Tanner Sherlock
Staff Writer

COVID-19 has majorly impacted the Whittier College sports scene. Football, baseball, soccer, lacrosse, and the rest of the College’s sports have had their seasons canceled, and many students have expressed disappointment over not being able to compete with other schools. However, there is one group on campus that has been able to play against other colleges throughout the past year; meet Poet eSports, Whittier College’s hub of competitive and casual gamers who have been setting up and participating in tournaments against colleges all over the nation. 

What is ‘eSports?’ The term is a portmanteau of the words ‘electronic’ and ‘sports,’ and refers to competitive video game competitions performed both amateurly and professionally. The history of eSports is nearly as long as the history of video games themselves, but the activity has become increasingly popular over the past two decades or so due to the spread of online gaming and the increased focus on encouraging it in game design. It has become pretty popular, too, to say the least; in 2017, the Intel Extreme Masters Katowice 2017 event hosted a series of competitions in three games: Starcraft II, League of Legends, and Counter Strike: Global Offensive. The tournament was held in a stadium and, at its highest point, was viewed by an in-person audience of 173,000 and had a total of around 46 million viewers online throughout its two-weekend runtime. So, eSports is big, but how does a college eSports club work?

The Quaker Campus spoke to Matt Vargas and Nicko Morales, the co-president and captain of the Call of Duty team, respectively, about what being a member of Poet eSports is like. According to them, the club primarily communicates through a public Discord server run by the officers of the club. Currently, there are around 100 users in the server, many of whom are Whittier College students, while some are students from other colleges that coordinate games or scrimmages with the club through Discord. There aren’t any requirements to enter the Discord and participate in the regular activities, too, which means anyone can join and engage with the college’s eSports community.

According to Vargas, eSports “is like any other sport,” only, instead of being primarily physical, it’s a competition that uses gaming as its medium of choice. In that way, “it’s one of the most inclusive forms of competition” because there’s no segregation between sexes, genders, and so forth. The number of women involved in eSports has been growing, too, which is a positive step towards better inclusion in the space. Players can be from any background and engage in the fun without barriers, which promotes fairness in the competitions and gives people a chance to compete with others in a friendly environment. Morales continued, saying that “it’s about dedication and competition,” like any other sport. Players practice, train consistently, and the games are highly competitive. The club encourages its players to engage in physical exercises too, as a way to keep their minds sharp for the games that they play.

Prior to the pandemic, Poet eSports focused on in-person tournaments of games like Smash Bros. and Rocket League, but, since classes have become remote, the club has focused on developing their eSports teams and encouraging them to participate in collegiate leagues. Currently, there are active teams for Call of Duty, Super Smash Bros., Valorant, and the club is building an Overwatch team. It’s worth noting that the teams aren’t necessarily made up of only Whittier College students; alumni and students from other schools are allowed to join the teams and participate in Poet eSports-hosted tournaments.

In order to participate in competitions, Vargas and Morales pointed out that it’s mostly a grassroots effort. The club mostly uses its connections to other schools — e.g. students knowing each other, being in different Discord chats, etc. to set up scrimmages and competitions. At times, the club will research which organizations would be ideal to compete against and reach out to them to discuss setting up competitions. It’s all very friendly and good-natured, a far cry from the stereotype of the ‘rage-induced gamer.’ The tournaments that the club itself hosts are open to everyone and often feature prizes for the first, second, and third place winners. Having attended an event myself (over a year ago, admittedly), I can attest that it’s a fun environment and a good way to meet other Whittier students.

While you might not know it unless you or a friend of yours is involved in it, eSports is rapidly growing in popularity around the world, and the lack of other sports to watch during COVID-19 has only hastened that trend. Competitive games like Super Smash Bros. and Call of Duty sell millions of copies to fans new and old, and tournament organizations like Major League Gaming and the Evolutions Championship Series see millions of people viewing their events every year. It’s a popular pastime, but, like traditional sports, most players start non-professionally, simply playing for the joy of the game. Poet eSports is Whittier College’s venue for that spirit, and is open to anyone who loves games and wants to compete.

Feature Photo: Courtesy of Sean Do/Unsplash

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Next Post

NASA’s Newest Rover Landing Shows That A Little Perseverance Goes A Long Way