By Alana Aamodt ’18
The newest team at CC doesn’t practice at the gym or the fields. Nope, they practice from the comfort of their dorm rooms and meet up in the library to go over strategy. It’s CC’s new eSports team, currently consisting of the eight-member Overwatch A-team, with a B-team and a League of Legends team currently in development. Brian Young, vice president for information technology, defines eSports as “competitive, skill-based, usually online gaming where teams play against each other using a specific set of rules set by the game they’re playing.”
eSports at CC is currently an organization supported by the college through the Division of Information Technology. More than 100 students have shown interest in participating in CC eSports following an initial ITS call out; that number could easily be higher, Young says, because many students play eSports that did not come to one of the open information sessions.
Overwatch is an objective-based six vs. six, team game, with each match lasting between 10 and 20 minutes. Set in the future, “every match is an intense multiplayer showdown pitting a diverse cast of heroes, mercenaries, scientists, adventurers, and oddities against each other in an epic, globe-spanning conflict,” according to the game’s Wikipedia page. The game is unique in that players can switch characters mid-game, keeping both teams’ strategies constantly and quickly evolving. One game, the objective may be for one team to move an object from one side of the map to the other, while the other team tries to stop them, while the next game could be a king-of-the-hill style match.
Or, as Chad Schonewill ’03, ITS Solutions Center team lead, summarizes, “it’s a bit like football if the players had guns and swords and force-fields and magic spells and some of them could fly.”
CC’s Information Technology Team has been the main group getting the CC eSports team up and going, with Schonewill leading the way, supported by great student staff members. The project began in December 2017 with the first scrimmages in January 2018.
The team competes against other collegiate teams in competitions and scrimmages, most recently defeating the University of Denver handily just last week. “eSports has skyrocketed in popularity and shows no signs of slowing down. The last world championship for League of Legends had physical attendees and people who watched in numbers that rival the Super Bowl, and is projected to easily surpass that this year,” Schonewill says. “Some large universities are already offering it as a varsity sport, complete with scholarships. I personally think it’s important to include it at CC because a significant part of our student body is passionate about video games. Even if they don’t play at a competitive level, many students like to spectate.”
And viewing a competitive game has never been so easy — their matches are livestreamed on the popular video site Twitch. Schonewill continues, “Having an official program does a lot to legitimize that passion for said students and helps them feel much more engaged with the college than if they just played games on their own in the background.”
Mataan Peer ’21, a member of the Overwatch team, says he enjoys “the communication required in the game. If you want to win with a team, you need to talk to them and organize attacks or defenses with them.” According to Peer, these games are typically with randomly-selected strangers, but because of CC’s eSports team, the players can work out a more personalized strategy, developing a more “intuitive understanding of how each other play and we can work around it.”
Maggie McNeil ’21, another student on the Overwatch team, shares her perspective: “I play mostly support heroes, or healers. For me, Overwatch is great not because you can rack up eliminations on damage heroes, but because I’m able to look after my team and keep them alive in the game. Another reason why I play so much Overwatch is because it’s a good way to stay in touch with my siblings and friends back home in Connecticut; video games are more social than a lot of people might expect.”
For those who still question how a video game may be viewed as a sport, McNeil asserts that “Overwatch shares many of the qualities that sports do: working as a team, developing strategies and mechanical skills, and accomplishing an objective. It’s obviously very different from traditional sports, but if anyone watches the CC live stream of our matches, they would understand that it’s just as complicated with just as many rules as mainstream sports.”
As the eSports community grows at CC to encompass more games and more people, hopefully the greater student following will too — watch their matches. CC’s athletic conference, the SCAC, is exploring what eSports could mean for conference play. Some conferences have already started e-sports programs. CC’s eSports team plays matches with college and university teams around the country and will play in their first tournament at the end of February.