USD eSports organization tries to gain traction

By Jackson Somes

Photo  Courtesy of Wes Jackson

Photo Courtesy of Wes Jackson

The USD eSports club packed the seminar room in San Buenaventura. The club is comprised of a band of USD students who share the common interest of playing video games. For them, Oct. 4 meant one thing, the world championships of the video game League of Legends. As the eSports club was bunkered down in the seminar room for a viewing party of the highest level of competitive video games, 13,000 fans crowded into the Staples Center sports arena in L.A. to witness the event live.

The World Championships of League of Legends featured two teams competing head-to-head for a $1 million prize. In the end, the South Korean team, SK Telecom T1, triumphed over the Chinese team, Royal Club, in an event that garnered over one million viewers, not including China and Korea. Although this year’s official worldwide unique viewer estimates have not been released, Riot Games, the company that made the game League of Legends, announced that last years world championship series was watched by over eight million people.This made last year’s world championships the most watched eSport event.

League of Legends is a free to play video game that launched back in 2009. According to gaming website IGN, League of Legends currently has over 70 million registered users who log over a billion hours played every month. “Riot Games are a huge driving force in eSports right now. They are the number one company in terms of money, power, scope and player base,” Junior Wes Jackson, president of the USD eSports club, said. “They [Riot Games] only have one game, its just League of Legends.”

The USD eSports organization is a student club composed of individuals interested in playing video games and at both a casual and competitive level. As president of the club, Jackson said that despite the popularity of League of Legends and video games in general, he faces multiple issues in regard to establishing a thriving organization on campus.

One of the issues of recruiting members to the eSports club lies in the nature of the club. “It’s really a niche organization,” Jackson said. “I don’t think the eSports club is on the same platform as other clubs.”

According to Jackson, the limited scope of the eSports organization is only more restricted due to the popularity of Greek Life at USD. “I feel like on this campus, specifically because Greek Life is huge here, there is this stigma against gamers, nerds, dorks, geeks or any connotation you want to add to that,” Jackson said. “I think that leaves us with a really small target audience here and it has made recruiting a little bit harder.”

The eSports organization was founded during the Fall 2011 semester. According to Jackson, ineffective past leadership has also played a hand in low popularity among students on campus. Jackson attributes a major aspect of the small student support to not having a booth for the organization at the Alcala Bazaar for the past year.

After the previous president wanted to disband the group because it required too much time to operate and due to lack of interest, Jackson stepped up and agreed to keep USD eSports active. As president, Jackson has focused primarily on expanding recruitment. “Since we haven’t had a booth at the Alcala Bazaar for an entire year now I’ve been playing catch-up with recruitment,” Jackson said. He has focused his efforts on more grass-roots advertising. According to Jackson, word-of-mouth advertising has been the most effective method to spread recognition of the eSports organization but has posted posters around campus as well.

Freshman Ryan Serafin says it was through this word-of-mouth advocacy that he heard about the eSports organization. “My roommate actually told me about it,” Serafin said. “They didn’t have a booth at the Alcala Bazaar but… I found Wes and he added me to the group on Facebook.”

Serafin also said he found the process of joining the group to be fairly simple but should do a better job of advertising. “I think if we had a little more publicity and maybe some more events eSports could be more popular,” Serafin said.

Junior Parker Winship also discovered the club through the word-of-mouth advocacy. Winship said he was told about the eSports club by his roommate and is now currently a member. “I’m in the Facebook group, chat room and active on League of Legends” Winship said.

Jackson said that he is pleased to see that many of the new recruits this semester have been freshman. “I want people who are going to be at the university for a long time,” Jackson said. A strong freshman base will keep eSports operation for years to come.

Although the eSports group plays a variety of games a majority of the members play League of Legends almost exclusively. “My old president told me not to turn it into a League of Legends club, but I honestly cannot stop it because it is the most popular game right now,” Jackson said.

Due to the popularity of League of Legends, USD eSports will be moving into a more competitive environment with that game. Jackson hopes to develop a team that will be able to compete against other universities in tournaments.

The structure of a League of Legends team is very similar to other sports. In order to be on the official competitive team, player will first undergo a tryout period to determine the best players. A League of Legends team consists of five players and two substitutes. The team then plays matches against other teams in five versus five games. “It’ll be hard assembling a team, but I’m definitely planning on it,” Jackson said.

Even though Jackson is focusing on taking USD eSports in a more competitive direction he does not want to discourage casual players from joining the club. “If it was only competitive, then we’d have even less members than we already have,” Jackson said. “The competitive scene is not for everyone, especially at this school.”

Despite any obstacles, Jackson remains optimistic that the USD eSports organization will continue to grow on campus and hopes a competitive team will raise awareness for the group. “If we’re going to play competitively, we want to make a name for USD eSports.”