DePaul esports adapts to COVID-19


Courtesy of Russell Dorn

Russell Dorn of DePaul University

With many physical spaces in universities across the U.S. shut-down due to various shelter-in-place policies, student extracurricular and athletic organizations are unable to have in-person meetings and some are trying to convert their operations 100 percent online. The esports program at DePaul is equipped to handle a transition, but not without some bumps in the road. 

“I think a lot of people, and in a lot of ways it’s true, just make assumptions that since most of what esports does is virtual, there would be minimal disruption, but a lot of our leagues actually had to pause or halt,” says Courtney James, the director of Student Involvement at DePaul and the lead staff member of the DePaul esports program. “One prime example of that is the collegiate League of Legends Series that’s currently taking place. We compete as part of the Big East Division and we were supposed to compete that Sunday, and every weekend thereafter, and we had to completely halt all of those tournaments. I believe it was four weekends worth of tournaments that we were supposed to have that was halted because of what all of the college campuses across the country were dealing with.”

Another big tournament that affects many teams across the country is the Tespa Tournament, which offers individual Hearthstone, Overwatch and Call of Duty competitive leagues. Tespa is a leading operator of collegiate esports leagues, with partnerships with ESPN, Twitch and other programs to create a broadcast and in-game experience for students and audiences across the world. Tournaments offered by Tespa provide almost $3.3 million in scholarships and prize money that is awarded to the students. 

For teams like the Overwatch team at DePaul, Tespa is one of the larger tournaments that teams practice all year to prepare for. Tespa has adapted to the ongoing COVID-19 situation by providing teams non-standard tournaments and matches. This change stems from many student players not having similar access to tech and WiFi, due to many universities not allowing most students and faculty to use the resources that allow a fair playing experience. 

“Honestly, for [The DePaul Overwatch team], the environment and the time in which we practice and play matches don’t match up usually with when the DePaul esports center is actually open and a lot of us still prefer to play at home,” said Tom Zdanowski, the captain of the DePaul Overwatch team. “If somebody didn’t have a PC, though, this would be like a problem, but we usually practice and play from home, so in regards to [moving online] we weren’t impacted. I know a lot of teams that this is the reason they can’t play in Tespa, which is our main tournament. And this is why they’ve canceled that tournament until further notice. Other schools that can’t play have delayed our tournament, and this tournament, something that we’ve been preparing for all year.” 

GGLeagues, through its partners with various universities including DePaul, is going to offer free full-service six-week intramural leagues for schools and organizations that are interested, to support the collegiate esports teams and organizations that have had to cancel many of the competitive tournaments for the spring season. 

“We’re partnering with GG leagues for three games; League of Legends, Rocket League and Overwatch. We’re going to offer a four-week regular season and two week postseason that actually begins this upcoming Monday,” James said. “Between our three leagues, so far, we were right around 60 participants, which is great. We’re really excited to start those leagues and one of the unique things that we’ve been able to do that’s different is, typically when we were in the gaming center, we only opened it up to students because we are so limited in space, but we’ve been able to create an infrastructure that allows for students, current students, admitted students, alumni and faculty and staff to all participate as well. We’re launching with those three games starting next week.” 

While most competitive tournaments are canceled or postponed at the moment, DePaul Fundamental Research in Academic Gaming, or DeFRAG, is reinventing the organization to fit this new online-exclusive world, despite relying on physical spaces at DePaul for most of the yearly and biweekly events. 

“We definitely tended to do more physical events pretty much every other week and every Friday night we would be hosting a physical event,” said Abby Kingsley, the president of DeFRAG. “But in the past, there have been reasons why we’ve hosted online events, like weather or just, we do like LAN events, you know, so we’ll just all hop online and play Team Fortress 2. Those kinds of things sort of set us up for success in this regard because we have experience running online events. But the challenge now is to try to do those in more of a creative and exciting way and not just okay, we’re trying to like keep you guys busy while this thing passes, because nobody knows when it’s gonna pass. And we have to make the most of it in the meantime, and we have to still be a community and not just something on pause.”

To find out more about future DeFrag events and information about joining the club, head over to their Discord page at The DePaul first-person-shooter competitive teams are under a collective Discord page, with individual, specialized channels, at