of Collegiate eSports, formed in July of 2016, is an organization that works with over 20 schools setting guidelines for scholarships, competition and eligibility for eSports athletes.  Many of the tournaments award players with scholarship money, which is against NCAA rules, so a separate organization was formed.  Reyes hopes to lay the groundwork to get a reward for players at DePaul.

“I just want to leave the structure for future students to maybe get a scholarship and DePaul to recognize those students who do enter tournaments that offer scholarships,” Reyes said.

(Photo courtesy of DePaul League of Legends)

Right now, the team is looking to get into the Collegiate Starleague (CSL) “League of Legends” tournament.  In CSL, teams from over 300 universities compete to earn a place in the University League of Legends (uLOL) Campus Series regional rounds.  Teams that advance out of the regionals move to the championship series, where last year the winner took home $30,000 of scholarship money per student.

“We’re looking to just get into the CSL first.  If we’re not ready, then we will compete in smaller tournaments until we are ready for CSL.  Eventually if you’re good enough, you enter uLOL,” Reyes said.

Creating the teams has been an involved process.  You may see signs around the Student Center calling summoners for the teams.  Despite a good turnout for the club, they are still looking to make sure they get the best the school has to offer.

“We test players out to see if they sync.  We make sure no one is too toxic,” said Miguel Castellanos, the club’s PR manager and member of one of the competitive teams. “But it can be a struggle because DePaul is not as big as a state school obviously, so although there are League players here, there aren’t as many.  So, you have to deal with what you have.”

League has a ranking system where players go from bronze to challenger.  In between they have to go through silver, gold, platinum, diamond and master.  The club has four competitive teams right now, a high-ranked team, a low-ranked team and a B-team for each one.  The high-ranking teams are mostly diamond ranked players while the low ranked ones are silver and gold.

Reyes said he took it upon himself to organize the schedule for the teams.  The high-ranking teams practice for three hours, four days a week and the low-ranking teams are two days a week.  To get ready for CSL, Reyes schedules scrims against other schools from over the country.  It’s a big commitment, as any sport is, but Reyes knows there is a balance for school and competition.

Players match up against each other during a sign up event on April 6.
(Photo courtesy of DePaul League of Legends)

“You have to balance your work life, you have to balance this life and you have to balance your school life,” Reyes said.  “It does take a little bit of time for the students who want to get into the competitive scene, but this is a big opportunity.”

The group is still keeping up with the non-competitive events.  Recently they have had things like Pictionary, Jeopardy or watching “League of Legends” anime.  One of the more unusual events was ‘guess that champion’, were sounds or short videos of top competitors where shown and participants had to guess who it was.

“Although we are a ‘League of Legends’ club, we are not ‘League of Legends’ exclusive. So, we try to have events where students who are interested in the game with no experience at all or are beginners can come to our events and be able to have fun,” said club president Keni Jae Love.

As of now, it is just “League of Legends,” but there are plenty of games out there with competitive scenes.  “StarCraft II,” “Hearthstone” and “Overwatch” to name a few.  Castellanos thinks that this group will stay exclusive to “League,” but he has heard others express interest in individual groups forming for each game, and hopes they will.

“At involvement fairs we heard people talk about how they wanted an eSports organization for each individual game,” Castellanos said.  “Our core is just ‘League of Legends,’ and it’s hard just to get these players because as I said, it’s not a state school.  So, for other games, no.  But I would like to see other groups pick them up.”