Team sign-up sheets for post-secondary schools in Ontario are usually filled with familiar options.
But in a new era dominated by the rise of technology, those aforementioned traditional sheets now contain different teams looking for their new star, such as a new AD Carry for the League of Legends team or an experienced rifler in Counter-Strike.
The growth in popularity of eSports, or competitive gaming as it’s also known, has been evident worldwide, from the United States to South Korea and everywhere in between. So it’s no surprise local universities are now also satiating the rage.
“We actually had an informal League of Legends club in Schulich (York University’s business faculty) that was more or less a bunch of friends gaming together with occasional LAN events,” said Mae Wen, VP of External Relations at York eSports. “We saw that our university lacked an active eSports group like ours, and decided over the summer to create a new club to promote the gaming community on campus.
“It’s been a crazy journey and learning experience since then but we’re super happy to be the biggest eSports club on campus.”
York is just one of many schools beginning to cater to competitive gamers in the city of Toronto alone.
Ryerson University’s eSports club may only be two and a half years old, but the downtown Toronto institution has already seen promising development with its creatively named G.A.M.E.R. group (Gaming And Multiplayer E-Sports at Ryerson).
“Because of the way our community works right now, it’s very widespread because most of the gamers want to stay at home, they’re always online, so our main things we try to do are online events,” said Bram Nguyen, president of G.A.M.E.R. “It’s pretty easy when you don’t have to do physical social meet-ups and you can just do it online, which is perfect.”
Despite still being relatively young, the group has already amassed one of the largest followings at the university.
“We have approximately 800 likes on our Facebook group,” said Nugyen. “I’m told it’s one of the highest at Ryerson right now other than the cultural and community groups like the Muslim students or the Chinese students, that kind of thing.
“We’re fairly high up there and that’s kind of cool.”
Of course, competitive gamers also require competition.
While having a group to play with on off days is fun, the success of organizations such as the NCAA and CIS have shown that it’s the inter-university battles that garner the most attention.
Ryerson and York are just a few schools that already have that covered.
“We don’t have an official one, but we do have an unofficial collegiate league. We do play against schools like McMaster and Waterloo,” said Nguyen. “We also play Counter-Strike: Global Offensive competitively with other universities in North America in the NCeSPA (National Collegiate eSports Assocation).
“We’ve played against Princeton, Georgia Tech, Rutgers University, schools all over North America.”
Meanwhile, organizers at York preferred to focus on a more local option.
— UToronto League (@UofTLA) October 4, 2015
”In 2014, York University co-organized an Ontario Collegiate League of Legends tournament with the University of Toronto that had over 200 participants,” said Wen. “But I know for League of Legends and Heroes of the Storm there are now sanctioned leagues for collegiate play by the publishers themselves, such as the LoL North American Collegiate Championships, or Heroes of the Dorm.
“In regards to other games, like fighting games, it’s definitely something to consider in the future. Maybe bring back the Ontario eSports League, it would be great to have some home-grown leagues.”